Thousands of fans who made their way to the Cross Country track at the Sport Ireland Campus yesterday were treated to a day of top-flight action and some memorable performances from the home team.

The SPAR European Cross Country Championships were stopped by Covid on their original scheduled date of December 2020 but acted yesterday as a marker that we are in a better place twelve months on.

It would have been a win to have staged them but the icing on the cake was the three medal performances put up by Irish athletes, and by Ireland finishing third in the medal table behind teams from Britain and Northern Ireland and from France.

The day started with a bang, with Ireland winning team silver in the men’s U20 6000m (1 point off gold) behind GB & NI. Abdel Laadjel was the highest Irish finisher in 6th, with Dean Casey and Nick Griggs backing up in 13th and 16th to complete a brilliant team performance.

Ireland secured the team gold medal in the men’s U23 event, led by Darragh McElhinney who took the silver medal in scintillating style.
McElhinney’s performance, coupled with a 6th place finish for Keelan Kilrehil and 13th for Michael Power, saw Ireland take the team gold medal, with Great Britain and Northern Ireland having to settle for silver, and France the bronze.

Ireland’s mixed relay team of Ciara Mageean, Luke McCann, Síofra Cléirigh Büttner and Andrew Coscoran also produced in front of the home crowd and just missed out on a bronze medal by the narrowest of margins. The team were right in contention throughout and unlucky not to claim bronze in a dramatic finish, crossing 4th in 18.06.

It was fourth as well for the Women’s Senior team. Fionnuala McCormack led the Irish team home in securing yet another top 10 finish (9th) on her 17th European Cross Country outing. Eilish Flanagan joined McCormack in the top 20, finishing 15th, with Aoibhe Richardson 23rd, three places ahead of Roisín Flanagan. Aoife Cooke finished 38th with Michelle Finn 46th.

The U20 women’s team put in another strong performance for team Ireland on the day, with 3 athletes securing top 30 placings to leave Ireland 8th in the final team standings.

Sarah Healy was the first of the Irish to cross the finishing line in the women’s U23 race, with the Tokyo Olympian coming home 5th in 20.48, behind eventual winner Nadia Battocletti (20.32) of Italy. Healy was right in contention heading into the final lap, but Battocletti ramped up the pace in the closing stages. Second-placed Klara Lukan of Slovenia and Portgual’s Mariana Machado completed the podium.

Brian Fay finished 10th in one of the grittiest performances of the day, buoyed on by the huge crowds greeting athletes into the home straight. Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway backed up favouritism in taking the gold medal.

National champion Hiko Tonosa finished in 13th for the Irish, with Cormac Dalton in 28th, Emmet Jennings 44th, Paul O’Donnell 56th, and Ryan Forsyth 58th completing the placings.

 
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This was a strong performance on the track and a flawless one off it with Athletics Ireland, Sport Ireland, Fingal Local Authority and the local organising committee repaying the faith of the organisers in sticking with Ireland twelve months on to deliver a first-class event.,

 

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