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Tuesday 25 September 2018

So who will shine in '18?

Ireland’s Gina Akpe-Moses, who won gold in 100m at the homecoming of the Irish Team from the European Athletics U20 Championships, back in July. Pic: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ireland’s Gina Akpe-Moses, who won gold in 100m at the homecoming of the Irish Team from the European Athletics U20 Championships, back in July. Pic: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Irish international track and field athletes are taking a well earned rest before facing into a particularly busy year.

For senior athletes their first major target is the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham from March 1-4. Next up, for athletes with Northern Ireland affiliations at least, are the Commonwealth Games in Queensland, Australia. Then in August comes the European Championships in Berlin.

For our junior stars there are the European U18 Championships in Gyor, Hungary and the World U20 Championships in Tampere, Finland, both taking place in July.

For Birmingham, the Irish team will be named after the National Indoors in Abbotstown on the weekend of February 17.

One man who looks good for selection is Brian Gregan of Clonliffe Harriers, unbeaten on Irish soil over the past two years and Ireland's second fastest man ever over 400m. Quite who else will make the team is open to debate.

Last season saw a number of young stars emerging on the Irish athletics scene.

Brightest of them all was Gina Akpe-Moses of the Blackrock club in Dundalk who won gold in the 100m at the European U20 Championships in Italy and she looks like Ireland's brightest hope of a medal at the World U20 Championships in Finland.

Akpe-Moses, one of a family of five, came to Ireland from Nigerian as a two-year old. When aged just eight and racing barefoot, she won the under-10 100m at the Community Games.

Determined

Since then she has not looked back, making the Irish schools team for the annual international when aged 15 and taking silver in the 200m at the European Youth Olympics of 2015.

Although her family relocated to Birmingham in 2014, Akpe Moses is determined to remain loyal to her Irish roots, with the Tokyo Olympics of 2020 her major target.

Then there are our young multi-eventers, most notably Elizabeth Morland and Kate O' Connor, who have re-written the record books at all levels since their emergence.

Morland of Cushinstown AC, still not 20, broke her own Irish record with a score of  5,669 points in Tenerife last June.

O'Connor, aged just 16, finished a brilliant third at the European Combined Events Team Championships in Monzon, Spain. Her score of 5,632 means that Morland's records are under threat.

O'Connor, like Donegal high jumper Sommer Lecky, has qualified for the Commonwealth Games, as indeed have Ciara Mageean and Emma Mitchell. The Northern Ireland team is to be announced next Wednesday, January 3.

Other young athletes to watch out for over the coming months include sprinters Ciara Neville and Sharlene Mawdsley, middle distance runner John Fitzsimons , shot and hammer thrower Michaela Walsh and Germany-based pole vaulter Seán Roth.

For distance runners, the target is the European Championships where Ireland aims to have a team in the marathon. Among those aiming for a spring marathon to cement his place is Raheny's Mick Clohisey who runs the Seville Marathon in February with a time under 2 hours 17 minutes his target.

Hectic times.

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