Ireland win first European gold since 1998

Ireland secured a first European Athletics Championships gold medal since 1998 as their 4x400m mixed relay team clinched a sensational victory in Rome.

The Irish quartet of Chris O'Donnell, Rhasidat Adeleke, Thomas Barr and Sharlene Mawdsley finished 0.77 seconds ahead of Italy with the fancied Netherlands team led by Femke Bol having to settle for bronze.

Bol was left with too much to do in the final leg as the Dutch finished 0.81 seconds behind an Irish quartet that took 1.61 seconds off the national record set when they finished third behind the USA and the Netherlands at last month's World Relays in the Bahamas.

Mawdsley's split time of 49.40 seconds was 0.13 seconds quicker than Adeleke's with O'Donnell clocking 46.09 and 400m hurdler Barr producing a superb leg of 44.90.

After O'Donnell's steady opening leg, Olympic Games medal hopeful Adeleke got the Irish into serious contention as she outpaced Bol's highly-rated team-mate Lieke Klaver.

Barr ran brilliantly to keep alive Ireland's gold medal hopes as anchor leg runner Mawdsley took the baton in second place behind Belgium.

The Tipperary woman moved into the lead with just over 100 metres left before powering clear to cross the line in three minutes 9.92 seconds.

Legendary distance runner Sonia O'Sullivan was the only Irish athlete to have previously lifted European gold after achieving the 5,000m and 10,000m double in 1998 having won the 3,000m title four years earlier.

Earlier, Ciara Mageean got the championships off to a successful start for the Irish as she comfortably qualified for the women's 1500m final.

The Portaferry runner finished third in her heat in 4:06.81, behind Great Britain's Jemma Reekie (4:06.68) and Italy's Ludovica Cavalli (4:06.76).

The 32-year-old is strongly fancied to win gold in Sunday's final after taking silver behind Great Britain's Laura Muir at the 2022 European Championships in Munich.

"I wanted to stay out of trouble", said Mageean.

"I saw when I was walking through that one of the girls fell in the second heat - that's your biggest risk, that you'll get caught up in something."

Dubliner Sarah Healy also secured her place in the 1500m final, clocking 4:12.30 to finish fourth in her heat.

Ciara Mageean runs in her heat on Friday morning
Mageean is a strong contender to take gold in the women's 1500m [Getty Images]

Letterkenny athlete Mark English's hopes of a fifth European 800m medal ended, however, after he finished fifth in his heat in 1:46.73.

Israel Olatunde progressed to Saturday evening's 100m semi-finals as he finished third in his heat in a season's best of 10.31 seconds.

The Dubliner has struggled for form since finishing sixth at the last European Championships in a national record of 10.17 seconds but Friday's performance should give him encouragement.

Elsewhere, Michelle Finn's championships ended as she finished 14th in her 3,000m steeplechase heat in 9:46.93.