12 July 2016


Ciara Mageean, European Championships 2016. Photography by Keith McClure

European 1,500 metres bronze medallist Ciara Mageean heads a list of 7 Ulster athletes who were yesterday included in a 17 strong squad named by Athletics Ireland who will  be participating in the  Rio Olympics in a month's time.  This is the easily the largest number of local participants to compete in track and field at an Olympic Games.

The Ulster total comprises Ciara Mageean (UCD) 1,500 metres, Mark English (UCD) 800 metres, Paul Pollock (Annadale AC), Kevin Seaward (St Malachys) and Breege Connolly (North Belfast Harriers) Marathon, Kerry O'Flaherty (Newcastle) Steeplechase and Tori Pena (Finn Valley) Pole Vault.

The selection of these 7 was expected and follows the participation of 5 of them in last week's European Championships in Amsterdam where they all proved their current fitness for the greater challenges in Rio. The main star was of course Portaferry's Ciara Mageean who became the first ever athlete from NI to medal in the European Senior Championships. Her 1,500 metres race was a typical Championship burn up in the last 600 metres where Ciara's tactics close to the lead and ability to stay out of trouble paid major dividends.   

The 24 year old covered the final 400 metres in under 60  secs which  bodes well for Rio where her current peak   form could well translate into a place in the final where the might of Africa will be keen to take advantage of the absence of Russian athletes.

The selection of Paul Pollock and Kevin Seaward for the marathon follows excellent runs at the weekend in the European Half Marathon where they finished 17th and 34th respectively. (The 3rd Irish marathon representative in Rio is Mick Clohisey who was 32nd in Amsterdam).

While Seaward is currently the fastest Irish marathon runner with a time of 2.14.52 Pollock is only 4th fastest some 24 secs slower than Sergiu Ciobanu of Clonliffe. Ciobanu has appealed his omission from Rio to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  However Paul   was almost 3 mins ahead of Ciobanu in Amsterdam who finished 57th.  The Holywood man   is confident his selection will be upheld at the Court hearing next week.  

Breege Connolly from North Belfast has been picked on the basis of her London Marathon time from last year of 2.37.29. Steeplechaser Kerry O'Flaherty ran her 2nd fastest ever steeplechase time in Amsterdam of 9.45.83 and is one of a trio of Irish girls competing in Rio.

The 7 are completed by Finn Valley's   Tori Pena who has a Pole Vault PB of 4.60 metres and European 800 metres medallist Mark English who is returning from injury and has a time of 1.44.84 to his credit.

The rest of the Irish team is:

400 metres hurdles-Thomas Barr (Ferrybank)

800 metres-Ciara Everard (UCD)

10,000 metres /marathon- Fionnualla McCormack (Kilcoole AC)

Marathon-Mick Clohissey (Raheny)

Marathon-Lizzie Lee (Leevale)

Steeplechase-Michele Finn (Leevale) and Sarah Treacy( Dunboyne)

50K Walk- Rob Heffernan (Togher), Brendan Boyce (Letterkeny), Alex Wright (Leevale) also in 20 k walk.