European Championships Podium

Gold for Kilrehill and Battle as DCU athletes shine at European Championships

By Rory Cassidy, DCU Athletics PRO

DCU students Keelan Kilrehill and Jamie Battle delivered the performances of their lives to win gold for Ireland as part of the U23 team in the European Cross-Country Championships.

Ireland were tipped to do well in the U23 Men’s race – but few had predicted they would win gold at the sold-out Championships at the National Sports Campus in Abbottstown in Dublin.

Kilrehill and Battle’s stunning performances capped off a great day of performances from the six DCU students taking part in the Championships.

'What a day for Irish Sport, Irish Athletics and DCU Athletics,’ said Paul Byrne, Head of DCU Athletics.

‘I'm delighted for our medalists Jamie Battle, Keelan Kilrehill and Cathal O’Reilly and to be bringing three European Medals back to DCU is something truly special and unprecedented. 

‘I'm equally proud of Andrew Coscoran, Aoife O’Cuill and Jodie McCann as they represented DCU and Ireland with huge pride getting to experience an amazing atmosphere and home crowd support as they went around the Abbotstown course. 

‘I'm really looking forward to seeing what they can achieve in 2022 as the attention switches to Indoors and Intervarsity Indoors Champs on January 29th where we'll have full strength DCU teams competing against the best Universities in Ireland,’ he added.

Reacting to the success of the team, President of DCU, Prof Daire Keogh said:

“Our DCU athletes have made all of us very proud with these medal-winning performances in competition with the best of European talent. I want to congratulate Jamie, Keelan, Cathal, Andrew, Aoife and Jodie on representing their country and their university with great distinction. I am delighted to see how DCU Athletics continues to go from strength to strength, thanks to the talent of our student athletes and the leadership of Paul Byrne and our coaching team.” 

The U23 Men’s team were led home by Darragh McElhinney (UCD AC) who finished in a superb second place but focus from a DCU perspective was firmly on the action behind him.

Kilrehill started the race modestly enough but was never too far out of the leaders’ sights. With two laps to go he began to move further up the field and was well positioned alongside Irish teammate Michael Power (West Waterford AC) with a lap to go.

He continued to push on and looked strong all the way to the line. Roared on by the 8,000-10,000 Irish spectators, Kilrehill finished a remarkable sixth.

To top the performance off it marks an incredible comeback by the Sligo final year EPL student.

In 2015, following a serious bicycle accident, Kilrehill was left confined to a wheelchair, having suffered a broken back and fractured neck. At the time doctors told him that he may never run again. Just six years on, he produced an inspirational performance at the Championships.

Jamie Battle also had an excellent run. Despite having only been called up to the team as a late addition during the week he was well prepared. Battle crossed the line in 44th, the fifth Irish athlete to finish.

Another athlete who returns to DCU with silverware is Cathal O’Reilly. O’Reilly was also a late addition to the team and was called up to the Irish U20 team during the week. He finished in a strong 77th in the 6000m race and won a silver medal as his teammates led home by Abdel Laadjel also had excellent runs.

Andrew Coscoran ran the final leg for the Irish Mixed 4x1500m relay team. Coscoran had a strong run but missed out on a medal by the finest of margins finishing in the same time as the bronze medal winning Belgium team, but ultimately just behind. Despite not medalling, Coscoran has had a superb year the highlight of which was qualifying for an Olympic semi-final.

In the U23 Women’s race DCU were represented by Aoife O’Cuill and Jodie McCann. O’Cuill was the 3rd Irish athlete to cross the line, in 32nd position, while McCann finished in 49th. Both athletes can be proud to have achieved yet another Irish singlet at a major.

Five DCU Alumni were also in action. In the U23 Women’s race Lauren Tinkler finished in 46th.

Three former students were in action in the Senior Men’s race. Brian Fay became only the sixth Irishman to achieve a top ten finish at the European Cross-Country Championships, finishing in 10th. Last year’s DCU Athletics Men’s Captain, Cormac Dalton, came 28th, with Emmett Jennings finishing 44th. Fay and Dalton were scorers on the Irish team who finished fourth, just missing out on a medal.

Fionnuala McCormack competed in her 17th European Cross-Country Championships, a week after running the second fastest marathon by an Irish woman in history in Valencia. It was another exceptional performance by McCormack who crossed the line in ninth, leading the Irish women’s team home.

DCU Head Endurance Coach, Joe Ryan, managed the Irish U20 team that featured the aforementioned Cathal O’Reilly to silver and is also coach to European champion Jamie Battle and Aoife O’Cuill.