Ireland retains First League status in Sandnes
Ireland finishes day three with 227 points at European Team Championship
From left, Thomas Barr of Ireland, Nick Smidt of the Netherlands, and Martin Kucera of Slovakia compete in the men’s 400m hurdles heats during the European Athletics Team Championships First League in Sandnes, Norway. Photograph: EPA/Carina Johansen
A three-day marathon of athletics at the European Team Championship in Sandnes, Norway finished with Ireland retaining its First League status by the closet of margins, no small feat given the new format of the biennial competition from 2021.
Their 227-point total, in seventh, was just 1.5 more than Romania, who will be one of the four countries relegated, along with Russia, who were already consigned to their fate given their ongoing suspension for anti-doping violations.
European Athletics had decided to further streamline the championships again for 2021, with tier one being reduced from 12 to eight teams: as a result, only one country competing in Sandnes was promoted, winners Portugal, to the Super League.
Among the main Irish point winners were Thomas Barr securing eight points with a fourth-place finish in the 400m hurdles final, with Ciara Neville coming third place in the 100m final. Claire Tarplee battled bravely to sixth place and a personal best of 9.54.63 in the 3,000m final to add an additional six points to the overall total.
There were notable performances throughout the weekend as Katie Kirk (800m), Michaela Walsh (Hammer), Sharlene Mawdsley (400m), Ryan Forsyth (5000m) and Michelle Finn (3,000m SC) all added to the overall team points.
Christopher O’Donnell was the Irish highlight on day two with his second place in the 400m final, his 46.70 a season best, winning 10 points. Ellen McCartney (pole vault), Denis Finnegan (triple jump) and Gerard O’Donnell (110m hurdles) led Ireland into day three, and all secured valuable points to maintain the sixth-place position.
Sarah Lavin (100m hurdles) was unlucky to pick up a DQ before a classy performance from team captain Mark English in the 800m secured Ireland’s second “10 pointer”, thanks to his second-place finish. Both relay teams then helped seal seventh place: the women’s 4x400 team led the way, winning their “A Final” in 3.35.77 which secured the fourth-fastest time and eight points. The men’s team followed suit, and a gritted final leg saw them also win their “A Final” in 3.08.84.