Ireland's best Belgium bound
Thomas Barr and Ciara Mageean lead a veritable who's who of current and emerging Irish athletic talent at Saturday's IFAM Meet in Oordegem, Belgium.
This day-long international graded meet is a magnet for young athletes with its festival atmosphere, all-day catering and a bar after the finish line. Little wonder that this year's entry is close to 3,000.
Biggest event of the day looks like the men's 800m, with 368 entered. For the men's 5000m, 308 (and counting) have signed up, among them the European champion Ilias Fifa of Spain.
Barr heads the entry for the 400m hurdles, with a total of 64 signed up, six of them sub-50 second runners. Also running are Barr's training partner Paul Byrne, Jason Harvey of Crusaders, Ferrybank's Ben Kiely, junior athletes Simon Essuman of Tallaght, Diamuid Clancy of Abbey Striders and UCD's Conor Gaffney.
Even more congested is the women's 800m with an entry of over 200, three of them sub-two minute athletes, which means that Mageean's chances of improving on her best of 2:00.79 run last summer are good.
Other Irish likely to be running on the day include Carla Sweeney of Rathfarnham WSAF, UCD's Alannah Lally, Alex O'Neill of St Cronan's and Nadia Power of Templeogue. Like most of the junior athletes who are travelling, they are chasing European U20 or U23 qualification marks.
A massive 21 Irish sprinters have entered the 100m, ranging in standard all the way from Stephen Gaffney and Éanna Madden, who have run 10.63 secs and 10.64 secs respectively, to club athletes delighted to break 12 seconds. With the entry fee for the meet just €6 or €8 on the day, many of these have also put their names down for the 200m.
Also entered are juniors Cillin Greene of Galway City Harriers and David McDonald of Menapians as well as Trim's Harry Purcell, who already has the European U23 qualifying mark for 400m.
Bandon's Phil Healy, al and rising star Sharlene Mawdsley of Newport lead the Irish entry for the women's 200m. Healy also down for the 400m.
UCD's Karl Griffin, aiming to approach his best time of 1:47.38, is the only Irish entry for the men's 800m. Junior phenomenon Darragh McElhinney of Bantry AC is scheduled to run the 1500m.
Leading the Irish entry for the 5000m is John Travers of Donore Harriers, while also running are Bedford athlete Matt Bergin, who has declared for Ireland, City of Derry's Conor Bradley and Daire Bermingham of Raheny Shamrock..
Ballymena's Christine McMahon, who opened her season with a 59.59 secs in Loughborough last weekend, runs in the 400m hurdles.