David McCarthy (West Waterford) led home the Irish contingent in 11th place and believes the impact of their success will be felt for years.
He said: “Those gold medals provide inspiration and encouragement for everyone. This team can come back now and win the senior team title.
It was a sensational performance on a day when the Irish athletes performed to expectations with Fionnuala Britton finishing fourth in the senior women’s race, Portaferry’s Ciara Mageean seventh in the junior women’s event and Brendan Quinn coming home 12th in a competitive junior men’s final.
But the day belonged to the U23 men who packed their four scorers into the top 20 — McCarthy (11), Brendan O’Neill (13), Michael Mulhare (16) and David Rooney (20) with John Coghlan (24) and Ciarán O Lionáird, who ended up on a drip, in 76th — for a total of 60 points.
That was 18 points better than France who had the first two individuals Hassan Chahdi and Florian Carvalho
McCarthy said: “This team gold medal is better than individual silver or bronze. This was an amazing team performance. We have all grown up together. We have raced each other since we were very young and now we are very close as a team. We feel like club mates.”
He spoke of his own personal ambitions for the race and how his confidence was shattered on the way back from the United States where he had finished third in the big Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving Day.
“On the flight home I started getting stomach cramps and I had them all week,” he said. “That knocked my confidence a bit. I was trying not think to about it. But every time they came at me I kept thinking ‘God what is this.’ I was not feeling 100%.”
Despite such concerns McCarthy was to the fore for much of the race but struggled in the final stages.
He said: “I came out here to win a medal and but I did not feel that good on the course — there was a lot of twisting and turning. With a lap to go they made the break and they pulled away from me. I looked behind and saw all of my team mates there — Brendan (O’Neill), David (Rooney) and Michael (Mulhare). Suddenly I felt no pressure from behind because I knew that if it was going to be passed it would by one of my team mates.
“When the race was over I just put the head down and walked away. I was disappointed with my run. But that all changed when I was told we had won the team gold medals.
“I just can’t describe the emotion. I went back out to the boys and the support from the fans out here was just insane. There is just no better feeling than being on the podium.”
Coach, Brother John Dooley, described the team as the future of Irish middle distance running and recalled how the performance was fashioned out of desperation.
He said: “Everyone was depressed after Santry last December and I said to the team manager, Anne Keenan-Buckley, that if this team did not get medals our sport was in serious trouble.
” I think they decided themselves they were going to win medals.
“They are six quality young men and from the moment they assembled at Dublin Airport it was clear they were on a mission. In all my time I have never worked with a more focused group — the bond between them is incredible.
“This is going to work wonders for the sport.”
Jessica Augusto provided the perfect result for the home fans when she led all the way to win the senior women’s title with Ireland’s Fionnuala Britton heartbreakingly close to a medal. The Wicklow athlete who was never out of the top six was third when she was overtaken by Binnaz Uslu (Turkey) who beat her for the gold medal in the under-23 race in Milan four years ago.
Sergiy Lebid (Ukraine) sprinted past Ayad Lamdassem (Spain) on the last lap to win the senior men’s title for the ninth time — he has competed every year since the championships were introduced in 1994. Joe Sweeney was the best of the Irish in 21st.