Breakout year for teenage ace Darragh McElhinney

John Sport2

Posted on: 6th February, 2017

Category: Sport & Fitness

Contributor: John Bohane

Glengarriff athlete Darragh McElhinney enjoyed a breakout year during 2016. The West Cork sports star broke a series of personal bests and even enjoyed a training camp in Rio during the Olympic Games with modern pentathlete Arthur Lanigan O’Keefe. John Bohane catches with the teenage ace destined for a very bright athletics career.

Darragh distinguished himself at all sporting levels last year. He finished the year on a real high, as he ran a superb race, which propelled the Ireland U20 mens team into sixth place overall at the European Cross-Country Championships which were held in Chia, Italy, in December 2016. The ace athlete was thrilled with the teams performance. “It was a great way to finish off the year and athletic season for me. It was a brilliant experience and honour to participate in such a prestigious event. I was delighted to play my part in helping the team finish sixth, which was a very positive result. Euro Cross is a massive event and I was delighted to be a part of it.”

Despite his relatively tender age of 16 years, Darragh showed maturity beyond his years with an accomplished performance at the U20 European Championships in Chia. Darragh, who was the youngest member of the Ireland team, finished the third fastest Irish man at the prestigious team event. This performance ultimately played a key role in Ireland finishing sixth overall. Darragh was delighted with his individual display. “I was delighted with how the championships went. It was a great honour to be selected initially. It was a great moment to be asked to represent Ireland at such a big championship event. The championships attract all the up and coming young talent throughout Europe. It is great to test yourself against them. It is such a high standard race and for Ireland to come sixth was a great achievement. To put that final result in context, we came ahead of massive nations such as Germany, which is a great achievement. We all performed very well and worked well as a team. Being third scorer was a real bonus for me on a personal level also. It was great to play my part in our strong performance.”

Prior to the European Championships, Darragh had further demonstrated his growing potential with a superb individual performance in the Lotto Cross Cup, which was held in Belgium. Darragh claimed a silver medal following a typically devastating performance. The Glengarriff athlete loves wearing the green singlet and representing his country as he revealed. “It is always a great honour to represent my country in competitive action. It is a privilege to wear the green singlet. I’ve had the chance to represent Ireland a few times now and it means the same if not more every time. It is a proud moment, both for me and my family when I represent Team Ireland in a competitive event.”

Darragh, who is a Transition Year pupil at Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai, enjoyed a superb season during the past year. He broke a plethora of personal bests, following a series of sensational performances both domestically and internationally. He won a number of individual races, including All-Ireland glory. He was also crowned Cork City Sports Athlete of the Month in July of last year. Darragh reflects with great pride on his breakthrough season. “I was delighted with my progress last year. It was a great year. I achieved a lot of my goals. I exceeded a lot of my expectations also. I was delighted with the way it went. I enjoyed a lot of great results during 2016 and long may it continue into this season. I am determined to keep working hard to keep progressing with my athletic career.”

The undoubted highlight occurred for Darragh midway through 2016, when he received the invitation to join modern pentathlete Arthur Lanigan O’Keeffe at his Rio training camp ahead of the Olympic Games. Darragh relished his time at the training camp prior to the Olympics. “Going to the Olympic training camp with Arthur Lanigan O’Keefe was definitely the highlight of my year. It was a great experience. It was great to sample what life as a professional athlete is really like. I picked up a lot of tips which I hope to use throughout my career. Brazil was an unreal experience from start to finish and I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to train with Arthur. I learned loads from Arthur and we got on really well. We still keep in touch and it feels really cool to be that close to a Olympian.”

The West Cork sportstar was recognised for his athletic brilliance when he captured the Cork City Sports Athlete of the Month. Darragh was delighted to capture this prestigious award. “I was delighted to win this significant award last year. It meant a lot to me. It was a great feeling to win this award as you are competing against some top quality athletes from throughout the county.”

Darragh has resumed intense training once again since the turn of the new year. The dedicated teenager is targetting another strong athletic season. His immediate focus is the All-Ireland Schools Cross-Country Championships, which will be held in March as he elaborated. “I’m training hard at the moment preparing for the start of the Schools Cross-Country and the track season. It is important to put in the hard work if I am to achieve my dreams and goals this season. My next focus is the All-Ireland Schools Cross Country Championships in March.”

The dedicated athlete follows an intense training regime as he revealed his regular training schedule, which he maintains throughout the season. “I’d train six times a week at the moment. This is an important time of the year when you build up your fitness levels, which will stand to you as the season progresses. I train in Glengarriff Woods four or five times a week and in Cork once a week. I follow a strict training programme which will hopefully serve me well this year.”

Darragh normally trains on his own in the picturesque Glengarriff Woods, while he joins forces with a group for the training sessions in Cork. Darragh doesn’t mind the relative solitude nature and often intense discipline levels required to become a successful athlete. “I don’t mind training on my own at home. I am used to it by now. I just get my head down, train hard and concentrate on completing a good training session. When I go to Cork, I train with my training group who are great. I have the best of both worlds at present. It seems to be working well for me at the moment.”

As well as excelling at athletics, Darragh is also a very distinguished soccer player and Gaelic footballer with his beloved Glengarriff GAA team. Due to his athletic success, Darragh has given up all sports to pursue athletics as he intends to realise his full potential as an athlete. “I’ve given up everything slowly but surely to concentrate on running. I started running initially because of the GAA and because a few of my friends were doing it. I liked it straightway I think because I was good at it and I quiet liked the idea of pursuing an individual sport. I am glad I took athletics up.”

Darragh is indebted to his family and friends for the support and encouragement they have given him down through the years. The talented teenage star is very grateful for the role they have played in his athletic development as he revealed. “I wouldn’t be where I am today only for the guidance and encouragement I have constantly received from my parents, Godmother, coach, training group and friends. Their support is greatly appreciated. They are always there for me and it means a lot to me.”

Darragh is a very focused and driven individual. He has a series of goals and ambitions he hopes to accomplish over the coming years as he elaborated. “Id like to qualify for the European U20 Track and Field

Championships which will be held in Italy this summer. From a longterm perspective, I will do what I can to work towards qualifying for major European and World senior championships. Of course the ultimate goal of any athlete is to qualify for the Olympics. I will continue to work hard to achieve my goals.”

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