BY JOHN WALSHE
JUST returned from a month-long altitude training stint in Kenya, there was another high for Bantry athlete Darragh McElhinney on Friday last when he was named as the Cork City Sports Athletics Person of the Year for 2019.
Darragh was one of the 12 winners for the year having received the May award for his performance in Belgium that month when he ran a personal best of 13:54.10 for 5000m.
Of course, later in the summer he won bronze for Ireland in the 5000m at the European U20 Championships in Sweden when finishing behind Aslanhan Ayetullah of Turkey and Aaron La Heras of Spain.
‘It’s great to win this award as ever since I came into running around 2016 I’ve been nominated and considering the high standard of athletics in Cork I’m honoured now to receive it,’ Darragh told the large and distinguished attendance at the River Lee Hotel.
Looking back on the year just gone, the 19-year-old admitted it had been one of many highlights.
‘It was brilliant, especially the first six or seven months which were really a roller coaster. Breaking the national U20 records for the 5000m indoors and outdoors along with the 3000m and then obviously to cap it off with the European bronze, I ticked off all the boxes.
‘I didn’t really change anything drastically, I’m based now in UCD and there’s a good set-up there.
I’ve stepped up the training a notch and am up to 70 to 75 miles a week. That’s twice a day four times a week and once on the other two days. I have one day a week off and also do two or three gym sessions a week. I think I’ve found my sweet spot in that I’m doing enough to keep me tired at the end of the week without getting injured.’
Paying tribute to the support of his family and coach Emmett Dunleavy, the Glengarriff athlete said the year ahead is slightly different in that there’s no major championship to aim for.
‘This year is mostly about self-improvement in terms of personal bests. Last year I took big chunks off of all of them, after running 13:54 for 5000m I hope to get that down to sub-13:45 and hopefully pick up a medal at both the senior indoors and outdoors.’
And true to his word, on Sunday last in a closely-run race at the Irish Life Health/National Senior Indoor Championships at Abbotstown, Darragh took bronze in the 3000m behind winner John Travers and runner-up Hiko Tonosa, his 8:06.18 not too far off of his personal outdoor best of 8:01.48.