Belfast Telegraph

Ireland off to a good start as Barr leads way

Steady going: Thomas Barr put in a solid performance
Steady going: Thomas Barr put in a solid performance

By Brian Hill

The Irish Athletics team had a good start to the three-day First League Athletics Championships in Sandes, Norway with four athletes qualifying for finals with potential podium performances.

Rio Olympics fourth placer Thomas Barr had a solid second place qualification time in the 400 metres hurdles in a time of 50.97 secs which placed him 3rd fastest overall for the weekend's final.

He will, however, be hard placed to secure gold as Turkey's Yasmani Copello was the fastest qualifier in 49.84 secs. Copello, who pipped Barr to bronze in Rio, is also the World silver medallist from London in 2017.

Another three Irish athletes are also hoping to medal after 3rd best qualification performances in their heats.

Top Irish sprinter Marcus Lawler was third best in the 200 metres in 21.24 secs behind Christopher Garcia of the Netherlands who was fastest in 20.95 secs.

Ciara Neville was also 3rd quickest in the 100 metres in 11.74 secs with fastest time going to Portugal's Dorcas Bazolo (11.52 secs).

High hurdler Sarah Lavin was joint 3rd fastest in 13.39 secs behind Nadine Visser of the Netherlands (11.20 secs).

North Sligo's Chris O'Donnell secured 2nd fastest in the 400 metres in a season's best of 46.79 secs behind Belgium's Jon Sacoor (46.57 secs).

Other qualifiers were Eanna Madden in the 100 metres (10.77 secs) who replaced Leon Reid. Also qualified are Sophie Becker in the 200 metres (24.32 secs), Gerard O'Donnell in the high hurdles (14.43 secs) and Sharlene Mawdsley in the 400 metres (53.21 secs).

Ryan McCullough was seventh in the hammer final with 64.19 metres.

Meanwhile, sprint hurdler Cindy Ofili pulls on the British vest for the first time since her Olympic Games fourth place at this weekend's European Team Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, following injury struggles over the past couple of years.

The 25-year-old, whose 100m hurdles PB of 12.60 from 2015 ranks her third on the UK all-time list behind her sister Tiffany Porter and heptathlon star Jessica Ennis-Hill, said: "It's been a while since I've represented GB. My last appearance was probably the Olympics in 2016. Just being healthy and getting a lot of sessions in in training has really helped."

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