Brian Gregan and relay team lift Irish spirits at European Athletics Team Championship
Ireland retain their status with a seventh-place finish at the Morton Stadium in Santry
Ireland’s Brian Gregan takes the baton on the last leg of the 4x400m relay. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The event needed a big Irish finish and the team did not let the big crowd down, producing a huge effort to win the final event of the two days. It was thrilling stuff as the Irish claimed one of the great events of the track and field programme.
Gregan was the only individual Irish winner over the two days, taking the 400m on Saturday but yesterday he was called upon to show true Irish fighting spirit and he was not found wanting, with every pair of eyes in the stadium focused on the 22-year-old Dubliner.
It was magical stuff the way the relay came down to the two best and fastest 400m men in the stadium and the finish brought the house down.
“I did not dare have a look around because I just knew that he was there and just wanted to give it my total concentration in getting to that line first,” said the Tallaght-born Gregan.
“I wanted a few metres lead going into the last leg and full credit to the lads for the way they performed to give me that lead,” he added.
“I could sense from the crowd that he was starting to close on me and I would expect nothing else from him but at the same time I felt that if I kept things together I would bring home the baton.”
This he did in wonderful style in a time of 3:08.12, with Belgium having to settle for second in 3:10.25 and Hungary a well beaten third in 3:13.18.
Ireland finished in a best-ever position of seventh at this European Athletics Team Championships First League meeting.
The Irish team finished on 242 points, with the Czech Republic winning on 351.5, Sweden second on 311 and the Netherlands third with 299.
Among the highlights of the second day was a 110 metres hurdles heat win for Holywood athlete Ben Reynolds.
Amy Foster was third in the women’s 200m heat in a time of 24.25 seconds.
The results saw Reynolds take third overall in his event, while Foster was ninth overall.
The men’s and women’s 4x400m teams were both successful in their heats to provide a strong finish for the host nation, the men picking up a maximum 12 points and the women 10 points.
Jason Harvey was part of the men’s 4x400m group.
Ireland went into the second day lying in sixth position, but will be happy to have comfortably secured their First League status.
Reynolds secured 10 points by winning in a time of 13.71 seconds, a quarter of a second faster than the time he clocked at the Northern Ireland and Ulster Championships at the Mary Peters Track last week.
Among the other notable Irish performers yesterday was David McCarthy, who took fourth in the men’s 3,000m.
On Saturday, Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth was third in the men’s 100 metres in 10.78, with Foster fifth in women’s 100m heat two in 11.96.
Harvey was fourth in the second heat of the 400m hurdles in 51.86, while Gregan won 400m heat two.
Gregan was an emphatic winner and received a rapturous reception from the Dublin crowd, who appreciated the efforts of their young team.
Olympic finalist Churandy Martina won Smyth’s 100m heat in 10.45.
The competition is the second tier of the European team competition and Ireland needed to finish in the top 10 to avoid relegation.
The top three teams from the event, which Ireland was hosting for the sixth time, are now promoted to the Super League.
Sprint hurdler Derval O’Rourke, steeplechase star Finnuala Britton and middle distance runner Mark English were among the big-name absentees from the Irish team at the Morton Stadium in Santry.
That effort and those from many others over the two days meant that Ireland successfully held on their League One status, having fought a brave rearguard action in the face of adversity, losing top athletes to injury and other complaints.
“It was a fine team effort and everyone did their bit” said Irish manager Patsy McGonagle.
“There are no egos in this team and considering the number of defections we have had over the last couple days and weeks this young team have shown great potential for the future with a number athletes with exciting prospects down he line” added McGonagle.
A real world-class performance was turned in by Tomas Kazi of Hungary yesterday in winning the men’s 800m.