Summing up Ireland’s overall showing in northern Italy on Sunday night, both Eamonn Coghlan and Jerry Kiernan were loud in their admiration of Ferrybank pair Kelly Proper and Niamh Whelan.
In Niamh’s case, Coghlan was impressed with the “explosive power” of “this petite little 18-year-old girl”, which might sound patronising were it not pretty much the truth. Still a junior, Whelan is a real pocket rocket and, as with most sprinters, she should really improve as she gets older and stronger. Her time, though not fast enough to make the final, equalled her personal best, which was no mean feat for one so young in such high-pressure circumstances. It clearly bodes well for her temperament, and “I think were’re going to see great things from her,” Coghlan added.
As for 20-year-old Kelly, her sensational jump on Friday, almost half-a-foot further than the PB she posted in Sheffield on Valentine’s Day, confirmed her capacity for continuous improvement.
She really is coming on in leaps and bounds (someone call the pun police) and Kiernan, who’s never quite gushing in his praise (like Coghlan he thought the Ray Treacy-trained Mary Cullen could have ran a better race than that which secured 3000m bronze) rated Proper’s record-setting performance as good as Derval O’Rourke’s third place in the 60m hurdles.
She has a big future, he says, though interestingly he’s of the opinion that it could well be as a Heptathlete, such are the many strings to her bow.
She’s already an experienced multi-eventer having represented Ireland on several occasions in international schools pentathlons, winning the English AAA Junior title in Sheffield in 2006.
You get the feeling that whether she sticks with the sandpit or broadens her horizons she and Niamh are here for the long haul.