Ireland took gold for the first time at the European Cross Country Championships in Albufeira, Portugal today when the men’s under-23 team took top honours, Athelics Ireland said.
The Irish quartet of David McCarthy (11th), Brendan O Neill (13th), Michael Mulhaire (16th) and David Rooney (20th) all finished inside the top 20 to ensure Ireland finished ahead of France and Spain to claim the historic gold.
John Coghlan was close behind but Ciaran O’Lionaird struggled and lost ground as the race progressed. He later missed the presentation after ending up in the medical centre to receive oxygen.
The final race on the programme, for senior men, saw another solid performance from Joe Sweeney who finished 21st behind Serhiy Lebid who won his ninth title. Remarkable.
The Irish team were seventh.
It has been a remarkable day for Irish athletics and the atmosphere here in Albufeira was electric. The Irish supporters gave unreal support to each and everyone of the athletes who were quick to acknowledge the wholesome support they received all over the course. With the Irish teams travelling back to Dublin at dawn tomorrow it looks like there will be no sleep for anyone tonight. Plenty of time for sleep in the week ahead!!!
Fionnuala Britton continued to give the very big Irish support plenty to cheer about during the women’s senior race. She ran an amazing race and was placed as high as second for much of the race. On the last lap she faded a little to fourth, and, inspite of a gallant sprint in the last 200m just missed out on a medal in fourth.
After the race she was visibly distrought saying “I didn’t come here to come 4th”. She did cheer up though when the significance of her achievement became clear and was confidently looking forward to the future.
The Irish team was 6th.
Ireland’s U23 men exceeded all expectations to take team gold in Albufeira. This is the first time Ireland has won gold at these championships.
David McCarthy was well placed from the start and continued to hold his place in the lead group of 10. Behind the team packed very well, although Ciaran O’Lionaird began to struggle and lost ground as the race progressed.
Michael Mulhare, Brendan O’Neill and David Rooney were running tremendous races with all three in the top 20, while John Coghlan was very close behind.
The pace on the last lap increased and McCarthy began to lose ground on the leaders. However, he battled strongly and finished a great 11th. Afterwards he said he “felt S*** ever since landing in Dublin last Sunday, it was like a knife cutting right across my middle.” But he battled on strongly for the team.
Brendan O’Neill was 13th, Michael Mulhare 16th and David Rooney 20th to give Ireland our first ever team gold.
The team were ecstatic at the presentation of medals and must surely have sang Amhran na bhFiann louder than any other previous medal winner.
Ciaran O’Lionaird missed the presentation as he ended up in the medical centre to receive oxygen.
The strength of the Irish following was very evident during the junior men’s race and they were rewarded with two runners well placed in the early stages. Shane Quinn and John Travers were well placed in the top seven before Travers began to lose contact. Quinn battled heroically throughtout the race and only lost his top ten place in the second half of the final lap. Running up the finishing straight he was visibly tired but can be very happy with his 12th place finish after giving it his all.
Letterkenny’s Darren McBrearty helped the Irish team to a creditable fifth.
The Junior Women were first into action at the European cross country championships in Albufeira Portugal today. The lightening fast course certainly caught the Irish runners, as did the hot and humid conditions.
Ciara Mageean was caught a little by the conditions and was not as far up as she would have liked in the early stages. However, she did make remarkable progress during the race to get up to 10th place going out the last lap, and then put in a great effort to bring her up to seventh behind a remarkable win by Charlotte Purdue from Great Britton.
The Irish team finished 10th
After the race Mageean said she was disappointed with her placing. She said she deliberately stayed off the pace at the start. “I wish I had gone up closer at the start, but you learn from these things” she said. “And I always have next year to improve further”