Cool Gillick a true medal contender, declares McGonagle

IRISH team manager Patsy McGonagle believes David Gillick is ready to win his first European outdoor medal in this evening’s 400m final at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona.

“One had to be impressed with his whole demeanour — he is so positive around the hotel,” he said.

“Mentally I would say he stronger than at any other point in his career, and I think the Doha experience (when he was controversially disqualified from the World Indoor Championships final) is at the back of his mind and he really wants to achieve here.”

Gillick, however, is going to have to pull out another top-drawer performance to deprive raging hot favourite, Belgium’s Jonathan Borlee, of gold.

Gillick, who broke 45 seconds for the first time last year with 44.77 secs in Madrid, went under the mark for the sixth time when he beat Michael Bingham (Great Britain) by 44.79 secs to 44.88 secs to win his heat.

That result earned him Lane 4 in tonight’s final and while Borlee will have him in his sights from Lane 3, he will have the other main contenders in full view.

Gillick says he is ready to break his Irish record to get a medal but will not be focusing on that. Yesterday it was relaxation all the way as he took a stroll on the beach near the team hotel.

“I have worked too hard to let this (opportunity) slip by,” he said. “I have punched that bag so many times it’s just a case of just letting it flow and letting it happen.”

Derval O’Rourke opens her campaign this morning (9am Irish time) in the 100m hurdles. She was the reigning world indoor champion when she won the silver medal in Gothenburg four years ago.

She arrived in Barcelona early to see her training partner and Leevale clubmate, Ailis McSweeney, qualify for the semi-finals of the 100m on Wednesday.

“Everything is grand,” her coach, Sean Cahill said. “We are keeping it nice and low key — looking at one race at a time. She is in good form and, as usual, she is competitive.”

Derval has endured a fall, a disqualification and problems with the hurdles, due in some measure to the fact that she is faster and stronger than she ever was before.

“It has not been a good run-up to the championships,” he said. “But it has not been a disaster either. A lot of positive stuff has come out of it.”

In this morning’s heat she goes in Lane 7 against Lucie Skrobakova (Czech Republic), Carolin Nytra (Germany), Olga Samylova (Russia), Ana Torrijos (Spain), Clelia Reuse (Switzerland) and Victoria Schreibeis (Austria).

McGonagle, paid tribute to Cahill, for what he described as great sacrifice and commitment.

Sean and his wife Terri are coaches to O’Rourke and McSweeney among others, and Terri was here with the relay teams when she heard that her brother-in-law had died after a long illness.

“She returned home and Sean came out, and the sacrifice they made has to be acknowledged,” he said.

Robert Heffernan will join Colin Griffin in this morning’s 50k walk after making a remarkable recovery from the 20k walk, in which he finished fourth on Tuesday.

To help with his recovery his masseur, Liam O’Reilly, who is also his advisor and the man who oversees his training programme, called on Dr Tom Hill from UCC, an expert on nutrition.

Fionnuala Britton will compete in the final of the women’s 3,000m steeplechase this evening. She was also a finalist at the world championship in Osaka three years ago.

Ferrybank starlet, Niamh Whelan, will make her major championships debut in the heats of the women’s 200m this morning while Deirdre Ryan, a former finalist, will compete in the women’s high jump.


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