Three top-10 finishes for Ireland once upon a time may have been a cause for celebration coming out of a European Cross-Country Championships.
But having claimed medals at the last three Games, disappointment was the main emotion for fourth-placed Fionnuala Britton and ninth-placed Sean Tobin at Belgrade, while Paul Robinson was enthused by his ninth-place finish.
Britton was run out of the medals in the final 200m in the senior women’s race, as Sophie Duarte of France took her first title ahead of Britain’s Gemma Steel and Ana Dulce Felix of Portugal, with the Wicklow athlete four seconds outside the medals.
She had stayed in the lead group throughout, but couldn’t fight her way into the top three inside the final 3k.
Britton said afterwards: “If I come fourth or fifth it doesn’t matter because I need to come first, second or third. Once you’re out of the medals, you’re out of the race.
“I knew I had to feel comfortable if I was to get anything out of the race. I tried to be as relaxed as I could, sit in behind them and they waited their while to make their move so I had time to get comfortable.
“Duarte made a move with 3k to go – it’s the stereotypical place to make a move in an 8k race - and I knew I needed to get with the rest of the group because that was where the battle for the medals was going to be.
“I tried, but just wasn’t good enough today.”
Sean Tobin’s impressive form on the track and on the cross-country circuit continued as the Clonmel AC athlete came ninth in the junior men’s race.
However, he was aiming for higher: “I’m very disappointed with that. I came in here hoping for a medal. My strategy was just to hold back and to come through the field.
“It was so narrow I was finding it tough to get through and it came to the point where I had to start moving and my core started giving in on me.
“Strength and conditioning is something I have to work on. I gave everything else I could really.”
Paul Robinson had been edged out into fourth in the 1500m at the European Under-23 Track and Field Championships in Tampere in July, and another fourth place finish was his lot today as the Irish men’s team were pushed out of the medals in the men’s Under-23 in Belgrade.
Robinson came ninth in the individual as Ireland’s third place in the team event was lost on the final lap.
The St Coca’s AC athlete from Kildare enthused: “I’m happy. To be honest, a top-10 finish is what I was aiming for.
“I thought maybe if I was having a really good day, I could maybe sneak a medal but they were too good for me today.
“They were too strong. I put myself up there, got to 5k and blew a bit of a gasket but got it back together over that last kilometre.
“We were up there (in the team medals). Me, Shane Quinn and John Travers. We packed very well, Shane went with the break with about 3k to go, and fair play to him.
“I knew at that stage I didn’t have it. Shane sadly couldn’t hold it but he’s still got next year.”
Michael Mulhare of Portlaoise AC and David McCarthy of West Waterford were satisfied with their top-20 finishes in the senior men’s race.