The other European Championships

It’s been hard to concentrate on running these days, what with all the football on TV. Ireland’s participation at Euro 2012 was disappointing, though, and finally came to an end last night with defeat to Italy. Still, there’s plenty more football to watch before the end of the month.

Just as the old continent winds up its international football tournament, athletics pitches the marquee for its own event. The 2012 European Athletics Championships take place in Helsinki from 27 June to 1 July.

Helsinki 2012 is obviously affected by falling in an Olympic year, and only four weeks before the London action begins. There won’t be a marathon or walking events this time, for instance. Some athletes will use the Europeans as a milestone in their Olympic preparation, others will stay home and focus on London, and still more will go to Helsinki in search of an Olympic qualifying performance.

That said, the standard will still be high. For instance, Mo Farah is due to defend his 5,000 metres title ahead of his much-anticipated bid for the Olympic 5,000 and 10,000 double.

Ireland’s team, though not yet officially announced, looks like being a mix of Olympians and  rising stars. High-profile names like double-silver medallist Derval O’Rourke and cult-hero miler Ciarán Ó Lionáird are not yet confirmed as participants. But Olympic qualifiers who’ll be in Helsinki include Fionnuala Britton (10,000 metres), Paul Hession (200 metres), Joanne Cuddihy (400 metres), Stephanie Reilly (3,000 metres steeplechase), Tori Pena (pole vault) and the women’s 4 x 400 m relay squad. Olympic marathon qualifier Mark Kenneally will run in the 10,000 metres.

Among the up-and-coming Irish athletes set for Helsinki are Steven Colvert in the 200 metres, Ciara Mageean in the 1,500 metres and 400-metre hurdle siblings Thomas and Jessie Barr. Colvert and Mageean have both come close to the Olympic qualifying standard for their events, so Helsinki is a chance for them to book their place on the short flight to London later this summer. (They could also take the ferry and drive down, but you get the point.)

Let’s hope that Ireland’s athletes will have a happier time at the European Championships than our footballers.

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