O'Rourke cruelly denied in final


Athletics: Derval O'Rourke so nearly capped an almost perfect day for Ireland at the European Indoor Championships but a season best time in the 60m hurdle final left her in fourth by 0.01 seconds.

O’Rourke improved steadily throughout the day, having qualified in second from her heat this morning in a time of 8.05 before booking a final berth with an 8.00 run.

She knocked a further 0.05 off in the final from lane two, but was denied by then slimmest of margins as Alina Talay of Belarus and Veronica Borsi of Italy both posted 7.94 to take silver and bronze respectively behind firm favourite and the Corkwoman’s old nemesis Nevin Yanit of Turkey (7.89).

O’Rourke, World Indoor champion seven years ago, was fourth in Paris two years ago, having won bronze in Turin in 2009.

A happier ending would have nicely book-ended an otherwise encouraging day from an Irish perspective.

Both Ciarán Ó Lionáirdand Brian Greganconfirmed their medal intentions at the Scandinavium Arena this morning, while Ciara Everard and Rose Anne Galligan impressed when they began the evening session by making tomorrow's 800m semi-finals with wins in their respective heats.

Ó Lionáird and Gregan can look forward to tomorrow afternoon’s session knowing they may well be in the best shape of their lives.

“The heats are not about taking any chances, not putting yourself under any stress,” said Ó Lionáird, after winning his 3,000 metres heat in 7:55.12, with a burst of speed over the last lap that looked both brilliantly impressive and suitably comfortable.

“Well I felt I’d a longer stride than most of those guys, and just wanted to make the most of it,” he added, although he will now face an interesting battle with Hayle Ibrahimov, the former Ethiopian now running for Azerbaijan, who ran away with the second heat in 7:50.55, and looks the biggest challenge when it comes to deciding the gold medal.

Gregan won his 400m heat, the first of four, in 46.97, the only slight concern about that being his easing up before the line, which nearly cost him one of the automatic qualifying places.

“No, I didn’t really think they were that close,” said Gregan. “There’s usually a screen, but there was nothing here. I was just trying to conserve as much energy as I could, but to win too, was really the main thing.”

He must now traverse tomorrow’s semi-finals before thinking about a medal, and he probably drew the easier of the two: drawn in the favourable outside lane, he faces reigning European outdoor champion Pavel Maslak, who won his heat in 46.54, but has avoided the British number one Richard Strachan, and the Russian danger man Pavel Trenikhin.

“I went out in the first round in Paris, two years ago,” added Gregan, “so that’s already my best indoor championship performance. I’ll be treating the semi-final exactly the same, making sure I do everything right, and not even thinking about the final yet.”

Irish 800m champion Everarddominated her field from the bell and won comfortably ahead of Marina Arzamasova of Belarus (2:04.77) and Lenka Masna of the Czech Republic (2:04.87) in a time of 2:04.33, some way short of her national record (2:02.54).

Galliganwas quicker in heat three when posting a time of 2:03.62 to beat Ukraine's Olha Lyakhovaya (2:04.12) and Aníta Hinriksdottir of Iceland (2:04.72).

"We've got one of the strongest teams we've ever had coming out to these championships," Everard told the BBC afterwards. "We've a few medal hopes, that definitely raises the atmosphere amongst the camp. It's great to have somm senior people like Derval (O'Rourke) and then some juniors like Brian Gregan coming through as well, so it's been really good.

As for her own hopes, she added: "My plan is, this is my first major championships, so I just want to take it round by round. The aim is ultimately to get to the final, but I'll get back, recover and see how the semi-finals go tomorrow."

There was disappointment for Stephen Scullion, who did all he could to make the 3,000m final alongside Ó Lionáird, but was just run out of ithis 8:00.78 failing to make the final by as a single place, while John Traversfinished a very tired looking 11th in his heat, clocking 8:23.83, some 25 seconds outside his best.

Dundrum athlete Claire Tarpleepushed all the way in her 1500m heat this evening but her time of 4:15.16 was some way off her best (4:13.96) and saw her finish fourth, 13th from 20 athletes across three heats, and outside the qualification places for tomorrow's final.

Pole-vaulter Tori Penawas unable to clear 4.36 metres in the women's qualification, falling a long way short of her 4.45m national by managing only 4.16m to finish in a five-way tie for 15th. Russia's Anastasiya Savchenko headed the eight qualifiers after a flawless performance saw her eventually clear 4.56m.

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