Bronze delight for Ó Lionáird

Ciarán Ó Lionáird became Ireland’s latest medallist at a major athletics championships, as Brian Gregan’s hopes for glory bit the dust in devastating fashion.

Ó Lionáird claimed bronze in the men’s 3000m at the European Indoors in Gothenburg, using his trademark late surge to climb into the medal positions – but a final attack in the closing 20 metres saw Spain’s Juan Carlos Higuero overtake Ó Lionaird on the line to grab the silver.

The Oregon-based Leevale AC athlete remained comfortably in the pack for the vast majority of the 15 laps, holding up a position between fifth and eighth throughout.

In the penultimate lap, Ó Lionáird made his move, shooting up into the top four, before resting in second on the shoulder of long-time leader Hayle Ibrahimov of Azerbaijan.

There he would remain up to the bell and beyond, only being reeled in for his second-place spot by Spaniard Higueiro.

Ibrahimov won in 7:49.74, Higuero clocked 7:50.26, with Ó Lionaird coming home in a personal best time of 7:50.40.

It’s a massive leap by the 24-year-old after exiting the Olympic Games at the semi-final stage, but he still feels he had a prospect of gold: “It’s nice to come away with a bit of silverware – or bronzeware – but I’d like to have won.

“I think it was there. I think I’m still a little bit new to 3000m running at a Championship level.

“I think this was a walk for Ibrahimov more than me, but it’s certainly encouraging.

“I’m not satisfied. I want to go out and improve on that placing next time out.”

Ó Lionáird was crowned Ireland’s 19th European indoor medallist half an hour after the dramatic crashing-out of 400m medal prospect Brian Gregan, while lying in third place at the bell.

Gregan collapsed off the track, claiming a spike, which later was treated with nine stitches.

The Clonliffe Harrier held the fastest time in Europe going into the Championships, where he was being heavily tipped for a medal.

Gregan reported after: “My raceplan was to get to the bend, and to get to the break third. My plan was going perfect, with perfect pace, around 21.6-21.7 to the bell.

“Unfortunately I got spiked. A guy just completely took me out of it, and there was no coming back from it.

“He actually stood on my ankle and ripped me down my leg. I’ve had nine stitches. It was poor form.”

Elsewhere, Fionnuala Britton and Ciara Everard both qualified for finals tomorrow, Amy Foster progressed to the 60m semi-finals, and even though Rose Anne Galligan exited, it was still in a personal best time.

Britton recorded 9:03.30 in finishing third in her heat of the women’s 3000m behind three-time European medallist Sara Moreira of Portugal and Britain’s Lauren Howarth. Her final is at 11:10am tomorrow morning.

Kilkenny athlete Ciara Everard of UCD achieved a repeat of this in her 800m semi-final, her third place taking her through at the expense of Czech runner Lenka Masna, who had recorded an identical time of 2:03.40.

Everard has a 10:45am start Irish time tomorrow.

Rose Anne Galligan’s fifth place finish in her 800m semi wasn’t enough to put her through, but she still set a lifetime best of 2:02.84, which would have seen her through in Everard’s semi-final.

Lisburn sprinter Amy Foster had to hang on in the 60m heats to qualify for the semi-finals as a fastest loser.

Coming fifth in her first-round heat, Foster’s time of 7.33 equalled her personal best from last month in Athlone, and sent her through as the second-fastest loser.

Headlines outside of the Irish performances saw hosts Sweden scoop the women’s 1500m title as Abeba Aregawi obliterated the rest to win by a margin of ten seconds.

The first Swede to win a medal was Erica Jarder, whose final attempt in the long jump edged Britain’s Shara Proctor out of the bronze medal position. Russian star Darya Klishina won with the longest jump in the world this year, 7.01m – the joint eighth-longest jump indoors of all-time.

Jimmy Vicuad of France claimed the men’s 60m crown.

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