Darragh McElhinney has described as "farcical" the situation which had him run in the 5000m B final at the European U23 Championships in Talinn on Saturday.
The Corkman travelled to the championships as one of Ireland's main hopes. His chances of a podium finish were dealt a severe blow when it was decided that the final would be split into two races. As he had not run a 5000m this season, the 20-year-old was placed in the much slower B race.
McElhinney went out hard, holding a substantial lead by the halfway point, as he ran on pace for a 13:50 race. Maintaining that pace on his own proved tough, and he began to fade with 1600m to go. He eventually finished ninth in the B final, running 14:25.38, well outside his personal best. The three medallists all came from the A final.
The Glengariff athlete's personal best of 13:54.10, which was set two years ago, would have seen him finish fifth in the A race.
Darragh McElhinney statement on Euro U23 Championships
"I'm not usually one to put up a long, wordy post about my career but I feel like the farcical happenings of the last week or so deserve a public explanation to people who support me and follow my progress," McElhinney wrote in a post on Instagram.
"Any hopes I had of winning a medal at this year's U23 European Championships were essentially decimated when European Athletics decided to split the European Championships into an A and B seeded race for the first time ever due to numbers.
"The seeding process shot me in the foot as the only criteria it looked at was [your] 5000m season's best. In order to prepare myself best for this championships, I did not run a 5000m earlier in the season instead focusing on the 1500m and 3000m to improve my speed and better me as an athlete generally.
"Despite running the fastest 3000m by a European u23 in 2021, I was deemed not good enough for the A race and had to run in the B.
"They also decided to ignore the fact that I am a European u20 medalist in the 5000m from two years ago. Instead, they literally decided to seed me last in the competition.
"The pain of watching the A race, stacked with my competitors running the race that I have been preparing for two years was heart wrenching as I was forced to be sidelined for a reason I really did not see as fair.
"This year has been incredibly difficult, after being essentially ruled out of the two races I aimed for, both for petty reasons.
"Firstly, a false positive COVID test in March which ruled me out of the European Indoor Senior Championships, and now this decision to exclude me from the U23 championships A race.
"I'm aware this post will probably make me receive some negative attention as people will feel that they could only judge me on what I've done over 5000m rather than 3000m, but the fact of the matter is that even my 5000m Personal Best which I ran over 2 years ago as an 18 year old junior is faster than athletes who were admitted into the A race, and I've progressed exponentially as an athlete since then.
"I feel I have been done a pretty significant disservice."
David Kenny from Kerry won Ireland's only medal at this year's championships, a silver in the 20k walk.
Photo by Marko Mumm/Sportsfile