"I'm not sure why we would apologise for being ambitious for the women" - Derval O'Rourke
Sonia O'Sullivan, Rob Heffernan and Derval O'Rourke all hold the Irish women's 400m relay team in high regard and that's why, after the team's sixth place finish in the European final, the trio couldn't hide their disappointment.
And it's also why they won't apologise for it.
The common denominator in the trio's post-race analysis on RTÉ was that the whole thing should have been managed better. Rob Heffernan said that Roisin Harrison, a sub on the team, should have ran in Thursday's semi-final. Sonia O'Sullivan said that Rhasidat Adeleke should have been given a break in the semi so, just like Femke Bol did for the winning Dutch team, she'd come in fresh for the final.
And Derval O'Rourke says that these women and this team are good enough to win a medal. And she says that that's what they should be aiming for.
"Statistically, everything will look really good with this," Heffernan began
"But it's only advantageous if we can bring these girls into run the relay. If Roisin Harrison had ran the first leg it could have saved one of the girls and that could be the difference.
"Genuinely, the other three girls, and even Rhasidat tonight, there is another half a second in most of them. So if we can get them to the final at their peak, they would be another couple of seconds up and closer to the podium. That's the performance reality of it. I wouldn't be going it's great, it's great - it's not because they can be better, 100%."
"3.26 is an awful long way off 3.21/3.22," added O'Rourke. The standard has moved on, I think we need to be more ambitious with the team, and I think we need more planning and more strategy going into it."
The Ireland 4x400m women's relay team of Sophie Becker, Phil Healy, Rhasidat Adeleke and Sharlene Mawdsley reflect on a sixth-place finish at the European Athletics Championships. pic.twitter.com/t9iWk8DHxZ
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) August 20, 2022
As it transpired, these comments were criticised in some sections of social media with Sinead Galvin, the founder of Gavlin Sports management - an agency that represents Phil Healy and Sophie Becker - taking to Twitter to voice her disapproval.
"For anyone new to the world of athletics the studio commentary might have thinking that was a poor performance & future is not bright but that 4x4 team but I can tell you that is #fakenews! 2x Irish record, 6th in Europe & best depth we ever had. I for one I’m excited," she said.
For anyone new to the world of athletics the @RTEsport studio commentary might have thinking that was a poor performance & future is not bright but that 4x4 team but I can tell you that is #fakenews! 2x Irish record, 6th in Europe & best depth we ever had. I for one I’m excited!
— Sinead Galvin (@GalvinSinead) August 20, 2022
Galvin wasn't the only one who was disappointed with the tone of the analysis and that's why, later on in the programme, host Peter Collins brought it up with his three pundits.
"3.26 is an awful long way off 3.21/3.22," responded O'Rourke.
"The standard has moved on, I think we need to be more ambitious with the team, and I think we need more planning and more strategy going into it.
"I'm not sure why we would apologise for being ambitious for the women, which is what we are."
"We want them to get to a level where they can realistically win medals, at European level and I think that's fair. There was a lot of medal talk about this team coming in here and I think they're good enough. It's all about raising the level, and I think ambition is not a bad thing. I think we have to push those standards because we're not here to be cheerleaders all the time."
"They've set the bar high," added O'Sullivan. "and if you've set the bar high, you have to set your goals higher."
"The issue I have is that if people are saying we have so much depth in 400m running, then why are the same four girls running in the heat and the final? It's the management of the squad.
"And we should be able to navigate that a lot better, if we do have great depth. Rhasidat Adeleke should come in as a bonus point in the final, we shouldn't need her to get to the final. That's what we should be aiming for."