A dream comes true for homecoming heroes

It was a case of “deja vu” for Fionnuala Britton and part of a childhood ambition achieved for Ciaran O’Lionaird as they led a successful Irish team homecoming from the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg with their bronze medals in the 3,000 metres to a small but intimate crowd at the arrivals hall in Dublin airport yesterday evening.

“Yeah it’s like deja vu,” said Britton of another medal homecoming.

“You can’t really be a fan of it but it’s still definitely better to be coming out with a medal than without one.”

Britton’s inspired performance was in part due to the disappointment of her room-mate Derval O’Rourke and she was determined not to feel the same way.

“Sharing with Derval, I know how she felt on Friday night and I was determined not to be feeling the same way on Sunday night,” said the Kilcoole athlete.

Despite only being 11th on the European rankings going into the race, Britton still believed she could medal.

“Yeah sure you always think you have a chance. No one had really ran that fast this year and I suppose the biggest thing now is that I could have got the silver.”

Ciaran O’Lionaird (Leevale) also came back feeling he could have done better but for his mother, Angela, “it was just so good” and “deserved reward for all the hard work”.

“It’s just so good,” said his proud mother. “I knew since he was seven that this was what he wanted to do.”

The delight after Gothenburg contrasts with O’Lionaird’s Olympic experience in London.

“He was devastated,” recalls Angela.

“He came home and we brought him round and then he went back to Oregon. Thank God training started up again.

“It’s a lot of dedication. The rest of us go to work Monday to Friday and at the weekend we can chill out whereas it’s 24/7 all year round for Ciaran so he deserves the reward after putting in the hard work.

“It’s like anything, if you don’t get what you want, you pretend like you never wanted it in the first place. I knew myself that it was only an off the cuff reaction. He’s in it for the long haul, believe you me.”

The long haul starts with recharging his batteries for a few days at home in Toonsbridge just outside Macroom before altitude training in Flagstaff.

“A big part of that is to recharge the batteries,” said a happy O’Lionaird of his outdoor preparations.

“Hopefully that won’t take long. I’m just going to go home for a few days and see my family and just really relax.

“Then I head to Flagstaff to altitude training next week and will really kick off the outdoor season. It comes quickly and that’s going to be a big part of my preparation.

“I’m going for five weeks and that will lead into the early outdoor races. Hopefully I can knock the A standard out of the way and keep a good attitude and hopefully be ready to compete well in the summer.”

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