2021 European Cross Country

12th December, 2021, Abbotstown, Dublin

Cathal O’Rielly part of Irish team that gets the silver medal.

It was an exciting day at the European Cross Country Championships as Kilkenny’s Cathal O’Rielly stood on the podium with his Irish team mates and received their silver team medal. Just one-point shy of the team gold, which was won by Great Britain. The KCH athlete finished a very creditable 77th place and he still has one more year left in this age group. Finishing 6th in the National Championships three weeks ago, he saw his selection chances dashed as only the top 5 athletes were chosen to be part of the team, with USA based Abdel Laadjel being chosen as the 6th member. Then late last Saturday night, a week before the competition, he received a phone call from athletics Ireland to inform him he was now going to be part of the Irish team as European 1,500m gold medalist Cian McPhillips was out due to injury. A delighted Cathal cancelled his plans to take part in the All-Ireland u19 championships and knuckled down to European Cross Country preparation. Showing his medal to some of St Senans athletes who had come up to see him race his delight was evident. “To think a week ago I was not even going to be in this race and now I have a silver European medal” he said. There were several athletes and supporters from the county who travelled to Dublin to see the action and all could be heard yelling support to the Castlecomer native. The individual gold medal went to Axel Vang Christensen of Denmark displayed some brilliant front running winning by over 25 seconds from Abdullahi Dahir Rabi of Norway with fellow Dane Joel Ibler Lilleso taking bronze.

Abdel Laadjel was the first of the Irish team home as he finished in an excellent 6th place. The providence college based athlete, was up with the leaders for the entire race. Joining him for much of the race was teenage sensation Nick Griggs of Tyrone and Dean Casey (Ennis AC). It was evident from the tight running from these athletes that Ireland was going to finish in the medals. Only the colour had to be decided. Unfortunately, Griggs experienced considerable stomach cramps with 2km to go and had to ease back a little resulting in a 16th place finish with Casey finishing three places ahead in 13th.

Another Kilkenny athlete to take part was Aoibhe Richardson (KCH). Aoibhe is no stranger to European Cross Country appearances. She was fist selected for a European Cross Country team when she was u23. Then two years ago she made her senior debut in Lisbon. Finishing in 17th place on that day, she was part of the silver medal winning Irish team. Two years on, she is delighted to be part of the team and competing in Dublin. Although she did not have her ideal preparation, she was 3rd Irish lady home and finished 23rd. This is an incredible performance from Aoibhe as she had sustained a serious hip injury just before the NCAA track finals. With just three month’s preparation under her belt, to qualify in itself was an achievement. “The aim was to qualify, just get on the team. I am getting fitter and those three weeks between the nationals and the Euro cross were important to me for further fitness” she said. The Irish team were unfortunately not to make the medals and finished in 4th place in the team section with Great Britian taking the gold and Germany and Sweden taking the silver and bronze respectively.

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