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Commonwealth Games: Dempsey McGuigan hammers out a promising start to Northern Ireland athletics team campaign



Best shot: Dempsey McGuigan in action in the hammer event on the Gold Coast yesterday

Best shot: Dempsey McGuigan in action in the hammer event on the Gold Coast yesterday

AFP/Getty Images

Best shot: Dempsey McGuigan in action in the hammer event on the Gold Coast yesterday

Twenty-four-year-old Dempsey McGuigan got the Northern Ireland athletics team campaign at the Games off to a dream start yesterday when he secured a totally unexpected sixth place in the hammer event with his second best ever throw of 70.24 metres .

The Finn Valley athlete's performance was particularly memorable given the quality of the event where seven athletes broke 70 metres, with England's Nick Millar taking gold in a Games and national record of 80.26 metres.

Dempsey's best throw came in the fifth round following a series of consistent throws over 68 metres which at one stage had elevated him to 4th place.

The Mississippi University student, who graduates next month, commented: "I am very happy with that. I was only 31 centimetres short of my best ever. The quality of the event put me under pressure which makes things tough but it's all to do with how you use the pressure to your advantage. I was hopeful as I was throwing well in the warm-up.

"I feel I am in 72/73 metres form. The University has been very good to me and I am hoping to give the Europeans a go in Berlin in August."

NI sprint queen Amy Foster also proved, in no uncertain terms, that her late Commonwealth Games selection was fully justified when she stormed through her first-round heat race in second place.

The 29-year-old Ards woman made her usual blistering start and was a clear second for the entire event, though a number of her opponents were rapidly closing at the finish.

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Amy recorded a time of 11.59 seconds behind Olympic and World Championship finalist Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago .

Foster then finished a solid fourth in her semi-final in 11.54 seconds with victory going to GB's Asha Phillip (11.21 secs). This, unfortunately, placed her 10th overall with only the first eight proceeding to the final.

Amy's last-minute selection meant that she had less than a month to prepare for the Games.During this time she had to adjust from 60 metres indoor sprinting, where she had set an Irish record, to the longer outdoor event

A satisfied Foster said: "The main aim was to get to the semis and I achieved that. The 60 metres training for indoors helped a bit. I am a bit disappointed I didn't get a bit closer to making the final. I am always up early in my races but I just can't maintain that leg speed for the whole race.

"I didn't think about the short preparation time for these Games. I had one race in Brisbane which blew the cobwebs away. Also, the training camp which was arranged by Athletics NI was really helpful. Dempsey's sixth place in the hammer was great for our team and will hopefully help our younger athletes later in the week."

Today's busy schedule on the Gold Coast involves another four of the 13 strong NI squad.

First up is double World Junior Para wheelchair champion Jack Agnew.

The 18-year-old goes in the preliminary round of the 1,500 metres. Jack took victory in both the 1,500 and 800 metres events in the World Champs in Switzerland last August.

He is followed by North Down's Ben Reynolds in the 110 metres hurdles heats. The 27-year-old former World Championship competitor will be planning to see how close he can get to his NI record of 13.48 seconds, though like all competitors he will be hampered by the fact that the track season has only just commenced.

European 1,500 bronze medallist Ciara Mageean, from Portaferry, races over 1,500 metres with a possible 800 metres scheduled later in the week.

Banbridge's Emma Mitchell, meanwhile, will have to contend with humid conditions in the 10,000 metres.The Queen's University, Belfast student has already shown good form in the indoor season with Personal Bests over 1,500 and 3,000 metres.

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