Women’s team lead record medal haul for Ireland at European Cross-Countrys

Twins Eilish and Roisin Flanagan run identical times to set up podium finish, while Nick Griggs is cruelly denied in junior men

It takes something special to win a medal against the odds and Eilish and Roisin Flanagan provided exactly that. The identical twin sisters from Tyrone clocked identical times at the European Cross-Country Championships in Turin, with that bringing home bronze medals for the Irish senior women’s team.

It also wrapped up a record Irish medal haul at the 28th running of the event, five in all, including a brilliant individual silver and bronze for Nick Griggs and Dean Casey in the junior men, the first race of day, which also earned them a silver medal in the team race.

Griggs, also from Tyrone, had the gold medal in his grasp in that race, only to be overtaken on the line by Britain’s Will Barnicoat, a slight stumble out of sheer exhaustion costing Griggs the gold.

It was that kind of day at Piemonte-La Mandria Park, just northwest of Turin; nothing was easily won. The Irish men’s Under-23 had big ambitions to repeat their gold medal performance in Dublin last year, only to finish third on this occasion.


For the Flanagan sisters, aged 25, it was very much a family affair, as they ran together throughout, eventually nailing 11th and 12th spot in immediate succession, Eilish first, then Roisin, both clocked at 27:38 for the demanding 8km course.

With three to score, Mary Mulhare was next best of the Irish in 27th, the team total of 50 points five clear of Spain, with Germany the convincing winners on just nine points, Great Britain winning silver with 30 points.

“Being at Euro cross, there’s such a great team atmosphere,” said Eilish. “The boys [junior men] really got the ball rolling this morning, and I think we all just thrived off each other, were really running for the country.”

“Yeah, you’re running for something bigger than yourself,” added Roisin, both sisters also part of the Irish women’s Under-23 team that won silver medals in Lisbon in 2019, the previous best Irish showing when four medals were won on the day.

Now running with the Finn Valley Athletics Club in Donegal, the sisters are currently US based, running with Adams College in Colorado. Eilish, who ran the 3,000m steeplechase at the last year’s Tokyo Olympics, was only added to the Irish team last week after Ciara Mageean had to withdraw due to illness.

Letterkenny AC’s Ann-Marie McGlynn, at age 42 the oldest competitor in the women’s race, was the next best of the Irish women, nailing 31st in 28:40. Aoibhe Richardson was next in 46th, with Michelle Finn home in 55th, also getting to enjoy the medal podium.

Defending women’s champion Karoline Grovdal from Norway produced something special too in winning another individual gold, getting the better of Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen by four seconds, as Germany also finished third and fourth to secure that team title.

“The course was very fun to race, with many different parts to it, a proper cross-country race,” said Grovdal. “Being a two time cross-country champion feels extra good.”

With the historic Mandria Castle as a backdrop, fellow Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen once again showed his class when winning the senior men’s race, at age 22 only the third ever senior men’s back-to-back winner, his sixth successive individual title in all after claiming four Under-20 titles between 2016 and 2019.

Italy did win one senior medal when Gaia Sabbatini timed her anchor leg effort to perfection to win the mixed 4 x 1,500m relay, dashing past Rosalia Tarraga of Spain in the home straight, with Ireland back in ninth place.

In the women’s Under-20 race, Leevale’s Jane Buckley produced a fine run to finish fifth, before Sarah Healy was forced to withdraw from the Under-23 race with a foot injury, having been up with the leaders through the halfway mark.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics