Home News Cullen’s Comeback Trail to Include Irish Indoors

Cullen’s Comeback Trail to Include Irish Indoors


A battle between Sligo AC’s Mary Cullen and Sli Cualann AC’s Fionnuala Britton over 3000 metres should be one of the highlights of the Woodie’s DIY Irish Indoor Championships which takes place on the weekend of 19th- 20th February in the Odyssey Arena Belfast. Cullen is determined to bounce back after a torrid injury period over recent months. Her recent 3 weeks altitude training spell in Johannesburg with Fionnuala Britton is specifically designed to get her into competitive form for the European Indoors in March in Paris. The 28 year old has fond memories of the previous European Indoors in Turin in 2009 when she snatched the bronze medal in a time of 8 minutes 48.47secs which was just outside her Irish record.

“It’s always exciting to run in a national championships and it will be my first time in the Odyssey Arena which makes it even more exciting, it promises to be a great day of competition with tons of athletes in good form so hopefully the event will be well supported”
She opened her season in Lieven France on the 8th February achieving the European Indoors qualifying standard for the 3000m when finishing third in 8.56.89. Fionnuala Britton (Sli Cualann AC) in the same race finished fifth in 9:00.81, just over one tenth of a second outside her PB and once again a fraction outside the Paris standard of 9:00.00. Britton then took a further 0.11 seconds off her PB when finishing 4th in Stuttgart last week.

Britton’s clubmate Stephanie Reilly is also on the start list. She is currently on a high following no less than 4 PB’s in Boston in the last few weeks, i.e. the mile (4.37.37), 800 metres (2.10.67) and 3000m (9.11.24). Last year’s European steeplechase finalist is clearly a force to be reckoned with for Odyssey honours.

Also in contention should be Irish steeplechase record holder Roisin McGettigan who reached the finals in the World Champs in 2007 and the Beijing Olympics the next year. Her 3000 metres Indoor PB is marginally faster than Deirdre Byrne’s winning Odyssey time last year of 9 minutes 3.53 seconds.

Newcastle AC’s Kerry Harty has also entered and has had a steady start to her indoor season finishing 4th in a good field in Vienna last Wednesday over 1500m in 4m22.19 seconds, only 1.2 seconds outside her indoor best. She also recently finished 2nd in the Welsh Indoors 3000 metres in a time of in a time of 9m 25.15, only 2 seconds outside her indoor best. Junior athlete Emma Mitchell (Banbridge AC) will also race over 3K.

Clonliffe Harriers’ 21 year old rapidly improving 400m runner, Brian Gregan, has also confirmed his entry in the highly competitive two-lap indoor event. Gregan has been in sparkling form over 400m so far this indoor season. Earlier this month in Vienna, Gregan posted his fastest ever opening indoor season time when winning in 46:82 against top quality competition.

Gregan, the 2009 Irish outdoor 400m champion, followed up this victory by comfortably winning the Irish University champion title a few days later for DCU at the Nenagh Stadium, clocking a relaxed 48:99, after three rounds of the event on the tight track.

Gregan is pleased with the way his 2011 indoor season has started:
“I was happy with my run in Vienna in early February, as it was my fastest ever opening season time for 400m indoors in my career so far. I’ve been feeling good in training and want to progress my performances in the build to The European Indoor Championships in Paris in March. I’m really looking forward to The Odyssey and to running well.”

One of Ireland’s biggest Olympic medal hopes, Robert Heffernan will compete over the 5K Walk. Heffernan, who recently returned from a month in Australia recently broke the 30K Irish Record in Cork with 2.07.48 and will compete over the 5K before heading to South Africa for a month. Heffernan had a fine double in the 2010 European Championships with two fourth place finishes in the 20K and 50K along with two records under his belt. Also lining up is Ballinamore’s Colin Griffin who finished 2nd in the 30K in Cork and had his highest place in a major championship (11th) in Barcelona in the 50K.

Another interesting battle will be taking place at the Pole Vault between former Irish record holder Zoe Brown (Raheny Shamrocks) and current record holder Tori Pena (Finn Valley). Pena will return to Ireland this week after setting a new Irish pole vault record of 4.30m in New Mexico which is a European standard for Paris. A battle between the two should make for some great competition. Reigning champion Claire Wilkinson and Sarah Semeraro are also entered.
RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (worldwide) will be showing highlights of the Championships on an OB Sports special on Monday 21 February at 7pm.

This is the eighth Irish Indoors meeting in the North which has been made possible by the generous assistance of title sponsor Woodie’s DIY and funding partners Belfast City Council.

Woodie’s DIY Irish Indoor Athletic Championships is also sponsored by accommodation partner the Premier Inn who have three hotels based in Belfast- Titanic Quarter (120 rooms), Waring Street (171 rooms) and Alfred Street Hotel (148 rooms).