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Not all doom for Irish team in Rio

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18 August 2016; Thomas Barr of Ireland after the Men's 400m hurdles final after he finished in 4th place with a new Irish record of 47.97 in the Olympic Stadium, Maracanã, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

18 August 2016; Thomas Barr of Ireland after the Men's 400m hurdles final after he finished in 4th place with a new Irish record of 47.97 in the Olympic Stadium, Maracanã, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

18 August 2016; Thomas Barr of Ireland after the Men's 400m hurdles final after he finished in 4th place with a new Irish record of 47.97 in the Olympic Stadium, Maracanã, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Despite all the distractions and scandal, Irish athletics can celebrate an encouraging Olympics in Rio .

The highlight was Thomas Barr's fantastic fourth in the 400m hurdles, with his time of 47.97 seconds truly world class and seeing him ranked fourth in the world behind the three men who finished ahead of him in Rio.

Interestingly, Barr's great runs in the heats, semi-finals and final came after a year interrupted by injury.

Over-training was certainly not a problem for the Ferrybank athlete, who looked as if he was enjoying every second of his races, running with fluidity and grace.

Race walker Robert Heffernan was competing in a record sixth Olympics, and he finished sixth in the gruelling 50km race walk. Rumours of his retirement are definitely premature. Thanks to the efforts of Barr and Heffernan, two Irish male athletes made the top ten for the first time since the1984 Los Angeles Games, when John Treacy finished second and Jerry Kiernan ninth in the men's marathon.

A number of athletes made the top 20 and progressed past the first round. By a quirk of fate, Mark English in the 800m, Ciara Mageean in the 1500m and Sara Treacy in the steeplechase all ended up ranked 17th overall in their events.

All three were making their Olympics debut. English finished fifth in his 800m semi-final in 1:45.93 - his fastest time of the season.

Mageean ran a brave race in her 1500m semi-final, leading in the early stages, but running out of steam as the finish line approached.

These are two to watch out for at next year's World Championships in London.

Fionnuala McCormack 20th in the marathon was the highest ever by an Irish woman at an Olympics.

In the men's marathon, Paul Pollock's time of 2:16:24 in the men's marathon puts him third behind John Treacy and Jerry Kiernan on the list of Irish Olympic marathon men.

If women's steeplechase was a team event, Ireland would definitely have been in the hunt with three women qualifiers.

The three did themselves proud - Kerry O'Flaherty ran a season's best time of 9:45.35 in her heat, Michele Finn, in a more tactical race, fought hard to finish 11th, while Sara Treacy was on target for a place in the final when she was tripped and fell.

She recovered to finish the race and was given a deserved place in the final.

Of course there were disappointments - the high hopes of qualifying a men's 4x400m relay squad came to nothing because of injuries and illnesses.

All is not lost, with some promising relay performances from both men and women this summer.

Roll on London next year!


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