Katie Kirk and Ciara Mageean head Ulster hopes at Irish Indoors event

Katie Kirk will contest the 800m
Katie Kirk will contest the 800m

Ciara Mageean and Katie Kirk lead the Ulster athletes who will be challenging for gold in the Glohealth Irish Indoors Championships at Athlone this weekend.

Mageean – who is on the comeback trail after two years out with injury – goes in the 1500m after making the European qualifier for 3000m in New York.

The 22-year-old from Portaferry, already the outdoor champion over the metric mile, faces strong opposition particularly from the in-form Clare Tarplee who took bronze in the British Indoors, and Sara Treacy who struck gold over 3000 in Sheffield.

Kirk, also the outdoor champion, could be in the race of the day over 800m.

She faces Ciara Everard who has run 2:03.39 and Laura Crowe.

Paul Pollock of Annadale will be hoping to forget his disappointing run in Sheffield when he faces miling star Ciaron O’Lionaird and John Travers in the 3000m.

Danny Mooney can take the 1500m. He has already won the Euro qualification with 3:42.69 while outdoors medallist Mark English looks a banker for the 800m.

Mandy Gault of Lagan Valley leads the 400m rankings and can get on the two lap rostrum along with Commonwealth hurdler Christine McMahon.

Claire Wilkinson from Ballymena and Antrim should win the Pole Vault while Adam McMullan of UU looks to be hot favourite for the Long Jump.

Kelly Proper from Ferrybank – who has 16 national titles so far – will be attempting a treble at 100, 200 and Long Jump.

Amy Foster has withdrawn from the 60m with a virus while hurdler Ben Reynolds is injured.

Meanwhile, the 25th Armagh Road Race maintained its reputation as the top event in the British Isles with 56 athletes breaking 15 minutes in the Men’s 5K while the top 14 were covered by just 12 seconds in total.

World triathlon champion Jonathan Brownlee was always prominent in the large leading group with John Beattie also showing before Krystian Zalewski from Poland the European Steeplechase silver medallist took over at the bell.

Pre-race favourite Joe Stilin from the USA had been mid field after the first lap but moved through steadily before using his miling speed to sprint home and win from Liverpool’s Daniel Cliffe, Brownlee, Dan Studley and Zalewski.

The Ladies’ race went to Commonwealth Steeplechaser Racheal Bamford from Leeds who had been third once and fourth twice in the previous years.

She took the honours from newly crowned cross country champion Teresa Doherty, Gemma Hiller, Katrina Wootton, Rachel Felton and Ann Marie McGlynn.

The top 13 finishers were under 10 minutes with Catriona McGloin winning the Junior A and Emma Hutchinson the Junior B.

There were record entries for all twelve races which attracted a huge and very appreciative crowd for the superbly organised event.