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Irish well on track for Rio

While the results from the European Championships were not as good as expected, there were still plenty of signs that this young Irish team is heading in the right direction with Rio 2016 just two years away.

Of the 54 nations represented, Ireland finished 24th, which is respectable.

Highlight of the championships was Mark English's bronze medal, with the young UCD student showing his racing "smarts" in both qualifiers and final. Plus any 800m runner who can post sub-47 second times for 400m at a young age is clearly a huge talent. David Matthew's Irish record will almost certainly go before too long.

The extraordinary men's 1,500m, where the pack remained clamped together for over two laps, produced three fallers, among them Ciarán Ó Lionáird who was well placed for a medal until clipped from behind. Paul Robinson escaped the carnage and ran his heart out for fourth place.

So that's the middle distance, with John Travers on a good day another member of a talented young group.

Over the longer distances, Fionnuala Britton produced the fourth fastest Irish marathon time when she finished 10th in 2:31.46. This is the start of a long campaign for Britton who wasn't showing her old sparkle on the track this season.

It will be interesting to see how she fares over the winter and whether she opts to run a spring marathon next year.

The same goes for Sarah Mulligan, whose great strength lies in the 
hills.

With Nicola Duncan on the sidelines this time, Ireland still has the bones of a decent women's marathon squad.

As for the men, Seán Hehir ran the race of his life, but with Paul Pollock struggling with injury, there seems to be no Irish man capable of breaking the 2 hrs 12 minutes standard which is the benchmark for international marathon running these days.

Sprinting is in good shape - and the Irish will be inspired by the heroic efforts of the British with three wins in the four relays.

The Irish men's 4x400m squad re-wrote the record books in both qualification and final, while the women also set a new record although they didn't make the final.

Experience

On the technical side, Thomas Barr's lack of championships experience showed when he narrowly failed to make the 400m hurdles final. With Irish hurdling on a high at the moment, he will be back.

The only field eventer to qualify for Zurich was pole vaulter Zoe Brown, who got injured in the appalling weather conditions at the Commonwealth Games. At 30, Brown was one of the oldest members of the squad. Will she carry on?

A man with questions to answer is race walker Rob Heffernan. He may well live to regret his decision to drop out of the 50km - not the best of days for the Irish team captain.

Interesting times for Irish athletics!


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