Well I was like a young kid in a toyshop today, scuttling around the Morton Stadium to catch whatever was happening next. A great day of athletics, much of it top-class, and all of it just excellent sport.
I caught the latter part of the men’s hammer and was startled when one of the big lads lost control of the implement which went crashing into the cage just by where the foot fault judge was standing – fortunately not near enough to the netting to be killed. Young Killian Barry of Crusaders picked up a bronze.
Next up was Olympian Robert Heffernan in the 10000mW. He sped around the early laps in about 94s; I reckon I could have beaten him running – just, over two laps but he kept the pace up for 25 laps with Colin Griffin a creditable second. There was a ‘sprint’ finish for third place, and anyone with doubts over the energy expended by good race walkers would have noted that both of these guys lay on the track totally done in at the end. And the lad that finished in third place got cruelly DQ’d. Back down the field one young lad dropped out with a few laps to go, wandered off to the side, had a little rest and then, feeling better, found his way back to the inside lane and carried on to finish. And epitomising the spirit of grassroots athletics, one old fella from Mullingar determinedly plodded around his last few laps oblivious of the officials who were anxious to get on with the next event.
I missed the men’s pole vault but it looked like there was a very good competition there with the bar at a fair old height by the finish. The women’s shot was not good, and a fit Sarah Fleming (Crusaders) wouldn’t have been out of place. Colin Quirke, the laid-back son of Olympian Paul and living in the USA, added to his shot title with one of his few half-decent discus throws. Colin just looks unfocused to me, as if he’d rather be somewhere else, but what a talent that I hope is fulfilled.
But the real excitement came on the track. Regrettably for the fair-sized crowd, Paul Hession (9th in Beijing) withdrew from the 100m after strolling through his heat. This however left the competition wide open and it was Paralympian Jason Smyth who came through the rounds to win. New boy on the block Steven Colvert (Crusaders) grabbed bronze, as he did in the 200m yesterday. The lad hasn’t got an ounce of muscle on him and will need to get stronger to compete with the best in the first 30m of his races. The women’s 100m produced its own drama. For some reason the nine entrants ran a semi-final to eliminate one athlete (there are 10 lanes). There was a bit of a kerfuffle with the second semi when the girls were stood up three times at the start, with the marksman saying that the spikes of Kelly Proper and Niamh Whelan were not engaging the blocks properly – odd for international athletes. Kelly argued that they only needed to be engaged in the ‘set’ position. After Niamh received a yellow card they finally got away. Later, in the final, Ailish McSweeney got away to a brilliant and legal start and nicked the win from Proper by 1/100s.
The showpiece final saw Thomas Chamney (Crusaders) hold off David Campbell in the 800m. Remarkably Campbell came back later in the day to win the 1500m. Over in the corner the big boys were doing their thing in front of no spectators, this time throwing the 56lb/35lb weight for distance. I couldn’t get excited about that one.
So a great day. In many ways it was like a village fete. The top athletes were wandering around the stadium chatting to their mates. The likes of Sonia O’Sullivan was leaning against the fence with the rest of us watching the competition. Any number of former champions, now spectators, were pointed out to me.
I was lucky to have been there.