Ireland make men's 4x400m final at Europeans with national record as female sprinters just miss out
IRELAND'S women's 4x100m team set a new national record of 43:84 seconds at the European Championships where they finished fourth in their semi-final.
But even though Amy Foster, Kelly Proper, Sara Lavin and Phil Healy lowered the previous record (43:93) by a 10th of a second with some excellent changeovers, it was still not enough to make the final.
Their race was won by Britain in 42:62, with Ukraine second (43:37) and Russia next (43:47) and Ireland took advantage of the Germans dropped the baton on the second changeover.
But to get one of the two fastest losers spots in the final they needed to go even faster as fifth-place Sweden had already run 43:80 in the first semi.
The young Irish team ultimately missed out by just four hundredths of a second and two places, finishing 10th of 16 nations. Greece, who were ahead of them in 43:81, missed out by an even tighter margin.
Meanwhile, Ireland's men's 4x400m team of Brian Gregan, Brian Murphy, Richard Morrissey and Thomas Barr went even better.
They bagged an automatic spot in tomorrow's final (14:42 Irish time) by finishing third in their heat and also broke the long-standing national record (3:03.73) which had lasted for 12 years with a new mark of 3:03:57.
Irish flat champion Brian Gregan gave them a great start with a 45:86 first lap but was still in sixth place when he handed the baton to Brian Murphy.
The Crusaders veteran, using all his racing nous, made up three places at the break and also steered a safe passage at the changeover, handing over the baton in third to clubmate Richard Morrissey.
Ireland's new pony-tailed British-born 400m semi-finalist produced another great run (45:56 split) and had them joint third for the final changeover, when it was left to 400m hurdler Thomas Barr to anchor them home.
The Ferrybank man looked in trouble in the final 50m when Belgium's Kevin Borlee almost got up to overtake him but he managed to find a vital last surge 10 metres from the finish line to hold him off and clinch third place.
"I didn't know who it was coming at me, I just knew I had to hold him off, whoever he was," Barr said. "It feels great, we'd heard the girls had run a national record right before us and I think that spurred us on.
"We knew we had a national record there if we could all do well on the day and we gave it our best shot. Hopefully we'll go faster again tomorrow - fingers crossed."
"Fast relays produce fast times across the board, it's not just one team, other teams get dragged around in the slip-stream," second leg runner Murphy said.
"Let's hope we get dragged around even faster tomorrow. I think we can go faster, our changes weren't the best out there," he added.
Athletics Ireland find themselves with an interesting selection dilemma now for the final which will see them pitted against Britain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Russia, Poland and Belgium.
Ireland's new 800m bronze medallist Mark English has a very good flat 400m time (46:56) and could yet come into the team for that decider, which would mean one of those who earned qualifying and a new record losing out.