Ireland’s 4x400m team set national record for the second time in as many days, writes James Sullivan.
After a hectic day five, there was more relay delight for Ireland on the final day of the European Championships in Zurich. The Irish 4x400m quartet of Brian Gregan, Mark English, Richard Morrissey and Thomas Barr smashed the previous mark, set only yesterday, with a clocking of 3:01.67, to finish fifth in this afternoon’s final.
“It was twelve years before it was beaten and now twelve hours. It’s gone by two seconds, so we’re absolutely delighted,” remarked a thrilled Gregan afterwards. “3:01 isn’t far off making an Olympic final. It’s serious running and the team has an average age of about 23 so we’ve got a long long way to go.”
The race was won by Great Britain with a European leading time of 2:58.79, with Russia and Poland claiming silver and bronze, with both also dipping under the three minute barrier. Ireland were never in serious contention for a medal throughout the race, but moved up the field during the final two legs, with Thomas Barr anchoring the side, holding off a strong German effort in the closing stages.
“Once we knew we were out of the medals, the placing and time mattered,” commented Barr. “Coming up to 100 to go I could feel someone bearing down on my right side and I kind of just held my own, kept the kick, kept relaxed and just about held him off.”
European 800m bronze medalist Mark English was brought into the line-up in place of Brian Murphy, who ran in yesterday’s heat. However, despite the change, Barr didn’t expect to break the record by such a big margin. “It wasn’t on our radar to run that fast. We didn’t think the whole race was going to be that fast. 3:01 in fifth place, it was ridiculous. Having had that run out yesterday we were so much smoother today, and I think we all just went out hard. It was the final and we had good conditions”
The Ferrybank AC athlete, the European 400m hurdles semi-finalist, also mentioned a sense of ease and less mental pressure running on the flat, compared to over the sticks. “It’s so much easier to not have to worry about stride patterns and you just go out and run, not thinking that if I mess up this hurdle, it’s going to cost me half a second. The hurdles is a bit of a head-banger event. This championship is the only major setback I’ve really felt in my career and it really had me down for the last few days, but this has given me a huge boost and a huge pick me up.”