Irish hope for good Finn-ish
Thomas Barr and the Irish team head for this weekend's European Team Championships League 1 competition in Vaasa, Finland, determined to hold on to their place.
Taking place every second year for 12 mixed teams, the competition gives track and field athletes a rare opportunity to compete for their country.
In 2013, Ireland hosted the event and held on to the League 1 status. Two years ago in Greece, the Irish team finished sixth for its best result. Key members of that team included Thomas Barr (400m hurdles), Ben Reynolds (110m hurdles) and Mark English 800m, who all finished second in their races.
Of the women, sprinter Amy Foster, Kerry O'Flaherty (1500m), Sara Treacy (3000m) and Michele Finn (steeplechase )all finished third.
This weekend, Ireland takes on strong teams from Finland, Norway and Sweden, who were relegated from the Super League in 2015 and are determined to make a quick return. Belgium, Switzerland and Turkey are also likely to be in the shake-up.
Barr and English are are again among Ireland's best hopes of a win. English, ranked second in Europe after his 1 min 45.42 secs last weekend in Stockholm, is the fastest in the field for the 800m.
In the 400m hurdles, Thomas Barr produced his trademark finishing surge to finish third in the 400m hurdles at the Bislett Games in Oslo last Thursday.
Race winner was 21-year-old Karsten Warholm, who won again in Stockholm on Sunday and will lead the entry for what could be the race of the weekend in Vaasa.
Ben Reynolds time of 13.67 secs this season puts him a close second behind Denmark's Andreas Martinsen on 13.66 for the 110m hurdles.
Paul Robinson should be in contention in the 1500m where he takes on Filip Ingebrigtsen, one of the celebrated trio of Norwegian brothers.
Of the Irish sprinters, Marcus Lawler faces Ramil Guliyev, the Azerbaijani-born Turkish sprinter who has run 20.08 secs this season in the 200m.
Over 400m, Brian Gregan's time of 45.75 secs makes him the fastest athlete entered, with Dylan Borlee of Belgium the biggest threat.
Of the Irish women, Emma Mitchell faces a tough task in the 3000m, with Sara Moreira of Portugal and Merah Bahta of Swedent both capable of breaking nine minutes.
Amy Foster could make the top three in the 100m, as she has done in the past.
In the high jump, 17-year-old Sommer Lecky makes her senior debut and could take some scalps, as could Clare Fitzgerald in the discus.
The Irish women's squad, however, will sorely big names such as Ciara Mageean and Síofra Cleirigh Buttner.