Enniskeane athlete Fiona Everard (right).
Talented Enniskeane athlete Fiona Everard enjoyed a very strong campaign throughout the 2017 athletics season. The West Cork athlete, who is a member of Bandon AC, recently helped the Ireland U20 ladies team finish a very credible seventh in Europe, following the European Cross Country Championships, which were held in Samorin, Slovakia. John Bohane catches up with the talented Enniskeane runner who appears to have a very bright future ahead of her.
Fiona Everard played a key role in helping the Ireland U20 team finished seventh out of 20 teams who participated. Competing at this level for the first time in her sporting career, Fiona was thrilled with their strong showing in Slovakia. She finished in 62nd place, but her courageous performance, along with the strong displays of her five teammates, catapulted them into a seven place finish. “I was delighted to make the Irish team for the Europeans because that was my main goal for this season. However I wasn’t overly happy with my performance at the championships. Because this was my first time competing at the European Championships, I didn’t know much about what to expect of myself in the race. I didn’t have a specific goal in relation to what position I wanted to finish. I just wanted to run hard and fast and see where my best would get me at European level. I didn’t perform to my best though, I definitely had more in me. I’d have been happy with the race if I knew I had given it my all. The experience however was incredible and there’s so much I’ll take and learn from which is very beneficial. It’s given me so much motivation to work harder and show what I can do.”
Fiona was thrilled to play her part in helping the Ireland ladies U20 team secure an impressive seventh place finish following a very competitive European Cross Country Championships held in blistering cold conditions in Samorin. She was delighted that she fulfilled her ambition of representing her country in competitive action at the prestigious European Championships. “The team did amazing, finishing seventh which was a great achievement. All of the girls worked really hard and the results show that. The race was fast from the start but the course was nice. Getting to this level of competition was amazing and something I’m really proud of. It’s my last year competing in the junior grade, so making the team was really important to me.”
The Bandon AC athlete was joined on the Ireland U20 team by her club colleague Laura Nicholson. Laura also produced a tremendous performance, which was greatly appreciated by her delighted club and international team-mate. Fiona is very confident their strong team showing in Slovakia indicates a bright future ahead for both her and her international team-mates. “The team did so well. Sophie Murphy finishing tenth overall is an incredible motivation and shows we are capable of finishing high up at this level. I was delighted my team mate Laura also made the team and her performance there was smashing. She’s still so young and showed she’s able to perform so well against some of the best athletes out there. She’s extremely talented and hard working and I can really see her going so far in this sport. I hope she does, she deserves it. It was really nice to have gone to these championships with Stephanie Cotter as well. We’ve been friends for ages from athletics so it was lovely to be able to go through this amazing experience with her.”
The determined West Cork sports star is eagerly looking forward to competing at the U23 grade in international athletics action. The Enniskeane athlete is hoping to produce another strong showing at the European Cross Country Championships. “I’m looking ahead to these championships. I’ll be competing in the U23 grade which is a step up, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I want to come back to these championships as a much better athlete. I hope to put in a much better performance and use my experience from this year’s championship to ensure I will finish much higher up.”
The ace athlete is proud and honoured to represent Bandon AC on the international athletics stage. Fiona, who took up running at the tender age of seven, is indebted to everyone within the athletics club who have played a prominent part in advancing her athletic career to date. “Bandon AC is a great club where everyone’s really encouraging. The coaches are brilliant and very supportive. Bandon AC has done so much for me, so it’s such an honour to be able to represent the club on the European stage. The continuous support shown by the club always amazes me. Getting to these championships was something my former coach Catherine Duggan wanted just as much, as I wanted it myself. We talked about these championships a lot together and I know she’d be so proud of myself and Laura for both making it. Catherine’s the reason why I’m still running and she’s the reason I love the sport so much. She had the ability to make every situation a positive one and always looked forward. So because of that I’m not going to dwell on my performance in Slovakia, but instead focus on improving ahead of my next competition. Tom Laffan also played a big part in my athletics career and brought me on a lot, along with the support from my family and Rose Uí Shúilleabháin.”
The West Cork athlete is currently studying Sport Rehabiliation and Athletic Therapy in Athlone IT. She is loving the course and is adapting seamlessly to mixing college life with her sporting goals and dreams. “I’m really enjoying it. I’m so passionate about athletics, which makes it easier to make sacrifices for it while still balancing everything. I don’t come home most weekends, so I do close to all of my training in Athlone. My coach Ronan Duggan sends me on my training and I do it by myself then. Training by myself can get a bit tough, I’d love a group to train with and be able to push myself with. Ronan has been great though and I trust his training a lot. He puts a lot of time into athletics and I’m getting on well with his training. The season isn’t over yet. I have Celtic internationals in early January. It’ll be my first U23 race so I’m excited to see how I’ll do. We’ll be running with the seniors so it’ll be tough but I’m looking forward to the experience and giving it my best.”
The ambitious Enniskeane native has very specific goals she hopes to achieve in both the immediate and long-term future as she strives to make her mark both on the domestic and international front. “The Intervarsity Cross Country Championships will be held in March. I’ve always wanted to run these championships so getting on well in these is my short-term goal. This summer, I want to focus on getting my track times down as low as possible and I’d hope to qualify for the U23 European Championships the following summer. “