Super spikes are one thing but Ireland's golden generation have been a long time coming 1 week ago

Super spikes are one thing but Ireland's golden generation have been a long time coming

When Siofra Cléirigh Buttner ran an Irish indoor 800m record of 2.02.46 in March 2018, it was the fastest mark recorded by an Irish female in five years.

The Dubliner's record-run survived the 2019 and 2020 indoor seasons but the year is 2021, and Cléirigh Buttner's mark has been smashed six times in the last 23 days, four times in the last 24 hours... and Ciara Mageean hasn't even ran a yard.

Cléirigh Buttner is again on top of the pile thanks to her 2.00.58 party in the USA on Sunday night, but she'll know not to get comfortable there, a riled-up Nadia Power back on stage this Wednesday at the World Indoor Tour in Madrid.

Then comes the European indoors on March 5-7, where, if it wasn't for the three-athlete-limit-per-event, Ireland could potentially be fielding a team of five live final hopes in the women's 800m.

After the famine comes the feast.

It's the same story on the other side of the page. Daniel Caulfield enjoyed 13 years at the top of the men's standings after his 2001 breakthrough and it wasn't until a young and prodigious Mark English came along in 2014, when Caulfield was knocked back to second on the list of the greatest Irish indoor 800m performances.

By Saturday, Caulfield was back in third. English himself and Longford's rocket for the future Cian McPhillips did the dog on it at the Athletics Ireland micro meet in Athlone IT, both men shaving over half a second off the old table-topper.

Advertisement

McPhillips' 1.46.13 was the seventh fastest in Europe this year. It was the fifth fastest fastest by an U20 in the history of the event. The kid is just 18 years of age.

The boom is back in Irish middle and long distance running, where the athletes are bringing the best out of each other and the old boundaries are being ripped to shreds.

All the while, you have Andrew Coscoran bombarding the great 1500m men that went before him while Sean Tobin, Darragh McElhinney and John Travers will all head to Poland with high hopes in the 3k.

All in all, a 14-strong team of distance runners will jet off to Torun next month and every single one of them will have the aim of setting the cat among the European pigeons. That's exactly what they've been doing this last month, the most exciting stat of all showing four Irish women in the top 20 in the world's 800m rankings for 2021.

With every puff of white smoke comes a shower of rain and you'd have to mention the 'super spikes,' which have made everyone think twice.

Super spikes have been on the market for the last 20 months and with added foam and in some cases, a carbon fibre plate, they are said to, quite literally, put an extra spring in an athlete's step.

In a Guardian interview this morning, two-time Olympic 1500m medallist Nick Willis estimated that the shoes are worth "one to three seconds a mile" but stresses that the edge will vary from athlete to athlete. It won't vary from Mark English to Nadia Power, both of whom wear a standard shoe.

Online discourse has edged to the conclusion that records will soon be so brittle that they will not be worth talking about due to technological advances but if people are looking to bring Irish athletes down on those grounds, they'd want to ask first what the rest of the world has been at so far this season? McPhillips and English to boot, are both inside the world's top 15.

The spikes are one thing but for the boom, there have been a variety of blast-offs. At the lower end of the scale, a look around will tell you that a locked down world is a training paradise for any athlete. Even for those working a full-time job, there is literally nothing else to do other than train.

At the top end, 2020's covid collapse left professional athletes starved of competition and so with intense and targeted training blocks behind them, they are now hungry and peaking on the track.

Exclusive to home, the communal spirit forged by training groups like the Dublin track club can only bode well. And yet most important of all is the fact that athletes like McElhinney, Power and Cléirigh Buttner to name but a few, were scorching the Irish record books when super spikes were only a pipe dream at Nike HQ.

None of the above reasons should be underplayed. Only time will tell if we can turn the times into medals but at this stage, our runners deserve the benefit of the doubt.