Thomas Barr claims tenth national 400m hurdles title

The time may have been nothing to write home about, but for Thomas Barr the arrival of his 10th national title at 400m hurdles brought a giant wave of joy and relief
Thomas Barr claims tenth national 400m hurdles title

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES: Irish Life National Athletics Championships, Morton Stadium, Dublin 25/6/2022. Men 400m Hurdles - Heat

The time may have been nothing to write home about, but for Thomas Barr the arrival of his 10th national title at 400m hurdles brought a giant wave of joy and relief. The chief reason was that for the first time more than a month, he was able to sprint and hurdle without pain in his achilles tendon.

On a damp, windy day at Morton Stadium for the 150th edition of the Irish Athletics Championships, Barr once again blitzed his domestic opponents with a typically composed, classy performance, his 50.37 clocking bringing him home well clear of Emerald’s Jack Mitchell (51.64).

“All things considered, I'm very happy with today's run even if it's just a confidence boost to get back into training,” said Barr, who woke up with his achilles “in agony” after a race in Italy last month. That cost the Ferrybank athlete a month of training, with Barr only returning to his full workload last week.

“This weekend was a big test,” he said. “Waking up this morning (after Saturday’s heat), I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to run and it was frustrating because I put in a really, really good winter. But it's a long season, we've two majors coming, so maybe it's a blessing in disguise.” 

The race was Barr’s last before next month’s World Championships in Oregon and he will then target the Europeans in Munich in August. 

“I did everything right this year. I wasn't chasing fitness, and then boom, but I have the confidence to know I can turn it around in a few weeks. I'm a championship performer, I love it, so that's what I'll be basing my whole season on.” 

Mark English looked equally imperious when kicking away from chief rival John Fitzsimons to win his eighth outdoor national title over 800m, clocking 1:48.46. 

“My plan was to sit on the leader, it just happened to be John,” said English. “I felt very, very good and it’s full steam ahead now to the Worlds in Oregon.” 

There was an intriguing battle in the men’s 1500m final, where Clonliffe’s Cathal Doyle used his vast range of gears to maximum effect to power away from the field off the final turn and take his first national title in 3:59.36.

“I was licking my lips with that slow pace, knowing it’d be a big burn-up because I’d been closing really well all year,” said Doyle, who had wrapping on his wrist after fracturing it during a mid-race fall in the US last month.

Louise Shanahan of Leevale turned in another classy display to win the women’s 800m title in 2:10.90, her rivals having no answer to her vicious kick in the home straight. 

Earlier in the day Shanahan’s clubmate Michelle Finn produced a typically courageous performance to win the women’s 3000m steeplechase in dire conditions, Finn setting off in search of a fast time to boost her qualification chances for the World Championships but, in driving rain, she had to make do with a gold medal and a clocking of 9:57.72.

There was a superb race walking display earlier in the day from Sweden’s Perseus Karlstrom, who is now based in Cork and is coached by Rob Heffernan. Competing for Togher AC, he clocked 37:57.02 over 10,000m to come home well clear of training partners Callum Wilkinson and David Kenny. Kate Veale took the women’s 5000m title in 23:31.12.

On Saturday, Limerick’s Sarah Lavin won her seventh national senior outdoor title in the 100m hurdles, the 28-year-old Emerald AC athlete coming home a distant winner in 14.06 seconds ahead of Kate Doherty (14.64), a race run into a 5.0 metres-per-second headwind. 

“You can never take any of these for granted and on a day like today, you never know how it’s going to go,” said Lavin, who described the conditions as “mad”.

The headwind was a comically strong 8.3m/s for the men’s 110m hurdles final, where long-time rivals Matthew Behan edged Gerard O’Donnell to victory in 15.61. 

Fionnuala McCormack was a wide-margin winner of the women’s 5000m, the Kilcoole AC athlete clocking 16:07.75, while in the men’s shot put John Kelly of Finn Valley pulled off an upset, throwing a championship record of 19.25m to beat national record holder Eric Favors of Raheny, who won silver with 18.74m.

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