A WONDERFUL one-two on the final day of the European U23 Championships capped a marvellous and extraordinary weekend for Irish athletics in Espoo, Finland.
Sophie O’Sullivan and Sarah Healy showed a clean pair of heels to the continental opposition to claim gold and silver in the 1500m, but it was not the order expected at the finish line as O’Sullivan’s grit and determination overcame the obvious class of Healy.
Why Healy, almost 10 seconds faster than anyone else in the field, took the lead almost immediately from the gun is a question only she can answer. The Dubliner continued to lead until the final furlong when O’Sullivan mounted her attack.
After that there was only one winner as the girl who chose to represent Ireland, as opposed to her native Australia, pulled away to strike gold in a personal best 4:07.18. Healy was a clear second in 4:07.36.
It had been a bitter-sweet start to the final day for the Irish, with Abdel Laadjel finishing fourth in the 10,000m with a 29:23.33 mark.
Cian McPhillips was next on the track putting in a lacklustre finish in the 800m and ending up seventh in 1:48.04 after being on the shoulder of the leader with 200m to run.
Ruby Millet was 11th in the long jump with a best effort of 6.09m (+1.2).
The men’s 4 x 400m quartet failed to match their national U23 record-breaking performance (3:06.34) on Saturday when they finished eighth in the final with a 3:08.54 timing.
Also, on Saturday the Irish men’s 4x100m team set a national U23 record of 39.52 seconds in heats, a time they improved by one-hundredth in taking fifth in the final.
Ava O’Connor was 10th in the 3000m steeplechase in a personal best 10:01.34 and Anika Thompson finished 11th in the 10,000m with a 35:26.91 timing.
Elsewhere, Andrew Coscoran broke his own Irish 1500m record yesterday when finishing fourth in the Silesia fixture of the Diamond League. The Balbriggan man stopped the clock at 3:30.42, behind Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s European record of 3:27.14.
The Irish 5000m record was also broken when Brian Fay bettered Alistair Cragg’s long-standing mark with a 13:01.40 timing at the Night of Athletics meeting in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.
Tyrone teenager Nick Griggs ran 3:55.73 to finish third in the Morton Mile on Friday evening in Dublin, a meeting blighted by rain and wind. The time broke his own Irish junior (U20) record and elevated him to second U20 miler in the world this year.
The Newmills 18-year-old could not have wound up his preparations in better style for the defence of his European junior 3000m crown in Jerusalem earlier next month.
“The field was really, really strong. I’m really happy to come away with a quick time,” said Griggs after the race.
“I can’t ask for much more. For me it’s quite normal, I’m just a normal kid. There’s nothing fancy about my life. I drove down here with my mum and I’ll drive back with my mum.
“It’s unbelievable to see the progress that I’m making. I know there’s a lot more improving to do to make that next step, so that I can make a living out of it – to one day be an Olympian and fulfil that lifelong dream.”