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Kirk siblings eyeing glory as Northern Ireland and Ulster series enjoys record post-lockdown entry list



Newly wed Katie Kirk is now set for NI title bliss

Newly wed Katie Kirk is now set for NI title bliss

Newly wed Katie Kirk is now set for NI title bliss

The Northern Ireland and Ulster Senior Championships will benefit from the severely-restricted athletics calendar in that a record 400 entries will compete at the Mary Peters Track in Belfast.

The event begins at 6.30pm tomorrow and continues on Saturday from 12.45pm.

Two of the quality names competing are middle distance siblings Katie and Conall Kirk, who will both race over 800m.

University student Katie (26) has suffered health and injury setbacks since her pinnacle races in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014. Her determination to return to full fitness resulted in a time of two minutes, 2.98 seconds at Bromley which is her second fastest ever and just short of her semi-final time in Glasgow.

She would have cantered to an easy victory in last weekend's Irish Championships if it hadn't been for the meeting coinciding with her wedding.

Katie's brother Conall is likely to successfully defend his 800m and 1,500m titles from last year. Like many athletes, he will have been hugely frustrated by lockdown, particularly following his three minutes, 48 seconds Indoor 1,500m time just before competition was stopped.

Multi-Paralympic medallist Michael McKillop will also line up over 1,500m.

In the 800m, Conall will face Willowfield's Dylan McBride and Andrew Milligan of North Belfast.

Ballymena's Dean Adams took his second 100m title last year after an eight-year gap, and should defend his crown if he can repeat the form showed in winning bronze at the recent Irish Championships in 10.81 seconds.

City of Derry's Jason Smyth, who is the most successful sprint Paralympian of all time, will also be in the hunt for medals.

The ladies' 100m and 200m should both go to City of Lisburn's Lauren Roy, particularly considering her recent bronze medal over the longer event at the Irish Championships.

Club mate Jenna Breen, who took the Irish U20 100m title plus a silver in the 200m, should also be in the frame.

The women's 400m will feature North Down's Rachel McCann and Lisburn's Victoria Lightbody. Entries in the men's event include former champion Craig Newell of Ballymena.

The men's 5,000m has no fewer than 39 entries with Springvale's Neil Johnston hot favourite to retain his title. Rio Olympian Kerry O'Flaherty will be defending her 5,000m crown.

In the women's field events, there should be easy wins for World Junior high jump silver medallist Sommer Lecky of Finn Valley and Lisburn's Ellen McCartney in the pole vault.

Lisburn's Irish triple jump champion Jai Benson should take another title, along with Adam McMullen in the long jump. The shot put favourite is Finn Valley's James Kelly following his silver in the Irish Championships. Lisburn's Jordan Cunningham should also medal.

Belfast Telegraph