Men’s quartet through to tomorrow’s final, while the women make long overdue return to major championship action, writes James Sullivan.
The Irish men’s 4x400m team qualified for the final of the European Championships in Amsterdam this afternoon, finishing fourth in the first of two semi-finals, advancing as one of the two fastest losers, keeping alive their hopes of securing qualification for the Rio Olympic Games. The quartet of Brian Gregan, Craig Lynch, David Gillick and Thomas Barr recorded a time of 3:04.42 in windy conditions, but are still ranked outside the top 16 qualification cut off for Rio.
“We were a little bit isolated in fourth position for a lot of the race and when it comes to that you’re kind of running like it’s a time trial,” remarked Gillick afterwards. “Credit to all the lads. To come away with a 3:04.4 in those conditions, running more or less as if it’s a time trial, is a good day out.”
While the rankings remain unclear, particularly with the strong likelihood that the Czech Republic will leap above Ireland in the Olympic qualification rankings by tomorrow, a clocking of sub 3:04 tomorrow evening will more than likely gain the squad a ticket to Rio.
“We’re in the final and that is exactly where we want to be. We have a huge opportunity tomorrow. We believe we can go quicker. We believe that the teams around us are going to push us to 110%. It’s the last day of the championship and we are just delighted to be in the mix.”
The two time European Indoor champion, who has made a welcome comeback to athletics this year, admitted that there is a possibility there could be a change of personnel tomorrow, given the quartet have now run ten races combined in just four days, with experienced relay runner Richard Morrissey the most likely contender for a spot in tomorrow’s quartet.
“That’s a management decision. We’ll come out of here, we’ll regroup and see how the bodies feel and see how everyone recovers. We’re so lucky right now in Irish 400m running that we have strength in depth.”
“There’s days are few and far between. To get an opportunity to represent your country at the Olympics is the stuff of dreams, and we’ll all have a chat and see how everyone is and we’ll all be honest about it. At the end of the day, this is a team, and it’s not a team of four, it’s a team of six, a team of eight, and if we’re to keep this train going we’ve got to come out tomorrow, and not only represent ourselves, but everyone who has pushed 400m running over the last ten years.”
Meanwhile, the Irish women’s team made a welcome return to major championship 4x400m running after a four year hiatus since the London Olympics. The quartet of Sinead Denny, Phil Healy, Jenna Bromell and Ciara McCallion recorded a clocking of 3:34.02 to finish the championships ranked 15th in Europe.“We really enjoyed it. For most of us this is our first Europeans,” said McCallion afterwards. “We’ve had a couple of relays this year but that was the first one where there were super fast teams in it, so it was a little bit messier than we are used to. I really enjoyed the run, unfortunately I couldn’t get the Spanish girl at the end but we ran a season’s best.”
The Clonliffe Harriers athlete believes that more experience at this level is crucial to the team’s development, and is hopeful that a squad will be sent to the World Relays in Bahamas next year.
“This is the first year since 2012 that we have put together a women’s 4×4 so for us to even qualify for these Europeans this year is quite a big achievement. So I think today shows that we need relay practice against really fast teams to get better in terms of making changeovers and running quick in traffic. I think World Relays would be a good opportunity for us next year.”