Athletics: Selectors have riddle for Rio
With a total of six Irish marathon runners inside the Rio 2016 qualifying standards following Sunday's Berlin Marathon, the selectors can look forward to some long discussions over the next few months.
Three men and three women can make the Irish team for Rio and in Berlin four men went under the 2 hours 17 minutes qualifying standard. Leading them home was Kevin Seaward of St Malachy's in Belfast in a personal best time of 2 hrs 14 mins 54 secs. Seaward had trailed the other Irish at 10km, but speeded up in the final stages of the race.
Also comfortably inside the men's 2 hours 17 minutes qualifying standard were Sergiu Ciobanu of Clonliffe in 2:15.14, Raheny's Mick Clohisey in 2:15.35 and Paul Pollock of Annadale in 2:15.38.
Clohisey, who had narrowly failed to go under 2 hrs 17 secs in his marathon debut at Rotterdam earlier this year was pleased to run almost two minutes faster this time.
Paul Pollock, who had been battling injury, had done his best to catch Clohisey in the closing stages of the race but the ten days training he lost because of a muscle tear proved critical.
He now faces running another marathon in the next few months ideally in a time of under 2 hours 15 minutes.
Pollock may not be the only one contemplating a spring marathon. Just missing out in Berlin was Galway's Gary Thornton who ran 2:17.19 and Sean Hehir of Rathfarnham WSAF with a time of 2:17.48.
They now face the difficult decision on whether to chase the qualifying mark next spring, as do Raheny's Mark Kirwan, who ran a personal best 2:19.30, and the trio of Gary Murray, Mark Hanrahan and Thomas Fitzpatrick. All were on target to break 2 hours 17 minutes up to the 30 kilometre mark in Berlin.
Then there's Mark Kenneally who didn't even make the start line at Berlin. His time of 2:13.55 set in 2011 was the fastest run by an Irish man since Mark Carroll's 2:10.54 in 2002.
In the women's race, Lizzie Lee of Leevale's time of 2:32.51 knocked over five minutes off the time of 2:38.09 she ran at the 2013 Berlin Marathon. It also puts her fifth on the all-time Irish list which is headed by Catherina McKiernan, whose time of 2: 22.23 dates back to 1998.
No Irishwoman has broken 2 hours 30 minutes since Sonia O'Sullivan ran 2:29.01 in 2005.
Already inside the women's qualifying mark of 2 hours 42 minutes is Breege Connolly of North Belfast Harriers who ran 2:37.29 in London last April.
Fionnuala McCormack runs the Chicago Marathon on October 11, while DSD's Maria McCambridge goes in the Frankfurt Marathon on October 25.