Joanna Mills could be ruled out of Euro U23s after switch to GB

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI

Joanna Mills says she is comfortable with her decision to switch allegiance from Ireland to Great Britain even though it could deny her an appearance at next year's European Under-23 Championships in Finland.

Mills is awaiting confirmation on when she will be eligible to represent Great Britain and Northern Ireland in competition.

Her last outing in the Irish vest was on 12 July this year at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona when she competed in the 400m semi-finals.

On previous occasions when athletes switched from Ireland to Great Britain, such as in the case of James McIlroy in 1999, 12 months had to elapse from their previous international outing.

If this applies in Mills' case, she is likely to be ruled out of the 400m in Tampere as the event is scheduled to start on 11 July - 364 days after her last Irish outing in Catalonia.

"I'm not sure how it's going to work out with the logistics," Mills told BBC Sport NI.

"There is a possibility I will have to serve a ban regarding international competition. Depending on how that falls will determine what sort of things I can do next year.

"Hopefully if all goes OK, the European Under-23s will be a possibility for me but if not there will be other high standard European meetings which I would hope to get myself into."

Last month, Mills took the decision to switch her international allegiance after mulling over the issue for some time after her controversial exclusion from Ireland's 4x400m Olympic squad in July.

Mills' omission, which came after a lengthy saga of appeals and counter-appeals, led to Kilkenny athlete Catriona Cuddihy being included in the six-strong squad instead even though she was slower on the clock than the Northern Ireland athlete.

The Northern Ireland was commended for her dignified response as events unfolded but she did make clear that the controversy would make her consider whether a switch to Britain might better further her career.

Nearly five months on, Mills now finds herself having to answer suggestions that her decision, while understandable in the circumstances, could reduce her chances of competing at major international championships in the future.

Mills' personal best of 53.89, set in 2011, would have put her 20th in this year's UK rankings- nearly 2.5 seconds down on 2012 British number three Shana Cox, who clocked 51.54.

The Ballynure athlete knows full well that there is a far great depth of talent in British 400m running while Mills will also be out of contention for a place in the Irish team for the European Team Championship First League meeting which will take place in Dublin in June

Despite these issues, Mills insists that she is content with her choice.

"It was a very difficult decision to make and I took a lot of time over it and got the opinions of a few people that I really valued," added the 19-year-old dentistry student.

"I also then thought about it a lot myself but I've spent my junior career with Irish athletics and it definitely brought me on and taught me a lot.

"I can't thank them enough for the opportunity I had but I just felt for me with the way everything was pointing, I was going to declare for GB.

"It's good as well to have competition because if pushes you on. Hopefully, there will be a lot of other chances for me for competitions.

"Initially, I will be quite young for senior competitions but hopefully there will a chance for me to progress and if it's meant to be, I'll be wearing a GB vest one day."

Mills reveals that was contacted by Athletics Ireland's high performance director Kevin Ancram after taking her decision last month but adds that "there were no real attempts to make me change my mind".

"It was a very amicable discussion and all very straightforward. At that stage, I had the decision made in my head over what I was going to do."

Over the autumn and winter, Mills and her fellow-dentistry student Christine McMahon have been continuing to train under the direction of coach Ian Neely at various locations around Northern Ireland.

"Because the Mary Peters Track is being re-laid, we've been running to Antrim and Magherafelt and different places to get in sessions.

"We also do quite a lot up at SINI with Michael Johnston looking after our strength and conditioning. I also do technical sessions at the 60m indoor track there."

Needless to say, Mills fully backs the campaign for a genuine athletics indoor facility for Northern Ireland which made its way to Stormont recently.

"A couple of weeks ago, I had a 45-minute drive to Magherafelt for a session but it had to be cut short because the venue was being used for football which had been booked."

Just another minor mishap for the stoical Miss Mills.

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