Coscoran targeting 'next level' for both himself and Irish athletics after Tokyo breakthrough

‘I’ll be pushing on, trying to get better and we’ll see how good I can get.’

Andrew Coscoran at the SPAR European Cross Country Championship 2021 launch.
Andrew Coscoran at the SPAR European Cross Country Championship 2021 launch.
Image: Harry Murphy/SPORTSFILE

ANDREW COSCORAN WAS one Irish athlete who really made a name for himself at this summer’s Olympic Games.

While no track or field medals returned to these shores from Tokyo, Irish success was ultimately measured by performances, times and rankings.

Personalities and personas came into it too, it must be said, as new sporting heroes emerged on the world stage. Coscoran certainly captured the imagination.

Competing at his first Olympics, the 25-year-old Dubliner surpassed all expectations to reach the 1500m semi-finals. There, he gave it his all and ran himself into the ground with another bold and brave showing, finishing 10th in 3:35.84, just outside his lifetime best.

“I think I was ranked 41st or 42nd going in, and then came 20th overall,” he reflects. “Going into it, I probably expected to do a lot worse than I actually did so in terms of that, it’s a huge breakthrough.

“The Olympic heat and the semis are the two best races I’ve ever had. I definitely got a bit of recognition on an Irish scale too, I think that’s good as well.”

Coscoran’s brilliant post-race interviews certainly helped his case in that regard, his searing honesty and positive attitude shining through with each and every word he uttered.

“I’m just surprised,” as he told RTÉ’s David Gillick after the final. “I ran 3:35.8 there, which is pretty good, but it’s still way off. The standard is just insane.”

Two months on, and a little more removed from the entire experience, he still feels the same.

I just think that we’re not at that level yet in Irish athletics. Maybe there’s one or two individuals that are, but I think in general, we’re not.

“We don’t have a system that spits out athletes to that level. And I think it was a bit of a shock to me when I got there — even though I have raced against a lot of the guys that were in that Olympic final, to see the depth of really good 1500m runners was a bit of a shock.

“Still in shock over that. I just need to get fitter and get better and take another crack in Paris.”

As the focus moves to the future and bridging that sizeable gap, Gillick, for one, doesn’t expect medals at the 2024 Games. Speaking about Irish athletics holistically last month, the 2008 Olympian and former European indoor champion detailed underage progress and stressed the importance of performing, improving and clocking better times.

Gillick singled Coscoran out for his Tokyo breakthrough and surge up the rankings, the Balbriggan native’s upward trajectory “very positive”.

“I think we need people that can go to championships and perform,” Coscoran agrees. “If you were to look at the Olympics this year and say, ‘Is anyone going to medal in Paris?’ you’d probably say no.

“We need to look at the younger generation and develop them, get them better. I think there needs to be a system there where we create full athletes. I know he [Gillick] said about just chasing PBs – and PBs are grand, but I think we need to create an environment for athletes and get them to bounce off each other; just get good at racing more and get up to the next level.”

“I think we could set up a system. I don’t know if we necessarily will. Probably not, if you were to take a guess,” he adds, before referencing his training group at Dublin Track Club. He believes they are “at a European level” with younger athletes learning from himself and his counterparts, and them learning from Melbourne Track Club, who are “at another level again”.

“We just need to set up these systems where we find the guys that have done it before or they’re doing it now and learn from them and just do what they’re doing. But it’s hard to do that at Irish level when we don’t necessarily have… we do have a couple of superstars.

“We have Ciara Mageean, Thomas Barr, Mark English; there’s definitely some superstars there, but we need to learn from them, what they’re doing and bring that down to younger athletes and see how we can do it on a large-scale basis and bring athletes up through the ranks all the time.

From the Olympics just gone, I don’t think there’s anything massively to get excited about for Paris, but you never know. There can be people coming through the ranks, and I’m going to be pushing anyway. I’ll be pushing on, trying to get better and we’ll see how good I can get. I don’t know about anybody else.”

Coscoran will do just that, like he did in Tokyo: taking it all in his stride on this steep learning curve, having become “a bit numb to competition” in the build-up, as he grasped how to switch on and off and get the job done while racing every weekend on the European circuit.’

“Hungry the other side of it, and trying to make a jump to the next level,” the DCU student has bounced back strongly, invigorated by a very short break and messages of support from Eamonn Coghlan, Shane Healy, and the likes.

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He’s busy between training and his studies, after deferring his final semester, currently completing his thesis on the strategies that student athletes use to balance college work and training as he wraps up his degree in Education and Training.

Now targeting the 2021 SPAR European Cross Country Championships in Dublin in December, Coscoran is using cross country as more than just building blocks this winter, harbouring genuine medal hopes.

But above all else, he’s looking forward to an even bigger 2022 on track after really making a name for himself in 2021.

“100%,” he concludes. “Cross country is there and we want to do well, but the big goal is… there’s World Indoors, maybe take a crack at a couple of the Irish records.

“I know the Irish 1500m indoor record is 3:35.4, so it could be possible to take a crack at that. We’re planning on going over to the US in January to try and run on the BU track, I think everyone knows that’s lightning fast and there’s a new New Balance track as well in Boston and that’s supposed to be lightning fast as well, so hopefully run on that and have a couple of opportunities of taking a crack at the Irish record.

“There’s no reason why we can’t do it, so we’ll try. We just have to get the right day, right conditions, right race and then hopefully it will happen.”

Olympian Andrew Coscoran was speaking at the launch of the 2021 SPAR European Cross Country Championships. The 2021 SPAR European Cross Country Championships will take place at the Sport Ireland Campus on Sunday, 12th December 2021. For more information on the Championship please visit


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