Ó Lionáird 1,500m master

Ciarán Ó Lionáird crosses the line to win the Men's 1,500 metres Final. Picture: SPORTSFILE

The much anticipated men’s 1500m final at the GloHealth National Track and Field Championships in Morton Stadium yesterday didn’t disappoint, with Leevale’s Ciarán Ó Lionáird edging a titanic battle with Paul Robinson in 3:43.85. <

The only delays to the must-see race were the multiple false starts in the men’s 100m, where a joyous Jamie Davis (Raheny Shamrock) prevailed to win his first national senior title in 10.90.

Kelly Proper (Ferrybank) sparkled on day one of the championships, winning the long jump in 6.27m and the 200m in an impressive 23.22 into a minus 1.6 headwind – another qualifying time for the European Championships in Zurich in August.

“I was delighted with that,” said Proper after the 200m. “I’m looking forward to the European championships and seeing how well I can do.”

Others who impressed on Saturday were Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole) in the 5,000m in 15:39.40 and Zoe Brown (Raheny Shamrock) in the pole vault in 4.30m.

The 1500m heats offered a prelude to Sunday, with Ciara Mageean returning from a two and a half year lay-off to win her heat – providing a nice subplot for the men’s 1500m with Fionnuala Britton also qualifying after a quick turn around from her 5,000m win.

There were no surprises in the opening stages yesterday, with Thomas Barr (Ferrybank) and Mark English (UCD) dominating their respective events. Barr cruised to a 50.04 win in the 400m hurdles and English did as he pleased in the 800m to win in 1:49.91.

The only surprise was in the women’s 400m hurdles, with Jessie Barr’s lane vacant as she got stuck in traffic at Newlands Cross and didn’t arrive on time, leaving Christine McMahon to win unchallenged in 57.73.

The excitement grew throughout the day and if there was any doubting Ciara Mageean’s (UCD) pedigree, it was removed with 200m remaining as the former world junior 1500m silver medallistshe powered around the turn to win convincingly in 4:15.35.

But the weekend was all about the men’s 1500m, with four runners having qualifying times for the European Championships and only three places available. It promised to be a classic, and so it proved. Ó Lionáird and Robinson were the class of the field but the question was in what order would they finish. It would be up to John Travers, David McCarthy and Eoin Everard to fight for third.

Robinson took control from the gun to put his game-plan into place – wind up the pace to simulate the Europeans. For Ó Lionáird, his task was simple: track the lean long-legged Kildare man and find something for the finish.

The St Coca’s man kept cranking the pace and opened up with 250m to go. Ó Lionáird covered and got on to Robinson’s shoulder for a grandstand finish. Shoulder to shoulder with faces grimacing, the Macroom man stole a yard, and then a couple more, to edge Robinson on the line in 3:43.85 to 3:44.16. Travers (Donore Harriers) won the battle for third in 3:45.00 and will hope he’s done enough for the selectors to put him on the plane to Zurich. The race marked the return of Ó Lionáird and a finger wag and pulling his Leevale vest over his head proved how much it meant to him to beat quality opposition and put his Achilles injury nightmare to bed.

His Athlete of the Meet award was richly deserved.


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