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Ultra consistent Phil Healy has shown her versatility and resilience on the European stage since 2014

June 7th, 2024 6:30 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

Ultra consistent Phil Healy has shown her versatility and resilience on the European stage since 2014 Image
Phil Healy was in action in the women's 200m in Rome on Monday morning.

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PHIL Healy’s consistency and versatility is underappreciated. Because of her longevity, maybe we take the Ballineen Bullet’s trailblazing achievements for granted.

In the days ahead Phil will compete in her FIFTH consecutive European Athletics Championships. Since 2014, she has been selected on every Irish athletics team that has competed at the European outdoors, from 100m up to 400m and also in relay events.

‘We like to mix it up with the events,’ she quips. Phil has done it all.

‘It’s ten years since Phil’s first Europeans in Zurich,’ her coach Shane McCormack says, ‘and it’s great to see her still on the big stages, that’s where she belongs.’

Phil was 19 years old when she raced in Zurich at the 2014 Europeans in both the 100m individual and with the 4x100m women’s relay team that included Amy Foster, Kelly Proper and Sarah Lavin. Two years later West Cork’s fastest-ever woman competed with both the women’s 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams in Amsterdam; Phil’s older sister Joan was also on the 4x100 team.

The record-setting Irish women's relay team of Sophie Becker, Rhasidat Adeleke, Phil Healy and Sharlene Mawdsley celebrate qualifying for the Paris Olympics. Will we see this quartet in action together in Rome?

Fast forward to her busy 2018 Europeans in Berlin – Phil’s favourite of her four so far – where she qualified for semi-finals in both the 100m and 200m, and was also on the Irish women’s 4x100m team that set the Irish record of 43.80, and it still stands; Joan was on that team, too. With the 2020 Europeans cancelled because of Covid, Phil returned to the European stage in 2022, racing in the 400m and with the Irish women’s 4x400m relay team that set a national record (3:26.06) to qualify for the final. And now, 29 years old, she’s back at her fifth Europeans to compete in the women’s 200m and with the Olympic-qualified 4x400m relay team.

The backstory to her latest Europeans is an insight to Phil’s resilience. After her indoor season in 2022 she hit a wall. ‘Everything just crashed and burned,’ she admitted, a thyroid issue that’s now under control led to her struggles. It’s only this year that she has emerged the other side, still fighting and still performing on the big stages.

‘It would have been very easy to throw in the towel and she said herself she was close to it,’ Shane McCormack says, but he knows better than most that the Ballineen steel that runs through Phil is unbreakable.

Her sister Joan told this paper before: ‘There are strong streaks of stubbornness on both sides of our family and none of us have escaped it. Phil just won’t give up. Once she has a target – be it in athletics or with her academics or whatever it might be – she won’t stop until she achieves it.’ One of her targets is to become a two-time Olympian, and she has one foot on the flight to Paris having helped the Irish women’s 4x400m relay team qualify for the Games, and also set a national record of 3:24.38 at the World Relays in the Bahamas. That quartet of Healy, Rhasidat Adeleke, Sharlene Mawdsley and Sophie Becker is, if the stars align, a medal contender at the Europeans in Rome. The heats of the women’s 4x400m are on the Tuesday morning session, with the final on Wednesday night. It’s a wait-and-see approach as all four have individual events, too, while Adeleke and Mawdsley will be in action in the Irish mixed 4x400m relay team; there’s a straight final on Friday night. Kelly McGrory, Lauren Cadden and Cliodhna Manning (reserve) are also on the Irish women’s 4x400m relay squad, so there’s depth to the team.

Phil Healy in action in the women's 100m at the 2018 European Athletics Championships in Berlin.

Phil will be in action in the opening round of the women’s 200m on Monday morning, and she’s posted some fast times in recent weeks – 23.44 in Belfast and 23.43 in Norway. In the same meet in Norway Phil ran 37.04 in the 300m; that’s the fastest time ever by an Irish woman outdoors over this distance. That she posted that time just after running her season’s best in the 200m is encouraging.

‘The 200 is her happy event, it is the sweet spot for her,’ Shane McCormack says.

‘When her 200 is fast it gives her more speed reserve to come home at the end of the 400. It’s balancing that mix of 200 speed with 400 endurance.’

Phil’s mix of speed and endurance was key in her transition from 200m to 400m – and now she will balance both in Rome in the days ahead. A good outing at the Europeans will also help her bid to qualify for the 200m at the Olympics as she revs up for a busy few months. It’s what she knows and loves. That feeling of getting a bounce off a good indoor season. Setting a national record with the Irish women’s 4x400m relay team. Qualifying the team for the Olympics. Racing on the big international stages. And enjoying it all. This European’s marks ten years since her first in 2014, and there’s still more chapters to be written in Phil’s story.

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