Our Commonwealth hopefuls in fine form as Glasgow nears
There were a series of impressive performances, not to mention surprises, from Northern Ireland athletes in yesterday's Irish Senior Championships in Dublin ahead of the Commonwealth Games, which start on Wednesday.
Top 800 metres runner Katie Kirk and 400 metres hurdler Christine McMahon were two particularly happy athletes in the final stages of preparation for the challenges in Glasgow.
QUB student Kirk showed brilliant tactical know-how in a slow 68 seconds first lap, the field including Irish No 1 Roseanne Galligan .
The 20-year-old took a five-metre lead with some 250 metres remaining and never relinquished her advantage to take her first Irish Senior title. Afterwards, she said: "The plan was to go for a fast finish and I am pleased my kick worked.
"I felt good even though Roseanne pressurised me in the home straight. My races are becoming more physical and I need this experience for Glasgow."
Katie may have drawn some inspiration from fellow Queen's student Christine McMahon, who earlier enjoyed an impressive solo victory in the 400 metres hurdles where she also took her first Senior title in 57.73 seconds.
"I am happy with that time, which isn't far off my PB.
"It was tough racing on my own but it was a solid run out and my preparations are great for Glasgow," she said.
In the pole vault, Antrim's Zoe Brown once again defeated arch-rival Tori Pena of Finn Valley, who got silver with 4.20 metres.
Thirty-year-old Zoe took gold with a first-time vault of 4.30 metres, which grants her automatic selection for the European Championships in August.
She narrowly failed in an attempt at 4.50 metres, which would have been five centimetres higher than her recent NI record.
There was a sensational finish in the Women's 100 metres where triple champion Amy Foster of Lisburn AC had to dig deep in the last 20 metres to catch up-and-coming Bandon AC star Phil Healey.
The photo finish could not separate the two, who were declared joint winners in a Championship best time of 11.49 seconds – a season's best for Foster.
The 25-year-old said she had expected a tough race which was not made any easier by a poor start.
There was another major surprise in the 1,500 metres where former World Junior silver medallist Ciara Mageean made a spectacular comeback after two years of injury to record an emphatic win in 4:14.91.
Newcastle's Kerry Harty took bronze.
UCD student Mageean said she had never given up hope after her heel required surgery. The process has made her a stronger athlete.
Yet another surprise result came in the 400 metres where the favourite Sinead Denny of DSD was caught on the line by Lagan Valley's Mandy Gault.
Mandy got the verdict, although both women were given the same time of 54.24 seconds.
As expected, Glasgow-bound Dempsey M'Guigan snatched silver in the hammer with 64.47 metres, some two metres short of his PB in an event won by favourite Conor M'Cullough of Crusaders with a huge 72.81 metres.
Annadale's Eddie McGinley took silver in the 10,000 metres behind Raheny's Michael Clohisey in 30:15.54.
Strabane's Anne-Marie M'Glynn got bronze in the 5,000 metres behind Ireland's Fionnuala Britton in a huge PB of 16 minutes and 23 seconds.
Meanwhile, Will Sharman continued his impressive form ahead of the Commonwealth Games with another quick time – even if he lost out in a three-way photo finish in the 110 metres hurdles at Horse Guards Parade yesterday.
The 29-year-old clocked 13.24 seconds into a slight headwind.
However, it was only good enough for third, Sharman just edged out by American World Championship silver medallist Ryan Wilson, given the win, and Shane Brathwaite from Barbados, with all three given the same time.