January 16 - James McIlroy (pictured), formerly Britain's top 800 metres runner who caused controversy when he retired suddenly two years ago, is planning to make a comeback next month, it has been announced.

The Northern Irish runner quit in March 2008 because he claimed he could not afford to carry on because of lack of funding from UK Athletics and that he need to get a full-time job, which sparked a row with the national governing body.

But he now recovered his appetite for the sport after taking up running again for a marathon - which he completed in a respectable 2 hours 47min - and has now resumed full training at Harvard University in the United States.

McIlroy, 33, has entered the Woodie’s DIY Irish Indoor Athletic Championships at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast on February 6-7 with an eye on representing Northern Ireland in New Delhi at the Commonwealth Games, which are due to be held in October.

McIlroy burst on the scene in dramatic fashion in 1998 when as a comparative running novice, he finished fourth in the 800m final at the European Championships in Budapest.

A couple of weeks earlier, he had run a Northern Ireland 800m record of 1min 45.32sec when placing fourth in the Nice Grand Prix.

The Larne man's talent had been immediately noticed by Ballymena & Antrim coach Sean Kyle a year earlier when he turned up unannounced at the Antrim Forum.

McIlroy represented Ireland in his opening year on the international circuit but the Larne native opted to switch allegiance to Britain a year later when he also decided to change coaches to the late Kim McDonald.

The 800m runner did qualify for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, reaching the finals, and was touted as a medal prospect at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester but a poor tactical race saw him finishing a distant sixth in the final.

McIlroy failed to make the British team for the 2004 Olympics in Athens but he managed to produce a personal best of 1:44.65 in August 2005 which was the fastest time by a Briton for more than a decade and the quickest ever by an Irishman.

The Larne man went into the Commonwealth Games seven months later as one of the favourites but he failed to even make the final in Melbourne which probably represented his career low.