Sunday 23 October 2016

Athletics: Irish heroes in Heraklion

Sara Treacy was one of the hard-working Irish athletes in Greece.
Sara Treacy was one of the hard-working Irish athletes in Greece.

After finishing sixth in the European Team Championships League 1 in Heraklion, the Irish athletics team is ranked 18th in Europe.

Indeed, if only the individual track results are taken into account, Ireland came out on top in Heraklion - something that's worth celebrating.

Highlights were the second places for Thomas Barr in the 400m hurdles, Mark English in the 800m and Ben Reynolds in the 110m hurdles, but all round, the team punched above its weight.

In the 5000m, Kevin was in second place after the regulation 12 and a half laps. Unfortunately, the lap counters added an extra 400m, by which time Batt was in fourth place.

Leevale's Michelle Finn was a solid third in the steeplechase, Sara Treacy of Dunboyne took third in the 3000m and Amy Foster third in the 100m were two more athletes picking up big points for Ireland on the opening day. Ciara Everard, fourth in the 800m was another who grafted hard for her points, while Ciara Lavin made a welcome return to competition in the 100m hurdles when she ran a time of 13.58 secs for sixth place.

On the second day, third places for Kerry O'Flaherty in the 1500m, John Travers in the 3000m and the 4x400 men boosted the Irish total.

There was also a typically fighting fourth place for Maria McCambridge in the 5000m while Megan Tice was also fourth in the high jump.

Tice, an American with Donegal connections, was making her Irish debut and provided a rare good news story for the field eventers.

Adam McMullen did well to finish fourth in the long jump and a fifth for Dempsey McGuigan in the men's hammer was also encouraging. In the long jump, Sarah McCarthy was making her her debut at this level and with luck will become a team regular in the future.

Still, of the 12 teams in Heraklion, only Switzerland fared worse when it came to the jumps and throws. There's plenty of room for improvement.

So what next? Can Ireland ever make the Super League? By finishing first and second in Heraklion, Czech Republic and Greece won promotion for next year.

That leaves the Netherlands, Belgium, and Portugal ahead of the Irish. Among these nations, the competition was tight with the Dutch only 30 points ahead of Ireland.

Every year produces different challenges and top athletes are rarely all on top of their game at the same time. The good news is that Ireland has a good crop of sprinters coming through because of the increased emphasis on the relays and the 4x100m squads should contribute a bigger share of the points in the future. Here's to next year!

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