Monday 22 January 2018

Athletics: McGonagle invokes Irish fighting spirit after defections

Tom O'Riordan

Irish manager Patsy McGonagle has called for some old-fashioned fighting spirit in the face of adversity in the hope Ireland can make an impact on the European Athletics Team Championship to be staged over two days at Santry Stadium next week.

"In the past, you could not fault the response from the Irish athletes when it came to survival and winning valuable points which kept us in the hunt for promotion or avoiding relegation," said McGonagle, as he and fellow selectors set about finalising the home team for the 12-nation battle on Saturday and Sunday week.

The Donegal official made his call in an effort to lift Irish spirits after the team suffered another blow to their prospects of maintaining their League One status, which was hard-won two years ago with some inspired individual performances in the face of top-quality opposition.

Conor McCullough, the four-time winner of the Irish hammer title, is unable to travel from his base in the USA to wear the green vest, but McGonagle remains upbeat.

"This is a competition where every point counts and a good performance from one athlete can lift others to find that something extra that can make all the difference in the end," he said.

There is also no Paul Hession or David Gillick in the sprint events, but Ireland have a strong reserve for the 400m in Brian Gregan.

The home squad have the potential to supply a number of individual winners, not least with Fionnuala Britton in the women's 5,000m and the vastly experienced Derval O'Rourke in the hurdles, while schoolboy star Marcus Lawlor will have his first experience at this level in the 200m.

Rose-Anne Galligan is an exciting representative in the women's 800m after a promising fourth place in 2:01.83 in Turin last Saturday, while the finishing speed of Kerry's Laura Crowe can yield valuable points in the women's 3,000m. Pole vaulter Tori Pena is also coming into top form at the right time.

The women's team has been further weakened, however, by the late withdrawal of Deirdre Ryan from the high jump because of an injury she picked up in training.

Some very good teams – some of which include gold medallists from the London 2012 Games – will be competing at Santry.

* Hot on the heels of his 200 personal best of 21.05 at Santry on Sunday, Ireland's Brian Gregan (Clonliffe Harriers AC) set a sparkling new PB of 45.53 over 400m at the European Meeting in Huelva, Spain. He led home a very strong field which included the Spanish and Portuguese No 1s and the British No 2.

Ireland had another winner in Huelva, in the shape of the ever improving Rose-Anne Galligan (Newbridge AC), who, like her compatriot Gregan, not only won her 800m event, but did so in a new PB time of 2:01.07.

In the 5,000m, Fionnuala Britton finished fifth in 15:45.20, behind the winner Fuentes Pila Ortiz of Spain, who clocked 15.34.84.

Irish Independent

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