Ryan Forsyth (Newcastle) and Sean Tobin (Clonmel) led strong Irish performances at the European Cross Country Championships in Tilburg finishing fourth and tenth respectively in the U23 and senior men’s races.
The U20 women’s team were agonisingly close to bronze medals finishing three points shy of the podium – there was extra misfortune with Sarah Healy (Blackrock) being clipped from behind and taking a fall.
Four athletes delivered top ten performances individually with Emma O’Brien (Sli Cualann) 8 and Sarah Healy 9, adding to Forsyth and Tobin’s runs.
The teams also delivered top ten performances – U20 women sixth, U20 men fifth, U23 women 9th, U23 men 6th, senior men 7th and the mixed relay 9th. The senior women were just outside the top ten in 11th.
U20 women so close to bronze
The U20 women’s 4,300m race kicked off proceedings with a strong Irish presence from the start. Stephanie Cotter (West Muskerry) was at the head of the field early but as things settled it was Sarah Healy (Blackrock) and Emma O’Brien (Sli Cualann) who were in the lead group.
Unfortunately Healy took a fall as she looked to be clipped from behind. She fought bravely to make her way back up into contention with O’Brien also in the mix.
The medal chances, individually, and for the team, slipped away but it was a good learning curve and good performances nonetheless. The team were only three points off the bronze medla
Emma O’Brien had a brilliant run in 8th in 14:01 with Sarah Healy one place behind in 9th. Stephanie Cotter was 25th to round out the scoring trio with the team 6th on 42 points. Jodie McCann (DCH) was 35, Sophie O’Sullivan (Ballymore Cobh) was 59th and Laura Nicholson (Bandon) was 60th.
McElhinney leads U20 men to fifth
The U20 men were next over 6,300m and they produced an excellent fifth place finish in the team standings. Darragh McElhinney (Bantry) put himself in contention early on, and despite a fall, finished 16th in 18:53.
Sean O’Leary (Clonliffe Harriers) came through well to finish 18th in 19:01. Jamie Battle (Mullingar Harriers) rounded out the scoring in 21st in 19:03. Micheal Power (West Waterford) was 60th, with Fintan Stewart (City of Derry) 75th and Daire Finn (DCH) 86th.
Flanagan leads U23 women
The U23 women also race over 6,300m with conditions getting ever stickier over the technical cross country course. Eilish Flanagan (Carmen) finished 16th in 21:17 after being up in the top ten early on. Her legs were giving out at the finish but she ground it out on her European cross country debut.
The team finished 9th with Aoibhe Richardson (KCH) coming through strongly for 25th in 21:32 and Roisin Flanagan (Carmen), twin sister of Eilish, in 41st in 22:04. Fian Sweeney (DCH) followed quickly after in 43rd with Siobhra O’Flaherty (SLOT) 54th and Sorcha McAllister (Westport) 66th.
Forsyth a flying fourth
The U23 men’s 8,300m race had all the elements with Ryan Forsyth (Newcastle) agonisingly close to a medal in fourth in 23:49.
Forsyth made his intentions clear from early on getting out fast in the opening straight to lead around the tight hairpin turn.
The Newcastle athlete didn’t let up throughout and despite being detached from the leading trio, he kicked in hard at the finish and was only one second behind the bronze medal behind France’s Hugo Hay.
The team battled well too and were in the bronze medal position halfway through the race but ultimately had to settle for 6th.
Brian Fay (Raheny Shamrock) was next Irish man home in 29th in 24:47 with Paul O’Donnell (DSD) 36th in 24:58. Cathal Doyle (Clonliffe Harriers) was 51st with Jack O’Leary (Mullingar Harriers) 56th and Garry Campbell (Dunleer) 80th.
Treacy teak tough on tenth appearance
Sara Treacy (Dunboyne) fought hard to finish 26th in the senior women 8,300m in 27:46 with the team finishing 11th. Treacy has battled injuries the last couple of years and was happy to be back competing against the best in Europe.
“This is where you want to be testing yourself against the best,” said Treacy. “This will give me a good kick forward.”
Ciara Mageean (UCD) was next home in 43rd in 28:08, with Michelle Finn (Leevale) 51st in 28:23 for the scoring trio. Annmarie McGlynn (Letterkenny) was next in 57th followed by Fionnuala Ross (Armagh) in 62nd and Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle) in 64th.
Tobin tenth in Europe
Sean Tobin (Clonmel) finished an excellent tenth in the senior men’s 10,300m in 29:22 with the team finishing 7th.
Team captain Kevin Dooney (Raheny Shamrock) was next in 26th in 29:53 with Kevin Maunsell (Clonmel) the third scorer in 34th in 30:11. Kevin Batt (DSD) was 55, Mick Clohisey (Raheny Shamrock), making his tenth European cross appearance, was 67th followed by Damien Landers (Ennis Track) in 78th.
Mixed relay round out exciting event
The mixed relay over 5,800m was the last event of the day with Paul Robinson (St Coca’s) passing to Siofra Cleirigh Buttner (DSD), to John Travers (Donore Harriers) to Claire Tarplee (St Coca’s) where they finished 9th in 16:40 in a demolition derby style race.
It rounded out another consistent championships for Ireland to build a good platform to hosting the European Cross Country Championships in 2020. Lisbon will be next in 2019 but there is an improving repeatability of Irish performances that can help them move in to medal positions.