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World of Sport

05th Mar 2021

Longford leaving cert schools Europe’s finest with measured masterclass

Niall McIntyre

Cian McPhillips has gears and on the biggest stage of his career, the 18-year-old romped up through them.

In doing so, the Longford youngster left some of Europe’s most talented 800m runners in his wake as he qualified for his first major championship semi-final in his first major championship competition. How’s that for a fella who’s only sitting his Leaving Cert?

Toeing the outside lane in the second semi-final of the men’s 800m, McPhillips looked right at home from the gun in this ferociously stacked European indoor championship field.

There was pushing, shoving and plenty of jostling going on – standard procedure for indoor running – but McPhillips wisely stayed away from the messing and bided his bold bid to perfection.

Sitting in sixth place with only 300m to run, McPhillips made a purposeful and powerful burst before the bell which saw him leave three athletes for dead and from there, he never looked like fading.

He coasted home to take second and to book his place in Saturday’s final. There he will be joined by Letterkenny’s Mark English who despite losing his balance around the final bend, held his composure to take third place in his heat. Our third representative John Fitzsimons was just as gutsy in the third heat, but the Kildare man was narrowly edged out of the qualification spots. Joe Ryan – coach of Fitzsimons and McPhillips – will surely be pleased with the daring moves made by both of his athletes before the bell.

Elsewhere, Ireland’s fastest female Phil Healy qualified for the final of the 400m having won both her heat and her semi-final. The Cork athlete would now appear to be Ireland’s strongest medal hope at these championships.

In the men’s 1500m final, Andrew Coscoran and Paul Robinson acquitted themselves well to finish in seventh and ninth respectively, in a highly competitive field. Jakob Ingebrigtsen strung the whole field out with a blistering pace, and he kept it up to cross the line in first place. The Norwegian was subsequently disqualified for stepping out of his lane, however, with Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski taking the gold in controversial circumstances.