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Thursday 29 September 2016

Rio '16 calling for Euro stars

Ireland’s Ciara Mageean with the bronze medal she won in the Women’s 1500m Final at the Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam at the European Championships. Pic: Sportsfile
Ireland’s Ciara Mageean with the bronze medal she won in the Women’s 1500m Final at the Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam at the European Championships. Pic: Sportsfile

After five hectic days, the 50-strong Irish team returned from the European Championships in Amsterdam with one medal, one fourth-place and a number of promising performances.

The highlight was Ciara Mageean's bronze medal on the last day of competition - a medal that could easily have been silver or even gold in a different race.

Like all winners, Mageean is already looking forward to the next battle which will take place at the Rio Olympics on Friday August 12 - just over a month away.

In the women's 10,000m, Fionnuala McCormack finished a creditable fourth. As most people know by now, the race winner was a 19-year-old Kenyan called Vivian Jumutai, who acquired Turkish citizenship in May 2015, changed her name to Yasemin Can and was cleared to compete for her new country ten months later.

Jimutai is one of an estimated 3,000 professional Kenyan runners who provide for their families by running on the international circuit - and who would begrudge them?

For the first time ever, Ireland had the full complement of relay teams competing in Amsterdam.

Among those producing solid runs were 400m national champions Sinead Denny and Brian Gregan who both progressed to their semi-finals and then ran for the 4x400m relay squads.

The women's quartet managed a season's best time while the men made the final. Their target was a time of under 3 mins 4.25 secs which would have pulled them up to 16th in the world rankings and assured them of a place in Rio. They agonisingly missed out on that target.

Anchoring the team was Thomas Barr, who showed that he was returning to his best when he won his heat and ran a time of 50.09 secs in the semi-final.

Christine McMahon, a member of the women's 4x400m squad, was competing in her specialist 400m hurdles where she made the semi-finals.

In the 4x100m relays, both men and women's squads produced season's best times. The most experienced member of the squad was 21-year-old Marcus Lawler, who also made the 200m semi-finals.

Putting a smile on everyone's faces were the three women steeplechasers who all make the final and are all on their way to Rio. First home was Michele Finn who ran a season's best 9:43.19 to finish seventh.

On the roads, Paul Pollock finished 15th in the half marathon, justifying his selection for the marathon at Rio. He was followed home by Mick Clohisey and Kevin Seaward. For all three, the countdown now begins for Rio.

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