THESE are busy times for Fionn Harrington who is making a habit out of running fast times.
The talented Bandon AC athlete discovered on Monday that he has been selected on the Athletics Ireland team that will travel to the European U20 Championships in Talinn, Estonia later this month (15th – 18th).
He had run the qualifying standards for both the 3km and 5km, and has been picked to race in the 3000m.
Then, on August 5th, the Bandon teenager (18) will fly out to the States to start his four-year athletics scholarship with the University of Central Arkansas.
Exciting times for the former St Brogan’s College student who completed his Leaving Cert exams last month.
‘I can’t wait to get over to the university and start training with them,’ Harrington says.
‘This is a huge opportunity for me and my main target is to make the most out of this. I’ll get to train in a top-class environment and as a student-athlete so I’ll be in a set-up where it’s designed to help you develop and improve. I’ll be studying for a degree, too, and that’s important because you need that safety net just in case.’
A surprise WhatsApp message from Grey Howard, a coach at the University of Central Arkansas, who had heard of Harrington’s growing reputation here at home, kicked off a chain of events that saw the Bandon athlete offered a scholarship.
‘I was listening to music while foam-rolling when I got a WhatsApp from the coach saying he had heard about me from another coach,’ Harrington explains.
‘We were back and forth in contact for a couple of weeks, and then I was offered a scholarship.’
Before he leaves West Cork shores, he will compete at the European U20s and hope to continue his blistering form of late that won’t have gone unnoticed in Arkansas.
Trained by his first cousin Ronan Duggan – son of the late Catherine Duggan who left a lasting legacy with Bandon AC – Harrington has been in flying form in recent weeks. There was his 4:16.23 one-mile victory at the MTU Track Night in Bishopstown. Before that he ran a 5000m PB of 14:31.19 (inside the European U20 qualifying standard) to win the ‘B’ race at the Belfast Milers Meeting.
Then at the AAI Games in Santry, Harrington ran 8:22.00 in the 3000m, again inside the European U20 qualifying standard. He followed that up with gold in the junior men’s 3000m steeplechase title (9:23.83) at the recent Irish Life Health Junior & U23 Championships. Last weekend, he was in action at the senior national championships where he finished an excellent sixth in the men’s 3000m steeplechase. All those performances highlight his potential and talent, so it’s easy to understand why the University of Central Arkansas came calling.
‘I’m more suited to long-distance running. I like the steeplechase and the 5k, they seem to suit me. The longer, the better. Definitely in the future I could see myself going for the 10k,’ Harrington explains.
He has an engine on him and could run all day. When he played GAA with Bandon, his stamina stood out. Now he is making the most of his talents, helped by his coach.
‘Ronan has been brilliant and has really helped me find my feet and improve. He’s a great coach. Athletics is in our family,’ he says.
‘I wasn’t expecting to get a scholarship to America, to be honest, because I haven’t raced that much in the past 18 months due to Covid. We know there are big things to come and training has gone very well. The times I am running now are the times we hoped I’d be running in December and January so we’re right back where we want to be.’
With great support at home from his mom Denise and brothers, Ruairi, Fiachra and Daire, Fionn is right on track for a big career, as the Bandon AC conveyor belt continues to produce top-class athletes. Harrington, Nicola Tuthill, Lauren McCourt, they’re all part of the new wave of talented teens who will keep West Cork athletics on the map for years to come.