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Sunday 8 December 2019

Irish taking on the world

FLYING HIGH: Michelle Finn will be the first of the Irish team in action, on Friday, in the women’s steeplechase in Doha. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
FLYING HIGH: Michelle Finn will be the first of the Irish team in action, on Friday, in the women’s steeplechase in Doha. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

A small Irish team of track and road athletes heads to the desert city of Doha in Qatar this week where the World Athletics Championships begin on Friday.

Making up the Irish team are Thomas Barr (400m hurdles), Ciara Mageean (1500m), Phil Healy (200m), Michele Finn (steeplechase) and Mark English (800m), as well as race walkers Brendan Boyce and Alex Wright and marathon man Stephen Scullion.

First into the fray on Friday (4.55pm Irish time) is Michelle Finn of Leevale who goes in the women's steeplechase.

Finn, one of the three "steeple chicks" who qualified for the Rio Olympics three years ago, is in the form of her life.

She set an Irish record for the 2000m steeplechase in Berlin earlier this month, having run personal best times for the 1500m, 5000m and half marathon as well as the 3000m steeplechase earlier in the season.

With standards in this event improving all the time, making the final would be a massive achievement for her.

Taking to the track after Finn for the 400m hurdles heats (6.35pm) is Thomas Barr who, at the very least, should make the semi-finals comfortably.

A new generation of hurdlers have come to the fore since Barr finished fourth at the Rio Olympics and leading them is Norway's Karsten Warlholm, with his time of 46.92 secs in a phenomenal race at the Weltklasse in Zurich the second fastest ever.

Bronze

Barr, a bronze medal winner at last year's European Championships, has a best time this season of 49.11 from the Bislett Games in Oslo last June.

Mark English, who qualified as a doctor earlier in the year, is next up of the Irish competing in the 800m heats on Saturday (3.15pm). Leading the rankings is Nijel Amos of Botswana with a time of 1:41.89 from the Monaco Diamond League in July. Mark English lies 30th in the rankings and could make the semi-finals.

In the 50km walk, also taking place that day, the defending champion is Yohann Diniz of France, who also holds the world record of 3 hrs 32 mins 33 secs. Ireland's Brendan Boyce lies 26th in the rankings, having finished fifth in the European Cup with a time of 3:48.13.

Phil Healy is in action on Monday when the women's 200m heats take place. Healy has recovered well from a freak accident where she broke her foot and won the national title with a time of 23.33 secs, having run 23.04 secs before her accident. Fastest 200m woman this year is Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas with a time of 21.74 secs from the Weltklasse.

Ciara Mageean has to wait until next Wednesday (3.35) before she gets a chance to compete in the 1500m heats, where Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands is expected to dominate, although with 13 women under four minutes this season anything could happen. Mageean is not far off that pace with a personal best 4:01.21 during the mile in Monaco last July.

Finally, Alex Wright competes in the 20km walk on Friday October 4 and Stephen Scullion in the men's marathon, which sets off at the extraordinary time of 11.59pm locally on Saturday October 5.

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