JANE Buckley can’t wait for the biggest race of her life this Sunday.
The Newcestown teenager (18) will, for the first time, represent Ireland when she competes at the European Cross-Country Championships that will be held at Abbotstown.
Buckley took an automatic spot on the Ireland women’s U20 team for the event, and will be joined by another West Cork athlete, Glengarriff’s Darragh McElhinney who will lead the Ireland men’s U23 team in Dublin on Sunday.
While 21-year-old McElhinney has already built up sizeable experience in this particular championships, this will be Buckley’s first taste of an international competition – and she’s counting down the hours.
‘This will be the biggest race I’ve had and it will be my first time representing Ireland so I can’t wait,’ she says.
‘The race itself will be tough but I will use it, and the whole weekend, for the experience.’
The Newcestown teen, who runs for Leevale AC, is heading into the European Cross-Country on a high after a string of impressive performances. In October she won the junior women’s race at the Autumn Open Cross Country, which was ran on the same course at the Sport Ireland Campus in Abbotstown as this Sunday’s Europeans. Last month Buckley surged to more gold and glory when winning the U20 women’s 4,000m race at the Irish Life Health National Cross-Country Championships.
‘I’ve been happy with how the last few races have gone,’ Buckley says, as she puts GAA-mad Newcestown on the map for a different sporting reason.
‘There has been a great reaction in Newcestown, more than I thought there would be,’ she added. Meanwhile, Darragh McElhinney is hoping that familiarity with the course in Abbotstown will give him an advantage this Sunday as he targets a medal. At the recent National Cross-Country Championships, he finished second in the senior men’s 10,000m and took gold in the U23 men’s category. In October, McElhinney won gold in the men’s senior race at the Autumn Open Cross Country that was held on the same course as will host this Sunday’s Europeans.
‘What I really want to do on Sunday is get in amongst it as early as I can and stay there for as long as I can. Obviously, having home soil advantage is a big deal. Other countries would have got videos and info on the course but nothing beats having raced on it before and knowing the course,’ McElhinney told The Star Sport Podcast.
‘I remember two years ago when we went to Lisbon for the Europeans we were told that it was a nice, dry course with a few hills but, honestly, it was on the side of a mountain. Even things like that can mess with you because in your head you have prepared for something different.
‘I know Abbotstown so well, I have raced there loads of times, I have trained there a few times this year, so that, and the home crowd advantage, is definitely worth something.’