Former world indoor champion Derval O'Rourke of Ireland wins her heat of the 60m Hurdles in Turin (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Doha

O'Rourke begins Doha prep with 10th national title

bound Derval O'Rourke blew off the winter cobwebs by winning the 60m Hurdle title at the Irish Senior Indoor Championships in Belfast over the weekend, while a number of other Irish athletes achieved qualifying marks for next month's IAAF World Indoor Championships in Qatar's capital city.

O'Rourke, the 2006 World indoor champion, recently returned to the track after a calf niggle - her first hurdles session was just last Tuesday. But she showed her quality with two clean runs in the semi-final and final at the Odyssey Arena, clocking 8.29 and 8.18 seconds respectively.

Speaking afterwards, they were clearly confidence-boosting runs for the Cork woman. "I'm so relieved to have that out of the way. It felt good to get out there and win my tenth national title. Hopefully I can go faster in the coming weeks and get everything right for the Worlds," she said.

Paul Hession ran a season's best of 6.76 seconds to win the 60m, but he will focus on the outdoor season with no 200m at the World Indoors. Hession was followed over the line by 19-year-old Dean Adams who ran a personal best of 6.89.

Another athlete to excel on the Belfast track was Clare Brady from Celbridge who dipped under the qualifying mark for Doha when winning the women's 60m - she clocked 7.35 seconds in the final for her fourth personal best of the season. She was just 0.05 seconds behind Anna Boyle's four-year-old national record.

The emerging Brady took the athlete of the meet award, pipping middle distance starlet Ciara Mageean to the gong. The 17-year-old Mageean, dubbed 'the next Sonia', thrilled the crowd by winning the 800m in 2:07.82 and taking over a second off the long-standing Irish junior record, which was set by Arlene Smith in 1991.

An athlete at the other end of their career, James McIlroy, took the men's 800m title with impressive runs in both the semi-final and final. The Larne man retired from the sport in 2008, citing a lack of funding, but he was back with a bang when running a stadium record of 1:48.64 in the semi. In the final he hit the front with 300 metres to go and finished ahead of David McCarthy to seal gold.

In an interview afterwards, the 33-year-old McIlroy revealed: "I've got the love back for the sport. I ran every day over the last two years and I also ran the New York Marathon and when I was over there, it dawned on me that I still have something left to give in the sport."

Whether McIlroy competes in Doha remains to be seen, but Lisburn's Kelly McNiece is set to travel after winning the 1500m in a Championship best of 4:14.63, inside the World qualifying mark of 4:15. Her training partner Deirdre Byrne, who finished second, went one better in the 3000m final and is set to be selected too for next month's event.

Elsewhere, there was a notable win for former European Junior champion Colin Costello in the men's 1500m, while Waterford's Kelly Proper secured her fifth national long jump title and Mary McLoone from Donegal successfully defended her triple jump crown.

Dave Merwyn for the IAAF

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