English lifts the Irish
Published 15/08/2014 | 19:45
Mark English secured Ireland's first medal of the European Championships, winning 800 metres bronze on a day which began with world champion Robert Heffernan struggling in the 50km race walk.
The 21-year-old Donegal man came into the race ranked fourth in Europe, having ran a season's best of one minute 45.03 seconds at the Diamond League event in New York.
It is a time English equalled at the Stadion Letzigrund on Friday evening, securing bronze at the end of a remarkable race.
France's new middle distance star Pierre-Ambroise Bosse looked on course for gold after starting at a blistering pace, but tailed off dramatically, finishing last.
Poland secured a one-two thanks to fine runs from Adam Kszczot and Artur Kuciapski, with English following them home.
"It was fantastic," he told BBC Sport. "To finish in the home straight with the team in the corner was fantastic. I've been training for the last few years to get a medal on this stage.
"I changed my tactics because I went too hard in the semi-finals. I knew Bosse would take it out but I had a lot of energy left in the last 200m."
English's medal helped soften the blow of team captain Heffernan's struggles in downtown Zurich earlier in the day.
The 2013 world champion looked to be in the race walk medal hunt at the halfway point, but soon began to drop off the pace and, having stopped briefly to stretch, withdrew just before the 40km mark.
Heffernan showed his class at the finish line, though, by going to congratulate France's Yohann Diniz for setting a new world record of 3hrs 32mins 33secs.
"The pace was too fast, it broke me," he said. "They got their tactics right today and I didn't.
"It's really disappointing. I wanted to win today, nothing else appealed to me. Mentally it probably wasn't good today, I'll have to look at it afterwards"
Ireland's Brendan Boyce was never going to challenge the leading pack, but set a new personal best as he finished 16th in 3:51:34, while back in the stadium Paul Robinson and Ciaran O'Lionaird made it through to the 1,500m final.