DARRAGH McElhinney plans to use next month’s European Athletics Championships as a stepping stone to future success.
The 21-year-old Glengarriff athlete will compete in the men’s 5000m at the championships in Munich – but he is keeping his expectations grounded.
McElhinney points to the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade earlier this year, his first major senior championships, as an eye-opener. He finished ninth in his men’s 3000m heat and didn’t qualify for the final.
‘It was a fairly rude awakening,’ he admits.
‘It showed me how much work I have to do to be competitive with those lads.
‘As much as anything, going to the Europeans I hope that I have bridged that gap some bit anyway. More so it’s a case of getting a senior championship under my belt again so hopefully when I go back next year and the year after and the year after, that I am getting closer to the top every year. Then when I am in my prime – 25, 26 years of age – hopefully I can win medals.’
McElhinney is a competitor. He won’t travel to Germany to make up the numbers. He ran a new 5000m PB (13:17.17) in Belgium at the end of May. There was also a 1500m PB (3:37.72) in Copenhagen last month, followed by his 5000m win at the national championships. His 5000m PB puts him 13th fastest in Europe this year.
‘The way it is shaping up I still think I can be competitive in that race,’ he says.
‘I am not way down the list by any means, but at the same time you are talking about all the best guys in Europe, like Mark Scott and Jacob Ingebrigtsen, and those.
‘It’s a case of getting as close to them as I can, putting in a good performance, using it as a stepping stone to future championships and taking the learnings on board.’
He added: ‘I am that awkward age where I am still U23 but there are no U23 championships this summer so a senior championship is the only one for me.’
The West Cork man, who was in action at the Cork City Sports on Tuesday night, will now head off on a high altitude training camp until the end of July, as preparations step up ahead of his first senior Europeans.