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Griggs rallies as Irish are beaten into second at European Cross-Country Championships

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The Ireland Men’s U20’s team (from left) Nick Griggs (Mid Ulster AC), Scott Fagan (Metro St Brigid’s), Abdel Laadjel (Donore Harriers AC), Sean Kay (Clonliffe Harriers), Cathal O’Reilly (Kilkenny City Harriers) and Dean Casey (Ennis Track Club) celebrate after finishing second in the team event. Credit: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

The Ireland Men’s U20’s team (from left) Nick Griggs (Mid Ulster AC), Scott Fagan (Metro St Brigid’s), Abdel Laadjel (Donore Harriers AC), Sean Kay (Clonliffe Harriers), Cathal O’Reilly (Kilkenny City Harriers) and Dean Casey (Ennis Track Club) celebrate after finishing second in the team event. Credit: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

The Ireland Men’s U20’s team (from left) Nick Griggs (Mid Ulster AC), Scott Fagan (Metro St Brigid’s), Abdel Laadjel (Donore Harriers AC), Sean Kay (Clonliffe Harriers), Cathal O’Reilly (Kilkenny City Harriers) and Dean Casey (Ennis Track Club) celebrate after finishing second in the team event. Credit: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

There may not have been the fairytale finish Nick Griggs had been hoping for but there was a silver lining for the Mid-Ulster AC runner at the European Cross Country Championships.

After his recent stand-out display in the Irish trial, the 16-year-old was being tipped as a possible winner of the event but in the end had to settle for 16th spot.

But this along with his counting team-mates Abdel Laadjel (6th) Dean Casey (13th) with Scott Fegan 21st and Sean Fay 50th, meant they came home in second and just a point from gold in the Mens’ Under-20 race.

Griggs, who will only turn 17 in a week’s time, had probably overly optimistic expectations placed on his shoulders but the heavy muddy strength-sapping conditions in Finglas did not play to his strengths and he was always struggling to stay in contention with the leaders.

But after a rough patch mid-way through the race he rallied to ensure his team secured silver.

“It just wasn’t my day and I’ve no excuses,” he said afterwards.

“I had to dig in deep there and kept fighting to the end . I wasn’t going to give up as the crowd support was fantastic. It was a great learning experience for the future.”

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In a very tight competition the GB team just held on for the win with 34 points followed by Ireland on 35 points and bronze going to Israel on 37 points.

Alex Christensen of Denmark was in a class of his own and destroyed the opposition to win by some 25 seconds.

Some 7,000 spectators cheered on 600 athletes from 38 countries and the biggest roar was for the the Irish U23 team who went one better that their younger team-mates with an unexpected gold in a tightly fought event with the result unclear to the finish.

The team secured victory with 21 points just three ahead of arch rivals GB. France took third with 36 points.

This battle was also reflected in the individual event with an endless struggle between GB’s Charlie Hicks and Ireland’ s Darragh McElhinney.

The lead changed several times with Hicks finally prevailing towards the end for a four seconds victory. McElhinney was brilliantly supported by Keelan Kilrehill in 6th place and Michael Power who was 13th. Other Irish finishers were Donal Devane (40th), Jamie Battle (44th) and Thomas Devaney (67th).

As expected Olympic maestro Jakob Ingebrigsten of Norway toyed with the opposition in the Senior event to win easily by some 14 seconds. Ireland’s Brian Fay was 10th with Tonosa Haso 13th.

There was disappointment in the Mixed relay where the Irish team were hotly tipped for medals.

This optimism was enhanced with a stirring display on the first leg by World Championship track finalist Ciara Mageean.

She ignored the challenging underfoot conditions to hand over a useful three seconds lead to Luke McCann.

He maintained this gap but then things unravelled somewhat when Ireland’s Siofra Cleirigh Buttner was relegated to third by GB’s rampant Alex Bell .

Matters didn’t improve on the final leg where Andrew Coscoran was relegated to fourth overall some five seconds behind the victorious GB side who notched up their fourth consecutive victory .

“Ciara did exactly what she was asked to do, get out strong and get off to a good start,” said McCann.

“I didn’t really expect to be in the lead but I just tried my best to hold on and give it off to Síofra in a good position, but look, that’s sport, someone has to come fourth.

“We went for first and we have absolutely no regrets.”

Aoife McGreevy was Ireland’s leading finisher in the U20 women’s race, coming home 23rd with her teammate Emma McEvoy one place behind in 24th.


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