Sunday 21 July 2019

Heroism and heartache for Irish athletes in London

Brian Gregan crossing the line in yesterday’s semi-final. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Brian Gregan crossing the line in yesterday’s semi-final. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

There was heroism, heartache and just about everything in between for the Irish competitors on the third day of action at the IAAF World Championships in London yesterday.

Brian Gregan brought a successful weekend to an inevitable close in the semi-finals of the men's 400m last night. The 27-year-old Dubliner was simply outclassed as he came home sixth in 45.42 in a race won by Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk in 44.22.

"It was tough," said Gregan. "I had the best guys in the world around me.

"It was like an Olympic final, but I ran as much of my own race as I could. I finished 19th in the world, so I'm fairly satisfied."

After a breakthrough season, he was upbeat afterwards, as he looked ahead to 2018.

"I'm finishing ahead of lots of the top European guys and that will set me up for the European Championships next year. I'm good enough to go sub-45 and this experience will stand me in good stead."

Mick Clohisey was another filled with resolve after finishing an excellent 22nd in the men's marathon in 2:16:21, a race won by Kenya's Geoffrey Kirui in 2:08:27.

The event turned into a slog for many of the competitors, as warm temperatures took their toll in the closing miles.

"I'm happy to get myself back on track with a strong, solid performance," said Clohisey.

"The atmosphere was something else with all the Irish out there - it brings you forward when you're going through those crowds. I had to be happy with that. It's about time I did something decent in the Irish vest."

There was disappointment, however, for team-mate Seán Hehir, who struggled to a 63rd-place finish in 2:27:33. The 32-year-old Clare man vomited several times afterwards and admitted he had difficulty holding down drinks in the race, though he refused to offer any excuses.

"Championship running throws curveballs at you," he said. "I knew 15K in I wasn't feeling as good as I should. The support out there was incredible, but I feel like I let myself down and the flag down. I really hope it's not going to be my last opportunity to run for Ireland."

In the women's marathon, Leevale's Claire McCarthy defied her age and ranking to finish 33rd of the 91 athletes in 2:38:26, and the 41-year-old mother-of-four was elated with her effort.

"I have to be happy," said Walsh, who is coached by Olympic marathoner Donie Walsh.

"The last half was really tough, when your body is screaming at you, but it was about looking up the road and seeing who was coming back."

What made her run more impressive was that this was McCarthy's global championship debut and afterwards she paid tribute to all those who had helped her along the way.

"I had the best build-up in a long time and I have the best training partners with Leevale I could wish for," she said.

"The support has been amazing. I fell into tears at times because the atmosphere was absolutely incredible."

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