Athletics - Irish men create history with bronze at European Cup

The Irish men created history at the European Race Walking Cup by winning team bronze medals over 20km in Podebrady, Czech Republic today (May 21).

Ireland landed bronze behind Spain and Germany who won gold and silver medallists respectively. The race was won by by Germany’s Christopher Limk in 1:19:28.

Alex Wright (Leevale) led the team home in 6th in 1:21:48 with Robert Heffernan (Togher) 13th in 1:22:40 and Cian McManamon (Westport) 26th in 1:24:03.

Earlier in the day Brendan Boyce (Finn Valley) was an agonising fourth in the 50km race walk in 3:49:49 won by Ukraine’s Ivan Banzeruk in 3:38:15. Boyce had been in the bronze medal position in the final 10km but was unfortunately passed by Italy’s Michele Antonelli who won bronze with 3:49:07.

In the junior women’s 10km Orla O'Connor finished (Waterford) 21st in 51:39 and Niamh O'Connor (Celbridge) finished 27th in 53:29 which saw the team finish 9th.

Team manager Patsy McGonagle said: “Irish walkers acquitted themselves admirably here in Podebrady Czech Republic with an historic return from the 20k men digging out a gutsy spirited response. Add a fourth for Brendan Boyce in a medal position and I’m proud of this dedicated bunch. I’m looking forward to the World Championships in London with enthusiasm.

Other top results this weekend include Michaela Walsh (Swinford) setting new national junior records in the hammer with 61.84m and shot put with 15.46m at the throws meeting in Halle, Germany.

In the Ulster Schools, Sommer Lecky leapt to a new national junior record in the high jump of 1.85m.

High Performance Director Paul McNamara said: “There were so many highlights provided by our racewalkers in Podebrady today, from Brendan's heroic push for an individual medal, the individual performances of the lads in the 20k, to the debuts at this level by Niamh and Orla, but the team medals from Alex,  Rob and Cian  is really very exciting and a credit to the collective preparation of our elite men.  And what a weekend for Michaela Walsh with two national junior records against stellar European opposition, a huge confidence boost as she targets the European U20 Championships in Grosetto in July.”

Emma Mitchell (Queens) and Mark Christie (Mullingar Harriers) were the first Irish athletes home in the Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m pb’s in 32:51.78 and 29:26.61.

Day 2 of the Irish Life Health Leinster Schools and the Irish Life Health Munster Schools Track and Field Championships took place on Saturday.

You can read the Leinster report http://www.athleticsireland.ie/news/smyth-shines-at-leinsters and the Munster report http://www.athleticsireland.ie/news/usual-suspects-star-at-irish-life-health-munster-schools