Ireland’s women team make podium finish

Bronze a great, if unexpected, return at European Cross Country champions

Sometimes the best medals are the ones we don’t expect, those won not from the front but from behind, when bronze shines almost as sweetly as gold.

Not that the Irish women came to the European Cross Country in Bulgaria without such ambitions. But when Fionnuala Britton's quest for an individual medal faltered over the last lap of the suitably challenging course at Samokov all appeared lost.

Indeed Britton lost two further places on the run into the finish, ending up sixth. With that began the final chase for the team medals, and with Sara Treacy surpassing even her own expectations to finish 12th, and both Michelle Finn and Ann Marie McGlynn passing runners on the run in to finish 23rd and 46th, suddenly Ireland's team total of 87 points popped up on the scoreboard in third – good enough, just about, for the bronze medals.

Clear winners

They’d denied France by a single point, and although Great Britain were clear winners, ahead of Spain, there was no hiding the elation from the Irish women – and for good reason: Britton had led them to team gold, two years ago, when also winning the title outright, but before that the only other time the Irish women won medals was in 2003, when the team included the likes of Sonia O’Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan.


“I wasn’t happy with my own race, but as soon as I heard we might have got third, I was just hoping I hadn’t let them down, because I got passed by two athletes coming up to the finish,” said Britton.

“But Sara ran very well, and I know Michelle and Ann Marie passed out two people on the last lap and that’s what won the medal really. It’s massive, a big deal, and we’re really delighted.

“Cross country is as much a team sport, and a team medal is a big thing. It means we can all be happy, and it’s not just about me. Every one of the other women upped their game, to pip France, again. We beat them for the gold in 2012 and now we’ve beaten them for the medal here, so they must be disgusted with us.”


Truth is the Irish women weren’t fancied to make in onto the medal podium. Instead, 25-year-old Treacy delivered her best performance in an Irish vest to finish 12th.

For Finn, the 24-year-old who runs with the Leevale club in Cork and recently completed a US scholarship at Western Kentucky University, finishing 23rd was equally satisfying.

Although most satisfied of the lot, even in 46th, was McGlynn, who at age 34 only returned to competitive running three years ago.

Also coming away with bronze medals were the non-scoring runners Siobhan O'Doherty (in 47th) and Laura Crowe (in 53rd) – with all six getting to stand on the medal podium helping to round off another wonderfully successful year for Irish sportswomen.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics