HIS senior international championship debut didn’t work out as he had planned, but Darragh McElhinney has vowed to come back stronger.
The 21-year-old Glengarriff athlete was disappointed with his ninth-place finish in his men’s 3000m heat at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, admitting afterwards that he felt ‘flat’ during the race.
He had been in top form ahead of his first major senior championship, setting indoor PBs in both the 3000m (7:45.9) and 1500m (3:39.63), both Irish U23 records too, but his plan to qualify for the world final came unstuck against experienced athletes who made their moves at the right time.
By the end, McElhinney’s 8:06.31 was well outside his PB set last month, as Olympians Marc Scott and Daniel Simiu Ebenyo were the first two home, followed by 2021 European indoor silver medallist Isaac Kimeli; that was the company the West Cork runner was in last weekend.
‘It just started hurting a bit earlier than I would have liked,’ McElhinney admitted afterwards. ‘With eight laps to go, I knew I needed to put myself into contention but – and I will reassess after – I think a lot of it might have been not being mentally ready for, that if I did get into that top two or three, lads coming by me and trying to go again.
‘The last few laps were fairly horrible. It’s not the performance that I wanted to give. It was my first senior championship and I’ll take the experience from it, but overall I know I can beat a lot of those guys. I just felt flat. It’s disappointing.’
Given the impressive times he has run in this indoor season, his undoubted ability and that he is also a greenhorn at senior level in terms of championship experience (his recent men’s 3000m triumph at the Irish indoors was his first senior indoor title), McElhinney’s trending upwards.
The experience, however uncomfortable, garnered at these World Indoors will make him stronger too. Only minutes after the race, and coming to grips with his disappointment, he was already looking to the future.
‘When I’m looking at a lot of those guys who were ahead of me, a lot of it is the experience they’ve had over the years. A lot of those guys are 25 and 26, and maybe it came down to that a small bit, that I don’t have as much experience,’ he said, before adding, ‘The next time I come out here, I am not going to put a performance out like that.’