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Cathal Dennehy wins Ireland’s first global media 800m title, writes James Sullivan.

There was triumph for Ireland on day six of the World Championships in Beijing, with Cathal Dennehy claiming gold in the 800m media race, the nation’s first medal of the biannual showpiece. The 28 year old took home the title, to add to his bronze medal from Moscow two years ago, with a clocking of 1:59.26, following an aggressive opening lap of 54.21.

“I went out too fast,” remarked a physically and emotionally spent Dennehy afterwards. “That is my basic summary of the race. I went through in 27 and 54 and I got to the back straight and felt like death warmed up. I felt like somebody had a pillow over my face, and I was sitting in the Sahara desert trying to hike up a mountain.”

“It was pretty grim over the last 300. I could have dug in a lot more, but I got to 200 to go in about 1:25, and I knew I was not going to run 1:53 or something. I was hurting at that point, so I decided I’m just going to donk it in here for the last 200 and plod around. Not that I was jogging or anything but I wasn’t fighting it. I knew sub two minutes would probably be good enough for the win, and so it proved.”

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With former Olympic high hurdles champion, Allen Johnson, who was official race starter along with John Regis.

Former Olympic decathlete, Belgium’s Frederic Xhonneux took silver in 2:02.81, while Jose Parra Maestre of Spain finished third in 2:07.62. In total, 128 of the world’s most finely tuned journalist-runners toed the line, over 16 unseeded heats, with the rankings decided on time. Ireland placed three athletes in the top 15, a feat only matched and bettered by Great Britain.

Dennehy, a former Irish junior cross-country champion, opted for an aggressive approach to his heat, due to some unprovoked smack talk by one of his competitors from Great Britain.

“I went out hard due to fear, absolute blind fear. Statman Jon was drawn inside me, Jon Mulkeen. He was talking a big game. He’s been training at altitude for the last six years specifically for this race and he was talking about running 1:44 out here today, so I said I’m going to have to destroy him in the mind before I destroy him on the track, so that’s why I went out in 54 to try put the race to bed quickly. Classic Mulkeen fell into a hole the second lap and couldn’t hack it, so I’m happy enough.”

The County Limerick athlete, who has represented Ireland in the European Cross Country Championships in the past, has made a name for himself in recent years due to his growing accolades on the media 800m circuit. At the World Championships in Moscow in 2013, he took bronze, while at the European Championships in Zurich 12 months ago, he upgraded to silver, defeated by fellow countryman Feidhlim Kelly in a historic Irish one-two. However, despite Kelly’s absence from Beijing, Dennehy still believes he would have delivered a gold medal showing regardless.

“I think over 800, if you put him on the track, I’d have taken him. I think he’d have gone with the 54, and we would have had a death match and a death march up the last 150, but I think I would have found the spirit to overcome him in such a scenario.”

With the uncertainty remaining on whether there will be a media race at the Rio Olympic Games next year, the Jumping The Gun writer says he plans to keep his focus on claiming further media glory in two years time in London, and will resist any temptation to make a comeback to track races in Ireland.

“I’m going to stay retired and probably come out of retirement again in two years time for the London 2017 media race to try win another Seiko watch, and hashtag ebay, hashtag sell, hastag fund some more travel to events.”

Click below for the in-depth interview with Ireland’s latest World Champion.

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