‘It’s a really cool achievement’: Irish athletics team inspiring girls across the country

Recent Irish success in the European Athletics Championships is inspiring athletes across the country

Rachel Costello, Cara Griffin, Chloe Griffin, Eileen McCarthy and Freyja O’Carroll who are part of Raheny Shamrock Athletic Club. Photograph: Sarah Burns

Twins Chloe and Cara Griffin (16) from Artane, north Dublin say it was “really inspiring” seeing the success of the Irish athletics team at the European Championships earlier this month.

It is a gloriously sunny Wednesday evening at the National Athletics Stadium in Santry, where Raheny Shamrock Athletic Club’s juveniles are training.

The club, which was set up in 1958, boasts a membership of 900, including Sophie Becker, who was part of the women’s 4x400m relay that picked up a silver medal in Rome, alongside Rhasidat Adeleke, Phil Healy and Sharlene Mawdsley.*

Sophie Becker, Rhasidat Adeleke, Phil Healy, Sharlene Mawdsley and Lauren Cadden celebrate with their silver medals. Photograph: Morgan Treacy

The Griffin twins have themselves qualified for the 4x400m national outdoor championships in Tullamore next month, alongside teammates Freyja O’Carroll (15), Eileen McCarthy (15) and Rachel Costello (16).


“It’s a really cool achievement for the club and the club coaches,” Eileen says of Becker’s medal.

“She’s not like Rhasidat [Adeleke] or Ciara [Mageean], who train outside of Ireland, she trains in Ireland and Dublin. It’s easier for us to see how we can get to her standard when we can see her out training almost every day.”

“Seeing the growth in Irish athletics at the same time is really cool to see. You can see how it starts off small and it can get big and you can apply that to yourself.”

'It’s a really cool achievement for the club and the club coaches,' Eileen says of Becker’s medal. Photograph: Sarah Burns

The girls’ coach Brian Sexton agrees. “It’s much more accessible for them,” he says. “Someone doing the exact same thing as them, has now gone onto the world stage and they’re saying well why can’t we do that?”

Mick Martin, chairperson of Raheny Shamrock Athletic Club, says the recent accomplishments of Irish athletes has led to an increase in juveniles signing up.

“Membership has gone up by about 70 or 80 athletes of late as a result of Sophie’s success and the Irish team overall, with the other girls and the mixed relay,” he says.

In Co Tipperary, Anne Fagan, chairperson of Newport Athletic Club, similarly says there is “huge interest” following the European Championships. Newport AC is the home to Sharlene Mawdsley, who picked up silver in the women’s relay and gold in the mixed 4x400m relay.

“There’s a higher intake of members, a lot of younger kids at the moment,” says Fagan. “In Newport, she’s [Mawdsley] a superstar.

“She’s just an inspirational story. She started off at the club at the age of around 8 or 9. She was just like any other kid in every club in the country. She didn’t stand out as being anything exceptional or any better than anyone in the club and suddenly she started to make improvements and started to win medals. That’s huge for kids to know that she didn’t start off at the top. ”

*Article amended at 11.45am on June 25th

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