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'We showed everyone that we can compete on an international stage and put it up to these bigger countries'

The Irish 4x400m mixed relay team finish eighth in the Olympic final this afternoon.

IRELAND’S HISTORY-MAKING 4x400m relay team are looking forward to more big days on the international stage after their eighth-place finish in the Olympic final.

Cillín Greene, Phil Healy, Sophie Becker and Chris O’Donnell – Ireland’s first-ever relay team to line out in an an Olympic final — clocked a time of 3:15.04 this afternoon at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.

After shattering the new national record in a sensational performance yesterday in which they clocked 3:12.18, the future certainly looks bright for this crew, with Cliodhna Manning and Rob O’Donnell also on the team of six and others helping them on their Road to Tokyo.

“Eighth in an Olympic final,” Healy beamed in conversation with David Gillick in a brilliant RTÉ interview with the quartet afterwards.

Getting to the Olympic Games was a massive achievement. Getting to an Olympic final is just a dream come true.

“Every member of the team stepped up today and performed. It was inside our old national record coming into here, it’s a credit to the two subs in the warm-up and the three other members that played a massive part in getting the team to qualify, as well as our individual coaches and of course, [coach] Drew Harrison, leading the way for us, who got us to this Olympic final.”

Galway man Greene got Ireland off to a bright start in Lane 1, though they were initially drawn in Lane 5 and changes came with nine teams lining out instead of eight.

“I’m really happy with the way I executed the race,” Greene said. “I just wanted to give the baton to Phil in contention, that’s the role I had to play; give it in contention.

“Look, it’s never going to be easy from Lane 1. The lane draws changes quite a lot throughout the day. Everyone ran astronomically well, I think we’re all really happy. We’re one of the few teams that everyone ran yesterday and also today, a lot of fresh legs were brought on. I think that definitely hindered us a small bit, but we’re so happy to have such a good run yesterday and be able to produce a strong run today.

A lot of the time the narrative for Irish people is that we came out here, trying to fill out numbers, but I really think we showed everyone back home that we can actually compete on an international stage and really put it up to these bigger countries. We couldn’t have done any more, we left it all out there. Absolutely delighted.

Cork star Healy, whose individual campaign begins on Monday with the 200m and then 400m on Tuesday, went on to explain how a German runner crossed in front of her before the changeover to Becker, leading to a slight stutter.

But Wexford woman Becker shook it off to power on.

“Look when we saw it was going to be nine teams instead of eight, we knew it was going to be carnage. And it was,” she reflected. “It got very messy on the third leg.

“A German fell in front of Phil, she fell near me. We got out of there, I tried to hang on on the back straight. I wish I pushed a little bit more but look. I passed the baton off to Chris then and he ran a stormer of a last leg.”

And O’Donnell, from Grange in Sligo, fought all the way home.

I couldn’t be prouder of my three team-mates next to me, the two subs in the warm-up, the three other athletes who helped us get there and all of our coaches,” he said, echoing his team-mates’ words.

“We built a really, really good platform for ourselves this year; we finished seventh at the World Relays, eighth at the Olympic Games. If Ireland were regulars at a World Cup quarter-final, we’d be happy. We should be proud of ourselves.

“We’ve really built a platform to build on for years to come, we hope to be regulars here. We were right behind the sprinting powerhouse in Jamaica there, we just seen they got a 1-2-3 in the sprint [women's 100m final]. We gave it absolutely everything, eighth in the world and I couldn’t be prouder of everyone.”

cillin-greene-phil-healy-sophie-becker-and-christopher-odonnell Ireland's Cillín Greene, Phil Healy, Sophie Becker and Chris O'Donnell after the final. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“The support has been absolutely unbelievable,” O’Donnell added. “We have an empty stadium here, but we have a full stadium back at home.

“No one gave us a chance at the World Relays, we did that and qualified for the Olympic Games. No one gave us a chance yesterday to qualify for the final. We were thrown into Lane 1 through no fault of our own, but we couldn’t be happier with the support at home. It’s really drove us on this year.”

They can certainly take huge confidence from their Olympic bow, brilliantly flying the flag across two memorable days, and throughout the journey up to this point.

On the entire Olympic experience, Becker added:

“I don’t think there’s one word to sum it up, it’s just phenomenal. We saw the women’s 100m final run there just before our eyes, we’re running against the best in the world. It’s some inspiration. It goes to show we’re here to compete, we’re well able to contest for our places and it’s just been an amazing experience all round.

“Thank you. Your support has been amazing. My town at home is covered in Irish flags, all of ours are. Just thank you so much.”

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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