Tuesday 16 January 2018

Strong Irish showing on track undone by field failings

Gregan’s 45.83 in cool conditions indicated he may be set to follow English in the coming weeks. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Gregan’s 45.83 in cool conditions indicated he may be set to follow English in the coming weeks. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

It wasn't bad, it wasn't good, it wasn't really anything in a general sense - that's the best way to sum up the Irish performance at the European Team Championships in Vaasa, Finland.

They finished eighth of 12 teams in the First League, which despite its name is actually the second tier of the competition. That meant the Irish team avoided relegation - always priority number one - but came up well short of promotion available to those in the top three. As you were, in other words.

Chisel a little deeper, of course, and it's easy to find some meaning in the numbers. On the plus side, there were composed, classy performances from Brian Gregan and Mark English, who took maximum points over 400m and 800m respectively.

While English is already on the plane to the World Championships in London, Gregan's 45.83 in cool conditions indicated he may be set to follow him in the coming weeks.

Strong

The Irish women's 4x100m relay turned in a strong run to finish second in 44.80, with two juniors, Ciara Neville and Sharlene Mawdsley, teaming up with Niamh Whelan and Amy Foster for a slick display.

Mawdsley was back in action yesterday to anchor the women's 4x400m to second, the same place the men managed just moments later.

Thomas Barr is too good an athlete to be content with his fifth place in the 400m hurdles in 49.73, and he won't be, but the Waterford man has six weeks until the World Championships in London, and as we learned last year, that's more than enough time.

Paul Robinson may not quite have had the gears of yesteryear in a tactical men's 1500m, finishing fifth in 4:00.62, but the fact the Kildare miler is again fit and healthy and putting Ireland on the map in the event remains cause for celebration.

For many, the pressure of the green singlet can do strange things, but for Shona Heaslip it brought about a breakthrough, the Kerry runner hacking seven seconds off her personal best to finish fourth in the women's 3000m in 9:15.32.

The most depressing sight of the weekend was Marcus Lawler clutching his hamstring, the Carlow sprinter's season now in jeopardy after pulling up midway through the 200m final. It says much about his character that he limped to the finish to secure five points for the Irish team.

Once again, though, Ireland's lack of talent in the field events was laid bare. There were some exceptions, but the reality is Ireland keeps pace with or out-runs nations of a similar size on the track, but is being shown up badly in the field. Unless something changes in that department, in coaching or talent recruitment, this is where we'll stay.

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