Darragh McElhinney narrowly misses out on medal in 3000m final at European Indoor Championships

Darragh McElhinney took fourth place in the 3000m final at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul
Darragh McElhinney took fourth place in the 3000m final at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul

THE late withdrawals and sub-par performances of the first three days were all forgotten as Irish athletes finally found their form in the final session of the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Istanbul on Sunday.

Three top-six spots brought respectability to a team that had been hitherto producing results well below expectations.

Darragh McElhinney was arguably the first Irish athlete to produce their best form with an outstanding fourth place in the 3000m behind the imperious Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who had on Friday already successfully defended his 1500m title.

McElhinney’s late charge from obscurity left him less than a second shy of a place on the medal podium in a personal best time for the 22-year-old of 7:44.72, to Ingebrigtsen’s 7:40.32.

Sarah Lavin followed up a solid semi-final by taking sixth in the 60m gold medal decider.

Not aided by drawn in lane eight, the Limerick woman was swift out of the blocks but lacking the pure sprint speed of some of her opponents she fought hard to the tape for sixth in a race surprisingly won by Reeta Hurske in a Finnish record of 7.79 seconds. Lavin’s 8.03 timing was slightly slower than her 7.99 recorded earlier in her semi-final.

The Irish were ranked sixth of the six nations competing in the women’s 4x400m final and anything better than that would have been considered a success.

Sophie Becker opened with a 53.70 split to hand over in fifth. Sharlene Mawdsley (51.15) moved up one place to fourth before Cliodhna Manning (54.39) slipped back to sixth. Phil Healy (53.37) pulled out all the stops on the anchor leg to snatch fifth on the line, relegating the British quartet to last.

Ireland’s combined time was 3:32.61, over a second outside the national record and well behind the winners from the Netherlands who set a championship record of 3:25.66.

One of Ireland’s medal hopes Israel Olatunde was eliminated at the semi-final stage of the 60m on Saturday afternoon, clocking 6.69 for seventh place.

The 20-year-old got off to a flying start but faded from halfway, as Italy’s Samuele Ceccarelli won in a scorching 6.47. Olatunde was well off his recent Irish record of 6.57 with Ceccarelli going on to take gold in the final in 6.48 from compatriot and Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs.

“I didn’t have the greatest preparations,” said Olatunde.

“I arrived 12 hours before my heat but in a championship there’s no excuses.

“I come to every championship to compete, to do you best, and I need to just improve on my mistakes for outdoors.”

Meanwhile, Roise Roberts was the leading Northern competitor at the Irish Universities Cross Country Championships hosted by the University of Limerick.

The North Belfast Harrier finished second behind the University of Galway’s Fiona Everard, leading her DCU to team victory.

Hannah Gilliland of Queen’s took the individual bronze medal while Enniskillen woman Edel Monaghan representing Trinity was fifth. Letterkenny’s Donal Farren was seventh in the men’s race, helping the University of Galway to team bronze.