O’Sullivan urges athletes to raise expectations indoors

Sonia O’Sullivan believes success “should be expected” by Irish athletes at the European Indoor Championships, which begin this morning in Gothenburg.

“I think the level of competition at European indoors is the first step on the international ladder for Irish athletes,” said Ireland’s most decorated athlete speaking from her home in Australia yesterday.

“This is a very achievable level and a championship where success should be expected and not a surprise, especially looking at the superb racing seen in recent weeks inspired by the newly opened AIT indoor stadium.”

Derval O’Rourke (Leevale) gets Irish interest under way at 10.30am in the heats of the 60m hurdles and O’Sullivan expects her fellow Cork woman to be a real contender.

“You would expect Derval to be competitive and if she is in the final has every chance of a medal,” said the Cobh native. “She is experienced and as long as there are no issues will do as well as we can expect from her.”

The semi-finals (5.20pm) and final (6.55pm) also take place today.

It is set to be an action-packed morning for Irish medal hopes, with Brian Gregan and Ciarán Ó Lionáird competing in the heats of the 400m (11.02am) and 3,000m (11.35am) respectively.

Gregan is in the first heat and has been the form Irish athlete this season, leading the European rankings with 46.07secs and remaining unbeaten to date.

“Brian Gregan has been on form this year so can expect to be in the final,” said O’Sullivan. “And then it will be all about getting in position to strike for gold at the right time. Indoor 400m running is totally different to outdoors and tactics and timing are crucial.”

Gregan himself is taking it “round by round” but believes “anything can happen. I’m a good racer. I can run off any pace.”

Ó Lionáird leads Irish hopes in the men’s 3,000m (11.35am) and says he “can’t look beyond the heats. Just need to run a good tactical race and use my strengths”.

Ó Lionáird’s strengths include a 3:52.10 mile which heads the European rankings and that speed should work to his advantage.

Stephen Scullion (North Belfast Harriers) and John Travers (Donore Harriers) are also in the 3,000m, with the final on Saturday at 5.20pm.

Women’s 800m running has been to the fore domestically and Ciara Everard (UCD) and Rose-Anne Galligan (Newbridge) both run today (4.46pm and 4.52pm). O’Sullivan, Irish 800m record holder with 2:00.69, thinks Everard has the chance to claim her first international medal.

“The 800m has been a class event in Ireland this season, more competitive than ever before,” said O’Sullivan, who holds every Irish record from 800m up to the half marathon.

“Ciara has the chance in her first senior international to claim a medal and get even closer to the sub two minute mark that has eluded so many Irish athletes in the past.

“She will have the company of Rose-Anne returning to form this season and it’s always good to have competition between athletes from the same country to push themselves to run beyond their perceived limits.”

Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole) was targeted by Athletics Ireland high performance director Kevin Ankrom as a medal hope but O’Sullivan thinks the race might prove too short.

“Fionnuala is in great form,” she said. The distance may prove too short for Fionnuala to run away from everyone but this is her best chance at a medal of any colour.”

Ireland’s other competitor today is Claire Tarplee, who goes in the 1500m heats at 6:21pm.

Ireland’s European contenders

Brian Gregan (Clonliffe Harriers AC):

Event: 400m (Today 11:02 am)

Season’s best: 46.07

European lead: Brian Gregan 46.07

Prediction: Silver.

Derval O’Rourke (Leevale AC): Event: 60m hurdles (Today 10:30am; semi-finals 17:20; final 18:55)

Season’s best: 8.08

European lead: Yuliya Kondakova (RUS) 7.93

Prediction: Bronze

O’Rourke is a proven championship performer and will be looking to add another medal to the cabinet.

Ciaran Lionaird (Leevale AC):

Event: 3,000m (Today 11:35)

Season’s best: 7:53.69

European lead: Hayle Ibrahimov (AZE) 7:39.59

Prediction: bronze.

Looks like an astute move running the 3,000m. Looking to make up for Olympic disappointment.

John Travers (Donore Harriers AC): Event: 3,000m (Today 11:47).

Season’s best: 7:58.54

European lead: Hayle Ibrahimov (AZE) 7:39.59

Prediction: Heats

The star of the domestic season, Travers will be looking to make the final.

Stephen Scullion (North Belfast Harriers AC): Event: 3,000m (Today 11:35)

Season’s best: 7:58.11

European lead: Hayle Ibrahimov (AZE) 7:39.59

Prediction: Heats

First senior vest and will need to replicate his personal best to make the final.

Fionnuala Britton (Kilcoole AC): Event: 3,000m (Saturday 11:25)

Season’s best: 8:54.37

Prediction: Bronze

Will have to take charge of the race early on to have an impact but has the capability.

Ciara Everard (UCD AC): Event: 800m (Today 16:46)

Season’s best: 2:02.52

European lead: Yekaterina Kupina (RUS) 1:59.58.

Prediction: Final

In record-breaking form, Everard is capable of making the final.

Rose-Anne Galligan (Newbridge AC):

Event: 800m (Today 16:52)

Season’s best: 2:03.39

European lead: Yekaterina Kupina (RUS) 1:59.58

Prediction: semi-final

Getting back to her best form, we could see two Irish women in the final.

Amy Foster (City of Lisburn AC):

Event: 60m (Saturday 12:42). Season’s best: 7.33. European lead: Mariya Ryemyen (UKR) 7.12. Prediction: semi-final

Will be looking to break Anna Boyle’s national record (7.30). Final looks a step too far.

Tori Pena (Finn Valley AC)

Event: Pole Vault (Today 16:15)

Season’s best: 4.45m

European lead: Holly Bleasedale (GBR) 4.77m

Prediction: heats

Has failed to find her best form in championships but maybe this is her year.

Claire Tarplee (Dundrum South Dublin AC) Event: 1500m (Today 18:21)

Season’s best: 4:13.16

European lead: Abeba Aregawi (SWE) 3:58.40

Prediction: Final

With only three athletes allowed per nation, she could spring a surprise on her debut.

Picture: ON TRACK: Ciarán Ó Lionáird checks out the track ahead of his 3,000m heat in Gothenburg. Picture: Morgan Treacy


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