Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Athletics: Cloud still hangs over the future of Murray

Gary Murray had a disappointing run to finish back in 39th place at the European Cross-Country Championships at San Giorgio su Legnano near Milan.

Twelfth in 2005, Murray never came to terms with the pace of the leaders and allowed Mark Kenneally, in 31st, to lead the Irish squad home.



Vinny Mulvey was next across the line in 35th with reigning Waterside Half Marathon champion Joe McAlister completing the Irish scoring quartet in 52nd.



It could not have helped Murray that he went into the race with a cloud hanging over the future of his athletics career.



Despite winning national titles over 1,500m, 5,000m and cross-country in the past two years, the only financial assistance the 25-year-old got this year was a paltry handout of less than €1,000 from the Irish Sports Council.



And that was grudgingly given to him only after an appeal - now Athletics Ireland has threatened to withdraw that.



"Even if I get in the top 10 at the Europeans, I am getting no funding next year, that is clear," Murray had said prior to his departure for Italy.



"If I finish in the top six, they will consider giving me the money I am owed for this year.



"It's a disgrace - they walk all over athletes in this country - see us as their product and if one is not producing, in their minds, satisfactorily they are discarded.



"If such stringent performance targets were applied to them before each payment they receive, then most would be penniless.



"People getting paid €70,000 a year to find reasons to keep €750 off an athlete is shocking. No contact was made to ask me why my performances were down and if anything could be done - instead they pretended that they lost my number!"

At the sharp end of the race, European 5,000m silver medallist Mo Farah became only the second Briton to lift the men's title with an impressive win.



The 23-year-old won by seven seconds from Portugal's Fernando Silva and Spaniard Juan de la Ossa. Seven-time champion Sergey Lebid of Ukraine had to settle for 12th on this occasion.



The Irish woman also finished in the same team placing (8th) as the men with Sligo's Mary Cullen leading them home in 14th. Aoife Byrne (42), Orla Mahoney (46) and Pauline Curley (51) completed the counters.



Ukraine's Tatyana Golovchenko edged out Mariya Konovalova of Russia for the gold medal with Serbia's Olivera Jevtic in third.



Fionnuala Britton provided the only ray of sunshine on a day when Ireland's cross country runners were found sadly wanting.



The 22-year-old Wicklow woman revelled in the firm conditions to take the silver medal in the inaugural U23 woman's race as Ireland failed to land a team medal in any of the six races.

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