Cyclist Conor Murphy stormed home with the first medal of the European Youth Olympic Festival in Slovenia yesterday. On a day of high winds and rain that interrupted the sports schedule across the board. The Clogher rider finished second in the Boy’s Time Trial, securing silver.
Tennis player Eoghan Jennings progressed to Round 3, which is the last 16, with a convincing win in the Boy’s Singles against Aren Baybars of Turkey. In the pool, strong performances from Niamh Connery and Sean Donnellan saw them progress to the evening semi-finals, while Davey Davitt powered into the finals of the Boy’s 400m Hurdles. In the Boy’s Pommel, gymnast James Hickey was also in action.
Here is a run down of all the action provided by Team Ireland live at the Festival:
Stamping his name in the history books for Irish cycling is Louth rider Conor Murphy, who became the first male to win a cycling medal for Team Ireland at the EYOF. Competing in the Boy’s Time Trial the 16-year-old finished second in the 10km race in a time of 12:55.38, with only the Dutch rider, Gijs Schoonvelde, going faster. Conditions on the day were incredibly tough, with high winds and heavy rain stalling competition throughout the morning. The time trial course was based at the Aerodrom Maribor P.O., which closed for the day for the event, provided an epic backdrop of aeroplanes and helicopters.
Afterwards, the surprised and proud Cuchulainn CC rider spoke about his race, “It feels amazing, I can’t really believe it to be honest. The course was pan-flat and a case of just going as hard as you could. I really wasn’t expecting it, I was hoping top 25-ish, and I just came over the line and I couldn’t believe what the man on the mic was saying.”
With 1 minute separating racers at the start, Murphy powered down the course, making ground on the riders in front of him, “I realised I was catching the guy in front, I was marking points on the course, so when I came around, I could see the time closing down, 50, 40 (seconds) and I was getting really close at the end and I was really happy. I was just thinking, just get it done now, the legs were burning, just try and finish as strong as I could.
Coached by international racer Bryan McCrystal, Murphy normally competes on the mountain bike, and came into the event not knowing what to expect.
“Byran’s been great to me giving me advice for the Time Trial, I can’t thank him enough has really helped me, he even lent me his bike for the race. I think everyone will be pretty proud in Louth now. I’m in disbelief now but I think I will believe it when I get it in my hands and see it hanging on the wall at home. It’s a nice way to start the week, we will just give it a go on the mountain bike tomorrow.”
The only other cyclist to have won a medal for Team Ireland at the EYOF is Lara Gillespie, who won a silver medal in the Girl’s Time Trial in Gyor 2017.
David Gaffney and Philip O’Connor were also competing in the same race, finishing 18th and 43rd respectively. The Girl’s Time Trial saw Killarney’s Kate Murphy finish in 27th position, ahead of Greta Lawless in 40th place.
Top finisher in the Girl’s Time Trial Kate Murphy, from Sliabh Luachra CC was one of the first riders to compete after the race was delayed, adapting her pre-race preparation well, “I was happy enough with it, it was really wet. When the race got delayed I had to warm up twice, and I was just ready for it when it came, and I just went for it, so am happy enough.”
Dubliner Greta Lawless normally focuses on the mountain bike, and was one of the first riders to start this morning, with the rain coming in as she was competing, “It was a good start, I kept it under control for the first half and then it started lashing with rain, I could see the storm coming! The second half I picked it up again, but just as I was finishing the storm came in.”
Dungarvan’s David Gaffney was also happy with his performance, with his main focus event being the Road Race later in the week, “I felt good going around, it was a fairly flat course, you had to be cautious going around the corners, you didn’t want to fall! I was happy with the outcome and am ready for the Road Race on Thursday.”
Gort racer, Philip O’Connor was also pleased with his performance and will form part of the three-rider Road Racing team next Thursday. “I started fairly hard and tried to settle into a rhythm, there wasn’t too much of a wind so I’m happy enough.”
The Athletics Stadium was also impacted by heavy rain, with the morning session seeing Michael Kent’s Long Jump being postponed until tomorrow. Clonliffe Harrier’s 400m hurdler Davey Davitt was unfazed by the delay in competition, posting a new personal best time of 52.99 and booking his place in the final later in the week.
“I didn’t know what to expect, it was a 52.9, a PB, I can’t ask for much more than that. The game plan was to attack the first two hurdles, hopefully in 14 steps and to continue out throughout in 15. So, I was able to do that, and I could tell on the third hurdle that I couldn’t see anyone on my outside or inside so I could tell that I had it. I was giving it all I had. I’m thrilled, I can’t wait for the final, hopefully another PB.”
After qualifying for the semi-finals in the Boy’s 100m, Jesse Osas finished with a time of 10.99, not enough to progress to the final 8. Remaining composed for the race that had a number of false starts and delays, Ratoath AC sprinter’s final time was shy of his personal best of 10.51, resulting in a 13th place finish. Speaking after the race Osas said,
“They stopped and started it three times. The game plan was to get out strong and stay relaxed for the last stage of it. I did, but the other guys were faster, I can’t really complain about how I did.”
After qualifying through to the finals of the Shot Put in his debut at a major event, Andrew Cooper finished eventually 12th with a throw of 16.14.
James Hickey finished 45th in the Boy’s Pommel with a score of 11.600, not enough to progress to the finals in this event which is his focus for these games. Talking through his routine, Hickey said,
“The start felt very good, then the stockli I started to wobble a bit and then I couldn’t fix the mistake, but I still stayed on the pommel. The magyar felt strong, and the sivado felt pretty good.”
Hickey has been embracing the experience, and inspired by Irish World Champion Rhys McClenaghan, the Dublin gymnast said,
“It’s been an amazing experience, getting all the gear, meeting new people who do other sports and just watching all the other gymnasts has been amazing. The level is definitely much higher than I’ve ever competed against before. I really want to be able to compete like Rhys someday, his pommel is one of the cleanest I’ve ever seen.”
After a morning of strong performances in the pool this morning, Niamh Connery and Sean Donnellan qualified through to tonight’s semi-finals this evening in the Girl’s 200m Breaststroke and the Boy’s 200m Butterfly respectively. Also in action were Gene Smyth in the Boy’s 100m Freestyle and Ava Jones in the Girl’s 200m Breaststroke.
After an impressive heat this morning, Galway’s Niamh Connery was back in action in the pool for the Girl’s 200m Breaststroke semifinals this afternoon at the Pristan Swimming Centre. Connery finished in 13th place overall with a time of 2:39.21, just outside her personal best. Speaking after her race, she said,
“It wasn’t quite as good as earlier but I’m still happy with it, it was a little bit off my PB and I was really trying to work on my underwaters and my turns and I think I did that in the race so I’m happy. I didn’t know if I’d make a semifinal or not this morning, and I came 13th in the end so I’m delighted.”
Sean Donnellan finished top ten, after qualifying through to the semi-finals this morning in the Boy’s 200m Butterfly. The Dubliner finished 9th overall, narrowly missing out on one of the eight places in the final by 0.21, with a time of 2:05.76.
“I was a lot happier than this morning it is still a bit over my personal best but it’s difficult to swim faster over here. It’s a bit disappointing, I think I’m just off a final place. I’m happy, this is the level I thought I’d get to so it’s quite nice to be able to come here and perform like I thought I would. Even the tennis lads are up in the stadium supporting us, so it’s great to have the support and everyone behind you.”
Bangor’s Gene Smyth was the first Team Ireland athlete to dive into action this morning, competing in the Boy’s 100m Freestyle heats. Smyth finished in 7th place with a time of 53.29. It wasn’t enough to secure him a place in the semi-finals later today, but he will be back in action later in the week.
It was Smyth’s first event of this major championship, speaking afterwards, the Bangor swimmer said,
“The environment and the whole atmosphere of the place is unrivalled it’s like nothing I’ve ever been to before, I can’t say anything negative about it. It’s good to get the first race out of the way and it also makes me excited about the ones to come.”
In the Girl’s 200m Breaststroke heats, Dublin’s Ava Jones finished in 22nd place with a time of 2:40.93. The Portmarnock Swim Club athlete didn’t do enough to progress to the semi-finals. Her favoured event, the 100m Breaststroke takes place later in the week with the 50m Freestyle to follow. Speaking after Jones said,
“I’m disappointed time wise but I had a race plan going into and I felt like I executed it pretty well, I just don’t think the time came out as I wanted it to. But you know like sometimes it doesn’t always go as planned. I think often I hold back on the first 100m so this time I wanted to go out hard and on my third 50m just leave what’s out there and bring it back on the fourth. The third 50m is where I lost where I wanted it to be. I have the 100m breaststroke which I’m looking forward to, I really want to do well, it’s my favourite event.”
Eoghan Jennings performed outstandingly in the Boy’s Singles Round 2 today, beating Turkish player Aren Baybars, and advancing to Round 3, last of 16. The first set was a tight battle, with the Westport player winning crucial set points, which put him in a good place for the second set. The final score was 2-0 (7-6, 6-1). Speaking after the match, Jennings said,
“The first few games I was just easing into the match. Warming up and getting used to the clay. Once I warmed up I started playing very well and with 4-2 up, and I got a bit tied trying to protect the lead. He started to make ball and I started more errors, which let him back into it. At 5-4, 40-15 and I played two good set points which I think mentally he struggled and it changed the course of the match.”