This year will mark the 150th edition of the Irish Life Health National Senior Track and Field Championships and is set to take place over two days at Morton Stadium in Santry, this coming weekend.
Following on from a busy opening to the 2022 outdoor season, the cream of Irish athletics will make their way to Dublin for the championships, with the start-list featuring some of the biggest names in the sport in Ireland at the moment. Here we have previewed a number of the main events and athletes to watch out for over the weekend.
Olatunde in action for the UCD Bears
One of the many talking points of 2022 so far has been the continued rise of UCD’s Israel Olatunde in the 100m, as he closes in on Paul Hession’s national record of 10.18. Olatunde has gone from strength to strength since becoming Irish national champion in 2021 when edging out Rathfarnham’s Stephen Gaffney by a hundredth of a second in 10.49. The UCD man has already gone under that 2021 winning time on five occasions this year, lowering his personal best to 10.27 in the meantime and will be the one to beat this coming weekend.
Challengers to Olatunde for the title include the in-form Rob McDonnell of Galway City Harriers, who has displayed impressive versatility over both 100m and 200m. McDonnell’s personal best of 10.43 came at the Belfast Irish Milers meeting back in May, in a race that saw him finish strongly for second place to Olatunde, who clocked 10.35. Joseph Ojewumi (Tallaght A.C) will be one to watch also and has had a stellar 2022 so far, setting a personal best of 10.44 in Austria earlier this month. Last year’s national bronze medallist Conor Morey (Leevale A.C) is also in the field and will more than likely need to run close to his personal best of 10.49 to be in the medals again in 2022.
Adeleke returns to light up Morton
The only outdoor national sprint record not currently held by Tallaght’s Rhasidat Adeleke is the 100m record which is held by Phil Healy, standing at 11.28. Interestingly, the 100m is the only event that Adeleke has entered in this year’s championships and could possibly be targeting the national record, having ran 11.31 last year for the distance. Adeleke has been in incredible form this year in the United States while representing the University of Texas. After setting new national records for 60m and 200m indoors earlier in the spring, Adeleke has taken that form into the outdoor season, breaking the national records for the 200m and 400m in April and May respectively. Having secured the World and European qualifying standards for those distances, Adeleke could produce something special with sole focus on the 100m event this weekend.
Adeyemi Talabi of Longford A.C, who has also been based in States, will provide stiff competition to Adeleke and has run 11.44 already this season in Los Angeles. Last years silver medallist and 60m indoor national champion, Molly Scott (St Laurence O’Toole A.C), comes into the championships having already run 11.50 in Poland in May and will be a major medal contender once again. Other notable entries include Joan Healy of Leevale A.C and hurdling star Sarah Lavin (Emerald A.C), who will also hope to defend her 100m hurdle crown over the weekend.
World finalist Lavin hoping to retain hurdle crown
In-form Sarah Lavin of Emerald A.C will be hoping to defend her title in the 100m hurdles when she takes to the track this weekend. She is currently in the best form of her career having set a new PB of 12.93 last week in Madrid while earlier in the year she broke the 8 second barrier for the 60m hurdles when qualifying for the final at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade. In doing so, Lavin became the first Irish finalist at the competition since David Gillick in 2010.
Also in the field is last year’s national silver medallist, Kate Doherty of Dundrum South Dublin A.C. Doherty has a personal best of 13.45 which she set in May at the Mary Peters Track in Belfast and is the second fastest in the field on paper. She has had an incredibly consistent season so far and will be firmly in the reckoning for a national medal once again. Mayo’s Sarah Quinn, a member of the Irish team which made the World Athletics Relay Finals in Poland last year alongside Doherty, will also take part in the colours of St Colman’s South Mayo A.C.
Anticipated head-to-head in the 200m
Billed as one of the most exciting head-to-heads of the weekend, the men’s 200m will see fellow in-form Olympians Marcus Lawler (Clonliffe Harriers) and Rob McDonnell (Galway City Harriers) meet once again this season. Lawlor has the slight edge on McDonnell having beaten him twice already while McDonnell has only got the better of Lawlor on one occasion this season. McDonnell has recently set a personal best of 20.51 which makes him the quickest man in the field this year.
Last year’s silver medallist Mark Smyth of Raheny Shamrocks will also be one to watch out for in his first outdoor 200m appearance this year. Smyth has already ran an impressive 10.55 for 100m this season.
Healy v Becker showdown
All eyes will be on the fascinating duel set to play out between Phil Healy (Bandon A.C) and Sophie Becker (Raheny Shamrocks) over 400m. Currently, only a hundredth of a second separates their seasons best so far in favour of Healy. Becker has been in brilliant form in the last 12 months, making her appearance at the Tokyo Olympics last summer and her first Diamond League in Rabat at the start of June. She also broke the 52 second barrier for the first time in her career in May.
Sharlene Mawdsley (Newport A.C) will also be hoping for a good performance having been forced to pull-up with an injury in the closing stages of last year’s final.
English the man to beat in the 800m
While Mark English (Finn Valley A.C) will be the favourite on paper to claim yet another national title, there are a number of significant threats in this stacked field for the men’s 800m. John Fitzsimons of Kildare A.C will be back to defend his 2021 crown. Personal bests can all but be thrown out the window for this one with last year’s title won in 1:49.48. There are a number of quality contenders who could produce something special to claim the title this year if the final is to become a tactical affair.
The returning Harry Purcell (Trim A.C) represents a strong candidate for national honours alongside European U20 gold medallist Cian McPhillips (UCD A.C), Roland Surlis (Annalee A.C) and Irish 1000m record holder Luke McCann (UCD A.C). Kevin McGrath (Bohermeen A.C) will also look to finish strongly in the hopes of bettering his 5th place finish from 2018.
Shanahan vying for another national title
Louise Shanahan will be in action for the first time since breaking the national 800m record in an enthralling battle with Ciara Mageean in Belfast last May. The current indoor national champion over 800m will look to retain her outdoor title also when toeing the line this weekend. The Leevale athlete was the star of the show at Mary Peters Track when crossing the line in 1:59.42 to take the record from Mageean.
Challenge for the 800m crown will come in the form of 1500m indoor national champion Georgie Hartigan (Dundrum South Dublin), Claire Mooney (Naas A.C) and Jenna Bromell (Emerald A.C).
Clash of the weekend in the 1500m
One of the most anticipated encounters of the weekend will see Olympian and current national champion Andrew Coscoran (Star of the Sea) attempt to defend his title from Luke McCann (UCD A.C) and European U20 mile record holder Nick Griggs (Mid Ulster A.C). Coscoran, a semi-finalist in the Tokyo Olympics last summer, has been churning out consistent results across Europe and America so far this year and is in fine form to retain his title. The Balbriggan man will know what he is up against having beaten both Griggs and McCann this year in indoor mile races.
Beyond the 3 main protagonists, there is a wealth of depth in the field that could also have a significant say in the medal placings. Last years silver and bronze medallists Cathal Doyle (Clonliffe Harriers) and Kevin Kelly (St Coca’s A.C) are set to feature alongside the first Mayo man to run a sub 4-minute mile, Shane Bracken (Swinford A.C). Paul Robinson (St Coca’s) is also likely to be in the reckoning for medals after a 3:38.90 in Spain last week.
McElhinney heads stacked 5000m field
European U23 silver medallist Darragh McElhinney (UCD A.C) will carry a strong favourites tag into the men’s 5000m on Sunday evening. McElhinney has proven a class above the rest in Ireland currently, having ran 13:17.0 to break the long standing Irish U23 5000m record earlier this year. There will be many in the field having sleepless nights trying to find a way of beating the Cork man, with only Hiko Tonosa (Dundrum South Dublin A.C) managing to do so in recent times when edging out McElhinney in the closing stages of the National Senior Cross Country last winter in Santry Demense.
There is seemingly no obvious chink in the McElhinney armour that can be exploited and he will be favoured to win either a tactical encounter or a race that goes quick from the off. Efrem Gidey (Clonliffe Harriers) could provide the closest challenge to McElhinney after a strong front running performance saw him win the Michael Manning Dunshaughlin 10k last weekend in 28:14, coming home almost 40 seconds ahead of Tonosa on the night. Gidey also clocked 13:47 earlier this year at the Dublin Irish Milers, a personal best for the Clonliffe athlete.
Others to look out for include Jack O’Leary and Jamie Battle (Mullingar Harriers), Fearghal Curtin (Youghal A.C), Keelan Kilrehill (Moy Valley A.C), Jake O’Regan (St John’s A.C), Paul Robinson (St Coca’s A.C), Paul O’Donnell and Emmet Jennings (Dundrum South Dublin).
Others in action
Elsewhere, there are a number of quality athletes in action across the various other events set to take place over the weekend in Santry. In the 400m hurdles, Thomas Barr (Ferrybank A.C) will be racing for only the second time since his third place finish at the Doha Diamond League in May.
In the men’s 400m, there is set to be an exciting battle between Cathal Crosbie (Ennis Track), Marcus Lawler (Clonliffe Harriers), Eanna Madden (Carrick-on-Shannon), Jack Raftery (Donore Harriers) and Chris O’Donnell (North Sligo A.C) who only recently set a huge personal best of 45.26, going joint-second on the Irish all-time list. In the 10,000m walk, Olympian David Kenny (Farranfore Maine Valley A.C) will be looking to add the outdoor national title to the 5000m indoor title he claimed in February.
In the women’s 5000m, Fionnuala McCormack (Kilcoole A.C) will line-up alongside Ide and Sorcha NicDhomhnaill (Donore Harriers), Aoife Kilgallon (Sligo A.C), Nakita Burke (Letterkenny A.C) and European U23 Cross Country team members Aoife O’Cuill (St Coca’s A.C) and Danielle Donegan (UCD A.C).
In the men’s hammer, fresh from competing in the NCAA Championships for Indiana University, Sean Mockler (Moycarkey Coolcroo A.C) will look to retain his national title, while in the shotput, national record holder Eric Favors (Raheny Shamrocks) is set to take to the circle.
Leevale A.C currently possess two of the most exciting prospects in the pole vault in Ireland in the form of youngsters Una Brice and Conor Callinan, who will be in action over the weekend. Both athletes currently hold the Irish youth records for their events, while 17 year-old Callinan became the youngest ever winner of an Irish senior outdoor title last year when vaulting 4.40. Another Leevale representative, Olympian Michelle Finn, will go in the 3000m steeplechase.
Reigning national champion Philippa Rogan (Sli Cualann A.C) will hope to defend her high jump title but will be pushed all the way by Sommer Lecky (Finn Valley A.C) and heptathlete Kate O’Connor (Dundalk St Gerards A.C), who were both named this week in the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games team.
It is sure to be an exciting weekend of action across all events and the tickets and timetable can be found here.