Ones to Watch: Showdowns You May Not Have Heard About at this Weekend's Irish Nationals

June 28, 2024

This weekend, the Irish National Track and Field Championships will light up Santry's Morton Stadium, with athletes vying for over 50 national titles and last-minute Olympic qualifications ahead of Paris 2024. While the focus often falls on the winners, the battles for second and third place promise just as much drama and excitement. Here’s a closer look at some key races and the intriguing head-to-heads beyond the top spot.

Women's 5000m Race Walk: Battle for Silver and Bronze

West Waterford’s Kate Veale is the clear favorite, aiming for her ninth national title. At age 30, she's still at the top of her game, and it should be a formality for her to clinch the title barring any disqualification. The real excitement lies in the tussle for the remaining podium spots among Ciara Wilson Bowen, Aisling Lane, and Arnika Nelson. This three way battle will provide a thrilling competition for the silver and bronze medals.

Men's 1500m: Fight for the Final Olympic Spot

Andrew Coscoran has the qualifying standard, and Luke McCann is just a few hundredths of a second off but ranked high, making him a strong Olympic hopeful. With only three spots allowed per country, the battle behind these two is between Cathal Doyle, Nick Griggs, and the eldest challenger, Paul Robinson. Doyle currently ranks the highest among them, making this race critical for these athletes to either secure their rankings or achieve the Olympic qualifying standard time.

Men's 400m: Thomas Barr’s Last Chance

Waterford’s Thomas Barr faces a crucial race in the men's 400m. Ranked 38nd in the Paris pecking order but lacking a qualifying time, this race is his final shot at making the Olympic cut. Just over a week ago, he came agonizingly close with a time of 48.79 at a meet in Poland, which shot him up the world rankings but didn't meet the qualifying standard. This race represents Barr’s last opportunity to achieve the 48.70 standard and confirm his place in Paris. While not so much a head to head, it still is a major battle for him.

Women's 400m: The Underdogs

Without Sharlene Mawdsley, who has a PB and SB of 50.72, the women’s 400m becomes an open field. Sophie Becker, with a recent PB of 51.13, is favored, but the battle for second and third is where the real drama lies. The commonly talked-about contenders for the top three are Phil Healy and Lauren Cadden. Healy has a PB of 51.50 from three years ago and a current SB of 53.18, while Cadden has a PB and SB of 52.87. However, Kelly McGrory and Clíodhna Manning have not been talked about, both of whom have shown impressive form.

McGrory has a recent PB of 52.62, faster than Healy's current season's best, indicating she might actually be in better form than the more frequently mentioned Healy and Cadden. Manning, who was supposed to compete in the 4x400m relay team at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest but had to withdraw due to an injury at the end of July 2023, is another contender. She didn't run again until May this year, and her times have been steadily improving. Manning's personal best of 52.60 makes her the second fastest out of all the competitors discussed, and she could potentially deliver a big performance this weekend.

Women's 100m: The Race for Third

While it is likely to be a Rhasidat Adeleke and Sarah Lavin one-two finish, the race for third is wide open. Adeleke, ranked number five in the women’s 400m and a silver medalist at the European Athletics Championships, has a PB of 10.48 (though wind-assisted). Lavin, who has been performing incredibly well in the 100m hurdles this season, shattered the national record last year with a time of 11.27. Both are Olympic qualified, but the competition for third includes several strong contenders.

Ciara Neville, with a PB of 11.30 achieved five years ago and a season’s best of 11.74, is a solid contender. Gina Akpe-Moses, a former world under-20 gold medalist, has run a season’s best of 11.52, faster than her previous PB when accounting for wind assistance. 

Molly Scott, after recovering from a severe injury, has also shown promising times with a season’s best of 11.58. Scott had a bright athletics career ahead of her in the summer of 2022. She performed exceptionally well in the Irish National Track and Field Championships, finishing just behind Adeleke in the women's 100m final. Preparing for the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, she was selected for the women’s 4x100m relay team when she suffered a rare injury, tearing her posterior tibial tendon. This severe injury sidelined her for six months. Since resuming training in December 2022, Scott's times have steadily improved, culminating in her winning the Nationals in Ireland this year in the 60m indoor discipline with a personal best of 7.36.


The Irish National Track and Field Championships this weekend are set to deliver some electrifying contests beyond the top of the podium. From the women's 5000m race walk to the men's 1500m and 400m races, and the women's 400m and 100m sprints, the battles for second and third place will be just as thrilling. Keep an eye on these head-to-heads for an extra layer of excitement in an already action packed schedule.

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