McElhinney and Nicholson selected to represent Ireland at Europeans in Holland
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
DARRAGH McElhinney showed his class again as he raced to victory in the combined U18 and U20 men’s 6,000m at the Irish Life Health National Cross Country Championships held at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus in Abbotstown.
The talented Bantry AC athlete (18) won in 18:21, ahead of Sean O’Leary (Clonliffe Hariers) in second (18:27) and Jamie Battle (Mullingar Harriers) in third (18:33).
Last year, Darragh won his U18 category and finished sixth overall in the combined U18/U20 race, so he was delighted to take the top honours this time.
‘I was delighted, 50 per cent delighted and 50 per cent relieved,’ Darragh said.
‘I wanted to come up here and make sure I got the job done. To be fair, all the lads put up a good fight, especially early on, it was fast from the go. When I went, I was going at a good pace already so it was tough.’
One of the prizes on offer to the top finishers at last weekend’s national championship was a spot on the Irish team for the European Cross Country Championships that take place in the Dutch city of Tilburg on December 9th.
Darragh has been selected on the Ireland men’s U20 team while Bandon AC’s Laura Nicholson – the current West Cork Youth Sports Star of the Year – has been chosen on the women’s U20 team following her fourth place finish in the women’s U18 and U20 4,000m on Sunday. Laura won this event last year and was in medal contention right until the end.
‘It was the most dramatic race of my life,’ Laura explained.
‘Emma, who came second, and Sarah Healy, who won, they had pulled away from myself and Jodie McCann in the last 1500m. I pulled away from Jodie then, and around 600 metres from the end there is a muddy hill. I could see Emma in front of me and I pushed really hard up the hill and passed Emma out.
‘I went up the last hill and then halfway up the home straight, my legs were getting heavier and heavier. I felt I was wading through quicksand. I couldn’t move them. Halfway up that straight, Emma came past me again and I couldn’t respond to her.
‘I was metres from the finish line when my legs gave way under me. I couldn’t hold myself up anymore. My first instinct was to get up and get over the line. I got up but fell again. Then Jodie ran past me. I knew that probably the first four would qualify for the Europeans so I knew that I couldn’t come fifth. In the end, I managed to get over the line in fourth.’
That was enough to see Laura earn her place on the 39-strong Ireland team for the Europeans on Sunday week.
Stephanie Cotter of West Muskerry AC has also been selected on the Ireland U20 women’s team.