Women’s relay silver is the icing on the Euros cake for Ireland in Rome

Two golds and two silvers is the country’s best return since 1998

Sharlene Mawdsley
Ireland’s Sharlene Mawdsley crosses the line in second in last night’s women’s 4x400m relay final in Rome PICTURE: SPORTSFILE (Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

IT was another outstanding performance from Ireland’s marvellous women’s 4x400m relay squad on the final evening of the European Athletics Championships in Rome’s Olympic Stadium last night.

Silver medals and a new national record by two seconds were the reward for another sterling performance, where the Irish women showed so much character against the best in Europe.

Drawn in the favourable lane six, Sophie Becker was quick out of the blocks and quickly closed down the French athlete in the lane outside her.

The Dutch favourites also started strongly and their individual bronze medallist Lieke Klaver handed over with a slight lead as Becker returned a split time of 52.0 in sixth.

The other dangers, Tokyo 2020 Olympic runners-up Poland, were back in third.

Individual 400m silver medallist Rhasidat Adeleke took over and quickly took the lead after the runners broke from lanes on the second leg and held the advantage to the changeover thanks to a 49.36 second timing.

“My legs were feeling heavy too,” Adeleke admitted.

“I just wanted it so bad for me and the girls, we worked so hard and we really deserve it.”

Phil Healy had illness problems over the past couple of years and was going to retire last summer but returned to run the relay leg (51.51) of her life as she held on to second spot behind the Netherlands who had opened a five-metre lead.

With world indoor record-holder Femke Bol running the last leg for the Dutch, it looked as if it was all over bar the shouting. But Sharlene Mawdsley, running her fifth race in six days, had other ideas and even had the audacity to attack Bol (50.45) down the homestraight, with the Dutch athlete only getting home by less than a half second in 3:22.39.

Ireland claimed the runner-up spot in 3:22.71, while Belgium took bronze in 3:22.95. Poland with the individual champion Natalia Kaczmarek were a disappointing sixth.

“It’s amazing, I’m absolutely beyond exhausted at this point,” Mawdsley confessed

“I thought maybe I had Femke down the home straight but the legs weren’t there.”

Ireland had no less than five men in the final of the 10,000m. Efrem Gidey was the first of them finishing 12th in 28:16.94 in a race won by Dominic Lobalu of Switzerland in 28:00.32. Brian Fay was 20th(28:40.53), followed in the next two positions by Barry Keane (28:53.34) and Peter Lynch (29:02.00). Cormac Dalton was 24th in 29:15.30 of the 25 finishers.

Andrew Coscoran brought the Irish participation in these championships to a close with 13th place (3:34.76) in a crowded 1500m final which saw 16 men line up on the start line. Up front defending champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen turned in another masterclass in tactics as he won unpressed in a championship record of 3:31.95.

The women’s relay capped an incredible six days of the championships for Irish athletics.

It could not have started better with the mixed relay quartet confounding the pundits on Friday night with an unexpected victory. It was a classic example of synergy with the sum total of the team exceeding the aggregate of its component parts.

It got even better on Sunday when synergy turned to energy as Ciara Mageean showed she was on stronger batteries than the opposition when she ran away from them like the super bunny on the homestraight.

It was Mageean’s first gold medal on the international stage and only Ireland’s fifth, and Sonia O’Sullivan had won all the previous three on her own, at the European Athletics Championships since Ireland first sent a team to Bern in 1954.

Rhasidat Adeleke narrowly missed out on making that a hat-trick of golds for Ireland on Monday night when she lost out to the final metres of the women’s 400m to the older and more experienced Kaczmarek.

Two gold and two silver medals made the class of ‘24 the best ever at the Europeans, eclipsing the two gold and one bronze Irish athletes brought home from Budapest in 1998,

Unfortunately, there will be no time for our heroes and heroines to rest on their laurels with the Olympic Games less than two months away.