Lombard set fair for Santry and beyond

AFTER years of hard grafting Cork’s Cathal Lombard has become an overnight success.

He goes into this weekend’s Woodies DIY national senior championships at Morton Stadium, Santry, having already posted his qualifying standard for next year’s Olympic Games and booked his seat on the flight to Paris for the world championships in two weeks’ time.

It took years of hard work, punctuated by frustrating injuries, to arrive in this position but it all came together for him last weekend in Huesden-Zolder where he posted a career best time of 13:19.22 to become the fastest Irishman of all time over 5,000m and post his A standard for Athen next year.

This week he was back at his desk in Dublin, where he works as a solicitor for the firm of Arthur Cox, reflecting on what has been a whirlwind season so far but particularly on the weekend’s spellbinding performance.

“Everything was just perfect,” Lombard said. “It was 10 o’clock at night, absolutely no wind, a small stadium packed to the rafters, a fast track and a great field.

“I almost ran an even-paced race all the way, 64-second laps, with the first and last slightly faster. I ran 13:20 pace, through 3,000m in 7:58, and stayed with the lead group until about three laps to go when I began to get very tired.”

Up front Zersenay Tadesse (Eritrea) outsprinted Christian Blez (Switzerland) to win in a new national record of 13:11.07.

“The reward was the Olympic qualifying standard and that is very important but it also guarantees me two years’ funding under the Carding Scheme as well so I can now go full time later on this year.”

But the 10,000m is still his preferred option for the world championships and he has Mark Carroll’s national record (27:46.82) as his target for that.

“It is going to be a straight final on August 24, which is great. I can just go out there and have one bash off it rather than trying to negotiate rounds,” he said. “Obviously I don’t know what kind of race it is going to be and I don’t know what the temperatures are going to be like. I would hope that we will get a good race on not too hot a day and if that’s the case I would be pretty confident of breaking 28 minutes and possibly going close to Mark Carroll’s Irish record.

“That would leave me with an exciting option for the Olympics. I was talking to Mark (Carroll) yesterday and he wants to go for the 10,000m and so do I so we could potentially have two Leevale athletes in the final of the 10,000m in Athens next year. That would be great.”

As a schoolboy Lombard finished fourth in the Irish schools senior cross-country championships and, under Der O’Donovan at Leevale, he finished sixth in the national junior championships but when that group broke up and some went to the US he stayed on to study Law at UCC. He then went to Dublin to do a Masters at UCD and went on to serve his apprenticeship as a solicitor with Arthur Cox and Co.

He kept his name to the fore, figuring close to the front in the major cross-coutnry championships and qualifying for Irish teams for the world and European cross-country championships.

“But last year was the year that made the difference for me. It was when I met up with Joe Doonan and we put a training together that we thought would work for me. Last year was an up and down transitional year for me but there were indications that I was coming good and this year is when I am really getting the results,” he said.

It was Doonan who coached Catherina McKiernan to the heady heights in marathon running and Lombard regards the meeting as the turning point in his career.

In Sunday’s 5,000m final he will take on Clareman Seamus Power with Rob Connolly, bronze medallist at the European U23 championships, another strong contender.

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