After being treated to a week of spring sunshine, those travelling to the capital for the return to the track calendar of the IMC meet could have been forgiven for feeling slightly hard done by as the rain fell throughout Saturday morning.

However, the temperamental Irish weather failed to dampen the 21st birthday celebrations of the famous meeting in what would turn out to be an exciting afternoon's action at the Santry venue. The meeting also coincided with the 80th birthday celebrations of Crusaders athletics club.

Afternoon opener

The afternoon's action got underway with the women’s 1500m. Perhaps fittingly, it was a Clonliffe Harriers victory in the form of Emma Mitchell on her home track, seeing off the challenge of Niamh Kearney of Raheny Shamrocks and Kirsti Foster of Willowfield Harriers in Belfast.

The three aforementioned proved the class of the field as they pulled away in the closing 600m, with Mitchell coming home in a time of 4:23.12 in tough conditions.

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The 1500m saw 18 women take part across two heats. On the in-field, the shotput got underway early on. The event saw UCD’s Christof Steiner and Niamh McCorry of Annalee take the wins in the men’s and women’s event respectively.

In the Para Women, Mary Fitzgerald of Gowran AC took the plaudits.

Efrem the star of the show

Despite the rain clearing up for a period and the skies beginning to brighten, the high jump competition fell foul to the elements with a large amount of surface water remaining on the in-field.

Thankfully, the men’s 5k did not suffer the same fate, with the athletes taking to the line in front of the Clonliffe Harriers clubhouse shortly after 1.15pm.

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As expected, it was this year’s Raheny 5 mile winner Efrem Gidey animating the action at the head of the field, with Ennis twins Dean and Dylan Casey attempting to hang on to the former European U20 medallist.

After being expertly paced by Luke McCann in the early stages, Gidey soloed away in the closing 2k to run a blistering 13:47.43 personal best. Having stuck well with the pace early on, Dean Casey came home next in 14:02.28 with brother Dylan further back in third in 14:15.54.

With 19 the average age of the podium, the future of middle distance is in good hands and we will no doubt see these athletes wearing the green of Ireland at championship races later this year and beyond.

A change of pace

Nine men took to the track for the 400m over two heats. After a swift start out of the blocks, Hugo Magee of Crusaders was hunted down by Jed Walshe of Ratoath AC in the closing 100m, Magee just doing enough to keep the young Meath man at bay in a time of 49.87.

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That sub-50 second clocking was made all the more impressive by the headwind blowing on the backstraight. In the women’s 400m, an aggressive run from lane 5 by Renee Crotty of Annalee saw her home in a new personal best time of 57.19, justified elation as she crossed the line and looked towards the clock.

And there was another 2nd place for the Ratoath club as Aimee Doherty got the dip ahead of Orlagh Leer of Monaghan Phoenix.

Chasing standards

Sligo’s Aoife Kilgallon came to Santry for another attempt at the qualifying standard (16:05.83 for 5k) for the European 10,000m road championships, set to take place in Pacé, France on May 28.

Kilgallon came into Saturday’s race having tried a week previous to get the standard at Mary Peters in Belfast, where she fell just short with a time of 16:07.64.

It was clear from early on that Kilgallon fancied another crack despite the adverse weather and she opened up a significant early gap on the rest of the field with only pacemaker Ellie Hartnett for company.

Hartnett finished her shift and Kilgallon dug in over the second half of the race, leaving herself with it all to do over the last 800m. Unfortunately, the Sligo woman fell just shy again of the time, clocking 16:10.70, albeit a courageous performance.

Further back, an exciting duel was developing between Grace Lynch of Iveragh and Fiona McKenna of UCD for the remaining places on the podium. Lynch, making her return to the track after an impressive Spring on the road, set the pace for the majority between the two. However, McKenna showed an impressive turn of foot at the bell to put almost 10 seconds into Lynch over the closing 400m.

McGrath class of the field

Luke McCann was tasked once more with pacing, this time for the men’s 1500m. In a field stacked with quality, it was Bohermeen’s Kevin McGrath who emerged victorious, another impressive performance from the Meath man this season.

In his typically fluid style, McGrath showed real class over the closing 800m, allowing himself the breathing room to come down the gears as he crossed the line in 3:48.70.

Juan Ignacio Peña of Raheny came home in second in 3:50.49, moving past Mitchell Byrne of Rathfarnham on the closing lap.

Two lap drama

Jenna Bromell of Emerald AC ran a controlled race in the women’s 800m to win in 2:05.00 to open her season. Her time was just outside the 2:04.39 that saw her come 4th in last year’s national championships.

Bromell has run 2:02.20 for the distance and will hope to return to that form to challenge her PB over the summer.

She was followed home by Alanna Lally of UCD (2:06.23) and Emma Moore of Galway City Harriers (2:09.08).

The men’s 800m provided some of the best excitement of the afternoon with just over a 10th of a second splitting the first three. Jake Bagge of Ferrybank took the win in 1:51.00, closely followed by Cillian Kirwan of Raheny Shamrocks and clubmate Callum Hurley in 1:51.14.

A shoutout has to be given to the three visiting members from the Aspire Academy in Qatar. Coached by Steve Macklin and formerly David McCarthy, these young athletes will have benefitted from the quality racing on Saturday as they continue their development through the ranks and are names to keep an eye on for the future.

Successful day's racing

Before the day wrapped up, Luke McCann was back for a hat-trick of appearances, this time donning the yellow of UCD to help the team to victory in the intervarsity’s mixed-medley relay. The winning team of McCann, Peter Kilgallon, Molly Hourihan and Kate Nurse took home the E400 prize.

It was fantastic to see a good crowd turn out despite the conditions to witness some top quality racing across the board, the day’s action whetting the appetite for what’s to come over the summer in Irish athletics.

The IMC will return for a much anticipated meeting in Belfast on May 14 at Mary Peters Track in Belfast. The event has been given European Permit Status for the first time, while also being listed as a World Athletics Continental Tour Event.

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