Sharlene Mawdsley (file photo). Morgan Treacy/INPHO
European Championships

Ireland power into 4x400m relay final as fastest qualifiers after more Mawdsley magic

Sophie Becker, Phil Healy, Lauren Cadden and Sharlene Mawdsley won their heat in a time of 3:24.81.


THE IRELAND WOMEN’S 4x400m relay team have powered to victory in their heat to qualify for Wednesday night’s final at the European Athletics Championship in Rome.

Sophie Becker, Phil Healy, Lauren Cadden and Sharlene Mawdsley clocked a time of 3:24.81 at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.

Mawdsley — running her fourth race of the championships, 12 hours after last night’s 400m final — produced a superb anchor leg to clinch victory for Ireland.

Her 49.76 split was the quickest leg across both heats.

Rhasidat Adeleke sat this one out after her taking silver in the 400m final, but her fellow 4x400m mixed relay hero Mawdsley was a late call-up for Kelly McGrory.

Running from Lane 6, Becker made a typically strong start and put Ireland in a good position. Healy took the baton and surged into second, behind Belgium, and was third for the handover. Cadden, making her major championships debut, held that position but dropped slightly back to third on the home straight. And Mawdsley again held her nerve; spotting a gap on the inside on the final bend, taking it, and storming home in first.

France finished second in 3:25.15, while Belgium were third 3:25.16 for the three automatic qualification spots. Spain and Italy also progressed from the faster heat.

Poland won the first heat in 3:25.50, with Germany and a weakened Netherlands outfit finishing second and third respectively to also progress.

Earlier, the Ireland men’s 4x400m relay team missed out out on a place in the final despite a Herculean effort by Callum Baird in the final leg to seal a fifth-placed finish in their heat.

Similarly, with the top three teams from each of the two heats earning automatic qualification for the decider, and the two next-fastest teams from either heat also advancing, a top-five finish in the first semi-final kept alive Ireland’s chances of making the final.

However, Germany and Spain’s faster times as fourth- and fifth-placed finishers in the second semi-final bumped Ireland out of the non-automatic qualification spots.

chris-odonnell-callum-baird-sean-doggett-and-jack-rafter-after-the-race Chris O’Donnell, Callum Baird, Sean Doggett and Jack Raftery after the men's 4x400m relay heats. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

Jack Raftery led out Ireland in the first leg of their semi but the handover between him and Chris O’Donnell left the mixed-relay hero with additional work to do as Britain, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands and Switzerland pulled further clear.

O’Donnell made up significant ground in a fine leg but moments before passing the baton to Seán Doggett, he became briefly entangled with his British opponent.

Doggett, 17, is the youngest-ever male competitor for Ireland at the European Championships and he took off with fittingly youthful exuberance, bombing through his first 300m before losing steam over his final hundred.

With Ireland among the chasers in sixth and seventh, it fell to Callum Baird to try to pull off a miracle. A remarkable kick down the stretch saw him beat Switzerland to the crucial fifth spot by one hundredth of a second (3:04:41).

His efforts were in vain, however, as Germany and Spain usurped Ireland as non-automatic qualifiers in the second heat, which was ran at a pace about three seconds faster than Ireland’s race which preceded it.

And the Ireland men’s 4x100m relay team finished seventh in their heat.

Bori Akinola, Mark Smyth, Colin Doyle and Israel Olatunde clocked a season’s best of 39.34, but finished outside the qualification standard.

All four athletes ran well as they went close to the national record of 39.26, but Smyth and Doyle had an issue on their changeover, for one.

Germany, Belgium and Poland took first, second and third, advancing directly to the final. Netherlands, Italy and France qualified from the second heat, with Switzerland and Denmark prevailing as the non-fastest qualifiers.

Anika Thompson and Laura Mooney are Ireland’s only athletes in action this evening in the 10,000m final.

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