Keelan Kilrehill and Jamie Battle delivered the performances of their lives at yesterday’s Spar European Cross-Country Championships at the National Sports Campus in Abbottstown, Dublin.
Both men lined up in the U23 Men’s race with high hopes of claiming a team medal, however in the build up few would have predicted that the colour of that medal would have been gold.
The team were led home by Darragh McElhinney (UCD AC) who finished in a superb second place but focus from a DCU perspective was firmly on the action behind him.
Kilrehill started the race modestly enough but was never too far out of the leaders’ sights. With two laps to go he began to move further up the field and was well positioned alongside Irish teammate Michael Power (West Waterford AC) with a lap to go.
He continued to push on and looked strong all the way to line. Roared on by the 8,000-10,000 Irish spectators, Kilrehill finished a remarkable 6th.
To top the performance off it marks an incredible comeback by the Sligo final year EPL student. In 2015 following a serious bicycle accident, Kilrehill was left confined to a wheelchair, having suffered a broken back and fractured neck. At the time doctors told him that he may never run again. Just six years on, he produced an inspirational performance yesterday.
Speaking to Athletics Ireland after Kilrehill said; “I came in thinking that top 15 would be realistic and unbelievable at the same time, but I had myself in the top 15 or top 20 for the whole race and it was all about staying relaxed, staying patient and when lads start coming back to you, such big names and you’re passing them out and feeling so good, it’s some feeling.”
“I got into that last lap, and I had a realistic chance of a medal, why not go for it, so I started going for it on the last lap, unfortunately I didn’t get up there, but I can’t complain, 6th place, I didn’t expect that”, he said.
Jamie Battle also had an excellent run. Despite having only been called up to the team as a late addition during the week he was well prepared. Battle crossed the line in 44th, the fifth Irish athlete to finish.
Another athlete who returns to DCU with silverware is Cathal O’Reilly. O’Reilly was also a late addition to the team and was called up to the Irish U20 team during the week to replace the injured Cian McPhilips. O’Reilly finished in a strong 77th in the 6000m race and won a silver medal as his teammates led home by Abdel Laadjel also had excellent runs.
Andrew Coscoran ran the final leg for the Irish Mixed 4x1500m relay team. Coscoran had a strong run but missed out on a medal by the finest of margins finishing in the same time as the bronze medal winning Belgium team, but ultimately just behind. Despite not medalling yesterday, Coscoran has had a superb year the highlight of which was qualifying for an Olympic semi-final.
In the U23 Women’s race DCU were represented by Aoife O’Cuill and Jodie McCann. O’Cuill was the 3rd Irish athlete to cross the line, in 32nd position, while McCann finished in 49th. Both athletes can be proud to have achieved yet another Irish singlet at a major.
Five DCU Alumni were also in action. In the U23 Women’s race Lauren Tinkler finished in 46th.
Three former students were in action in the Senior Men’s race. Brian Fay became only the 6th Irishman to achieve a top ten finish at the European Cross-Country Championships, finishing in 10th. Last year’s DCU Athletics Men’s Captain, Cormac Dalton, came 28th, with Emmett Jennings finishing 44th. Fay and Dalton were scorers on the Irish team who finished 4th, just missing out on a medal.
Fionnuala McCormack competed in her 17th European Cross-Country Championships, a week after running the second fastest marathon by an Irish woman in history in Valencia. It was another exceptional performance by McCormack who crossed the line in 9th, leading the Irish women’s team home.
DCU Head Endurance Coach, Joe Ryan, managed the Irish U20 team that featured the aforementioned Cathal O’Reilly to silver and is also coach to European champion Jamie Battle.
As mentioned, yesterday was a remarkable day for DCU Athletics that will fondly be remembered by athletes, coaches, families, friends, and supporters for many years to come.
Image Credits: Kyran O’Brien (DCU Comms and Marketing Photographer)