Belfast Telegraph

Katie Kirk leads Games stars aiming to test their skills

By Brian Hill

Nine athletes from the Northern Ireland team bound for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games next month will be competing in the second Belfast International Athletics meeting at the Mary Peters track next Wednesday evening.

Supported by Belfast City Council, local athletes will again face stiff competition from competitors from the Republic of Ireland, England, Scotland Wales, Australia and the USA

Athletes may find themselves coming up against one of three recently crowned champions from last weekend's European Team Championships in Tallinn, Estonia.

The Men's 400 metres will include Clonliffe's Brian Gregan, who won in Tallinn and is the current Irish No.1 with a time of 46.06 seconds.

Mark English, who clinched the 800 metres crown in Tallinn and is from Letterkenny, will be facing no less than six competitors who have run under the 1 minute 50 seconds barrier this season .

St Cocos' 1,500 metres specialist Paul Robinson decimated the opposition last weekend with his sprint finish. However, Robinson – runner-up in this meeting last year – will once again have to contend with Australia's Collis Birmingham, who sneaked victory by 0.5 seconds.

This event is likely to be the highlight of the evening as it also includes Australian record holder Ryan Gregson, who has achieved a time of 3 minutes 31.06 seconds. Glasgow-bound Danny Mooney will welcome the opportunity to mix with such world class athletes .

QUB's 800 metres runner Katie Kirk is currently on a high following her superbly-judged victory last weekend to take the English U-23 title.

Kirk, who is racing in the British Senior Championships this weekend in Birmingham, will face most of the top ranked Irish two-lap runners plus Australia's Selma Kajan, who has the fastest time in the field.

It is a pity that record breaking pole vaulter Zoe Brown is unlikely to face arch rival Tori Pena of Finn Valley, who failed to clear four metres in Tallinn.

Athletics NI Secretary John Allen commented: "The Mary Peters track will host world class athletes next week and as an organisation, we welcome them to the home of athletics in the Province.

"Many of our competing athletes will be in the final stages of their training ahead of the Glasgow Games. This will therefore be the last opportunity for local athletics fans to cheer the athletes before their departure to Scotland."

The nine who are Glasgow bound will relish the quality test. Those in the Northern Ireland Commonwealth squad taking part are:

Leon Reid (100m, Birchfield), Amy Foster (400m, City of Lisburn), Peter Glass (400m, North Down ), Jason Harvey (400m, Crusaders), Ben Reynolds (110m hurdles, North Down), Christine McMahon (400m hurdles, Ballymena), Katie Kirk (800m, QUB), Danny Money (1,500m, Letterkenny) and Zoe Brown (Pole vault, Raheny).

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