Relay heroics help youthful Irish to finish on record high
Two relay victories for the young Irish team brought the second day of European Athletics Team Championships to a rousing close at Santry yesterday.
First up were the women, with Jessie Barr pulling away for victory in the 'B' race after solid work by Sinead Denny, Jennifer Carey and Shauna Cannon in the third fastest time of the day.
On the men's team, Brian Gregan was the perfect choice as anchor man after his brilliant victory in the 400m a day earlier.
Committed running from Jason Harvey, Dara Kerwick and Richard Morrissey put Ireland in the lead and with baton in hand, Gregan made sure that Belgium's Jonathan Borlee had no chance of catching him. The Irish time of 3:08.12 was the fastest of the day.
At the age of 23, Gregan was one of the senior members of a team that included about 20 new caps, many of them still teenagers.
Tom Cotter, who is 22, was another of the day's star performers, cheered to the skies in the 3,000m steeplechase by his personal fan club of about 50 who had travelled by bus from Bohermeen in Co Louth. Cotter charged to the front from the start and held on for fourth place in a time of 8:56.31.
Track action had started with victory in the 110m hurdles 'B' race by Ben Reynolds, followed by a new Irish All-Comers record of 13.44 seconds by the Hungarian Balazs Baji in the 'A' race.
Next up was the women's 200m, with Amy Foster narrowly pipped for second place in the 200m 'B' race with a time of 24.25.
One of the hardest jobs of the day fell to Irish junior record holder Sarah Lavin, who was faced with filling the shoes of Derval O'Rourke in the 100m hurdles.
Lavin didn't run quite as fast as she had earlier this season but still finished a creditable fifth in a race won by Rosina Hodde of the Netherlands.
Ireland were still sitting mid-table in seventh place when Dungarvan man David McCarthy lined out for the 3,000m. After setting the pace early on, he picked up valuable points when he finished fourth in a fast-finishing race.
In the men's 200m, 18-year-old Marcus Lawler from Carlow was yet another junior stepping up to the mark. He started well and ran a great bend, only fading to fifth place in the final 10 metres or so.
Rose-Ann Galligan from Newbridge had a busy weekend, running in the 800m on the first day of competition and then replacing a sick Claire Tarplee in the 1,500m.
She positioned herself well at the bell, but was caught for speed in the chase for the line and finished sixth.
Women's race of the day was a tactical 5,000m, led out early by Ireland's Kerry Harty, who was tracked all the way by eventual winner Jip Vastenburg from the Netherlands.
Though still a teenager, Vastenburg judged her break for the line to perfection, leaving the Romanian Roxana Barca and Ana Dulce Felix of Portugal behind her.
A day earlier, the Irish team had sparkled even brighter, at one stage lying fourth on the points table.
Apart from Gregan's commanding win in the 400m, Tori Pena produced a mature performance in the appalling weather to finish in second place in the women's pole vault.
The women's 4x100m team also finished second in their race, Jessie Barr was third in the 400m hurdles and there were fourth places for Jason Harvey in the 400m hurdles, Shane Quinn in the 5,000m, and Laura Crowe in the 3,000m, a distance she was running for the first time.
Claire Fitzgerald was fifth in the discus with a season's best 50.93 as was Eoin Everard in the 1,500m, who lost a place in the race for the line, while Sinead Denny held on for second in the 400m 'B' race.
Overall, Ireland finished in seventh place – a best ever result.
Topping the table was the Czech Republic, who win promotion to the Superleague next season.