by Thomas Chamney
Derval O’Rourke had to settle for a fourth place finish in her 60m hurdles final at the European Indoor Athletics championship.
O'Rourke missed out on a bronze medal by just .01 of a second as she finished in a season's best time of 7.95, just behind Veronica Borsi of Italy.
Turkey's Nevin Yanit claimed the gold, setting a new national record time of 7.89, while Alina Talay of Bulgaria took the silver medal.
It was a disappointing end to a day in which Irish athletes had shone.
Brian Gregan and Ciarán Ó Lionáird got challenge underway with easy progression in the 400m and 3,000m respectively.
While in the afternoon session's 800m, Ciara Everard and Rose Anne Galligan both claimed impressive victories on their opening heats.
It was a brave effort from O’Rourke in the 60m Hurdles final but she fell just short of claiming a medal in the European Indoor Championships for the second time in her illustrious career.
Drawn in lane two of the eight women in the final, O’Rourke executed a near perfect start out of the blocks to head the field at the first flight.
Turkey’s Yannit, drawn just outside O’Rourke, began to close the gap and the second to last passed the Leevale veteran. From there, O’Rourke lost a slight amount of momentum as the other athletes began to apply pressure.
In the mad dash for the line O’Rourke came off the worse but still clocked yet another season’s best in 7.95, her fastest time at this distance since 2006.
However, Italian Veronica Borsi claimed the silver in a new national record of 7.94 and Alina Talay of Belarus taking third in the same time of 7.94.
While the result will be of little solace to O’Rourke, it marks the end of a very strong indoor season for the 31 year old as she has proven yet again that she has what it takes to make an impact on the European stage.
O'Rourke said: "I ran it to win it, not finish second or third, but I would love to have a medal.
"I thought I had silver because I was right next to Yanit. And I wish they would change the photo finish.
"It's the best indoor run I've had since 2006 and possibly the most disrupted preparation I have had.
"I had an injection in my Achilles in November and then got a sinus infection in December and lost 4kg.
"I believed I had a chance to win and that's why I came. I got a fantastic start, there was not a whole heap wrong with the race. It's hard to criticise 7.95 but right now I am gutted."
Earlier in the day, Brian Gregan ran with the assurance that comes with being Europe’s top man right now over this distance, spouting an exalted confidence from every pore.
He controlled the race from start to finish, accelerating off the break to head the field at the bell. From there he rarely exited third gear but slowed up slightly too much approaching the line as Butrym of Ukraine closed on his outside.
A nervous glance at the clock followed but all was well and Gregan secured himself an optimal lane for his semi-final to come tomorrow with the victory.
Of the other heats, Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic was the only one to truly impress, clocking 46.54 with a fluidity that has marked him out as Gregan’s main rival for the gold. Maslak and Gregan will go head to head in the semi-final.
Three brave men donned the green singlet in the 3,000m event with Ciarán Ó Lionárd and Stephen Scullion up in the first semi-final.
O’Lionard proved himself utterly confident here with a fantastic performance and one that has placed him firmly into medal contention. Relentlessly sitting in fourth or fifth place throughout the early stages, when the field began to move with 600m to go Ó Lionárd gracefully extricated himself out of a tight spot and with 180m left let fly with a ferocious burst of speed to head the field into the final bend.
By that stage four men had broken away and the Irishman glanced back confidently, safe in the knowledge that he had this race sewn up. His time of 7:55.12 was the second fastest of all the qualifiers for tomorrow’s final.
Further back, Stephen Scullion was fighting his own battle with the clock as he sought to make it to the final as a fastest loser. He gave it everything he had, taking up the lead briefly at one stage as he tried to force the pace on.
In the end it wasn’t to be as he faltered backwards, clocking 8:00.78, just slightly off his personal best. It was a brave run from the 24-year-old student and he should take great heart from how he approached these championships.
John Travers ran in the next heat and finished 11th in 8:23.83.
In an 800m with no clear cut medal favourites and where the numbers on the ground are quite thin, this was a real opportunity for our Irish women to make the semi-finals.
What followed was an electrifying display of Irish female 800m running.
First up was Kilkenny’s Ciara Everard. Positioning herself just off the shoulder of Bulgaria’s Arzamasova through 400m, reached in a pedestrian enough 63 seconds, the UCD physiotherapy student looked almost nonchalant and quickly fired up the pace to kick her way to the front coming through the bell.
None of the other athletes had anything resembling a response to this surge as Everard opened a sizeable gap before shutting it down slightly in the home straight to clock a time of 2:04.33.
If there were any doubts about the young 22 year old’s ability to compete at this level, they have been soundly shot down.
Our second athlete was Newbridge’s Rose Anne Galligan. Going in the final heat, the substitute teacher based in Cheltenham had the advantage of knowing exactly what would be required to make it through as a fastest loser.
As it turned out she didn’t even need to know. Iceland’s Anita Hinriksdotter cut out a suicidal early pace but the field did not go with her and Rose-Anne, displaying all the wisdom of an ancient sage, sat back, waiting to strike.
Hinriksdotter started to falter badly coming to the bell and Galligan simply powered her way to the front, taking complete control of proceedings. In the end she stopped the clock at 2:03.62, almost a personal best but looking like she has a lot more to offer in tomorrow’s semi-finals.
Extremely impressive performances from both as this fantastic day for Irish athletics continues.
Watch live coverage from European Indoor Athletics on RTÉ.ie all weekend. Highlights of Friday's action are at 8pm tonight on RTÉ Two and there is live coverage on Saturday from 3.25pm and on Sunday from 10.45am and 3.15pm.
Irish Athletes Schedule
1615 - Pole vault qualifying - Tori Pena
1640 - 800m (3 heats) - Ciara Everard, Rose Anne Galligan
1720 - 60m Hurdles - Derval O'Rourke runs in second s-final
1805 - 1500m (3 heats) - Claire Tarplee
1855 - 60m Hurdles (final) - Derval O'Rourke
1125 - 3000m (2 heats) - Fionnuala Britton
1235 - 60m (4 heats) - Amy Foster
1510 - Pole Vault Final - Tori Pena
1555 - 400m (2 semi finals) -
1630 - 800m (2 semi finals) - Ciara Everard, Rose Anne Galligan
1645 - 400m semi-final - Brian Gregan
1705 - 1500m final - Claire Tarplee
1710 - 3000m final - Ciaran O'Lionaird, John Travers, Stephen Scullion
1045 - 800m final - Ciara Everard, Rose Anne Galligan
1100 - 400m final - Brian Gregan
1110 - 3000m final - Fionnuala Britton
1530 - 60m (2 semi finals) - Amy Foster
1715 - 60m final - Amy Foster