Leon Reid: Commonwealth medallist set 200m Santry battle with Marcus Lawler
Leon Reid produced a statement of intent as he clocked a wind-assisted 20.63 seconds to power into Sunday's 200m final at the Irish Championships.
Reid's season's best of 20.68 is slower than the 20.55 produced by his big domestic rival Marcus Lawler.
The Carlow man jogged to win his heat in 21.83 to give little indication of how Sunday's much-anticipated final will pan out.
Reid's personal best is 20.27 with Lawler's 20.40 - also set in 2018.
The Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games medallist's impressive 2018 form - which also included him reaching the European Championship final - led to him earning invites to the early-season Diamond League meetings in Doha, Rome and Rabat.
His fastest time in those three meets was a rather pedestrian 20.83 in Rome but with year's season geared towards the unusually late World Championships in Doha in late September and early October, training will have been geared towards being in peak form in the autumn.
Reid edged out Lawler in the final stride of last year's national final and another close battle is likely on Sunday.
European Indoor bronze medallist Ciara Mageean eased into the women's 800m final as she won her heat in 2:08.56, with Katie Kirk also a qualifier from the same heat.
Mageean should be a class apart in the final with recent European Under-23 bronze medallist Nadia Power likely to be among the contenders for the minor medals.
Stephen Scullion retained his 10,000m title as he broke away from runner-up Mick Clohisey just before the 7,000m mark to win by nearly eight seconds in 29:36.33.
Scullion has been already been selected for this year's World Championship marathon after improving his personal best for the distance to 2 hours, 14 minutes and 34 seconds in Houston in January.
Paralympic star Jason Smyth safely came through his opening 100m qualifier as he won in 10.55 but there was disappointment for Limerick youngster Ciara Neville as her 11.40 heat win in the women's short sprint was prevented from being a championship record because of a malfunction with the wind gauge.
Letterkenny man Mark English safely progressed to the 800m final as he clocked 1:53.60 in his heat while Fionnuala McCormack romped to victory in the women's 5,000m as she won by over a minute when clocking 15:51.97.
Last season's European medallist Thomas Barr pulled out of the defence of his 400m hurdles title as a precaution because of a calf niggle.