Nail-biter for Irish as relay wins ease relegation fears
The Irish Athletics Team competing at the weekend in the European Team Championships in Sandnes, Norway were hugely relieved to just retain their place in the First League.
In a nail-biting competition they finished seventh from 11 teams with 227 points. This was a mere 2.5 points ahead of Romania who were relegated along with three other teams.
The final key events came down to the 4x400 relays where both female and male Irish teams excelled by winning their 'A' races. The women won in a time of 3.35.77 while the men ran a season's best of 3.08.83.
Bangor's Andrew Mellon played a decisive role in taking the lead on the second leg.
Northern athlete Mark English just missed out on gold in the 800 metres.
In a slow race the Letterkenny man tried to pass the eventual winner Balazs Vindics of Hungary on the inside in the home straight but just ran out of distance.
Triple European medallist English was timed at 1.50.06 for silver behind the winner who ran 1.49.62.
North Sligo's Chris O'Donnell has been enjoying his best ever season. He produced the goods again in his 400 metres event with silver in 46.70 behind Jon Sacoor of Belgium (46.43).
Fionnuala McCormack had to settle for bronze in the 5,000 metres despite trying to break clear several times. Romania's Roxana Barca won in 15.02.78 to McCormack's 16.02.78.
Ciara Neville also took an impressive bronze in the 100 metres with 11.82.
Ferrybank's Thomas Barr will be disappointed at being run out of the medals in a high quality 400 metres hurdles. She was expected to at least make the rostrum after the second fastest qualification time, but was never in contention for the top places and finished fourth in 51.12, nearly two seconds behind Turkey's Yasmani Copello who took gold in 49.23.
Silver went to Nick Smitt of the Netherlands in just under 50 seconds.
Sprint maestro Marcus Lawler will be a little disappointed with his fourth place in the 200 metres in 21.29 seconds behind winner Chris Garia of the Netherlands (20.85).
Besides Mellon, other NI athletes in action included NI Commonwealth Games athlete Kate O'Connor.
The 18-year-old heptathlete recently got a silver medal in the recent Euro Junior Champs where she broke her own Northern Ireland javelin record with a new figure of 52.92 metres.
At the weekend she secured seventh place in a quality field with a throw of 50.44 metres. Her other two throws were 50.09 metres and 50.33 metres which translated into three of her best four throws ever.
This type of consistency will stand Kate in good stead as she heads off on an athletics scholarship to the US.