A never-say-die attitude paid off for Olympic hopeful Aileen Morrison in taking second place in the first ITU European Cup of the season in Quarteira, Portugal, on Saturday.

Morrison exited the 1,500m swim in 11th position, just 24 seconds down on the leaders.

“I got really beat up in the swim and a few girls just caught a wave into shore ahead of me.” Morrison said.

The narrow advantage from the swim was enough to make the task a whole lot more difficult for Ireland’s top triathlete. The lead group of five made their slim advantage stick and worked well to grow it over the 40km bike leg.

Morrison worked hard on the front of a three woman chase pack to limit the damage, however, they were eventually joined by a further 20 athletes from a third chase pack.

Entering T2 they were almost a minute down on the five ahead, meaning a podium finish looked almost impossible.

A slick 30 second transition from bike to run, the fastest of the day, meant the Derry native led the charge out of transition.

Triathlon Ireland assistant coach Elena Maslova was impressed with Morrison’s run form.

“When Aileen exited T2 you knew she only had one thing on her mind. She covered the first few kilometers incredibly fast and moved from seventh up to third by the 2.5km mark.”

Morrison continued her charge, picking off Peon of France in the process, to snatch second place and build excitement about her prospects for the season ahead.

“I’m really pleased with how Aileen turned it around. The swim was very physical and she got a little bit beaten up so to bike hard in the chase pack and pull out a 35 minute 10k at the end of it all is very impressive.” commented Triathlon Ireland high performance director Chris Jones.

Ainhoa Murua of Spain held on to win, 27 seconds ahead of Morrison, with Carole Peon of France in third a further 16 seconds back.

Sunday 1 April sees the Triathlon Ireland junior aquad make their first international appearance of the season, where they will look to emulate Morrison’s performance.