BY KIERAN McCARTHY
DARRAGH McElhinney has never been tempted to take any shortcuts in his route to the top.
If he loaded more mileage into his legs in his teens, perhaps his record times would have been even more impressive than they already were – but that would not have been a sustainable model.
Instead, the Glengarriff athlete focussed on ‘hard and honest training’, and the results have been remarkable.
He is now one of Ireland’s top middle distance athletes, who has won THREE national senior titles in 2022 – indoor 3000m, outdoor 5000m and men’s senior cross-country. He has also set six new PBs this year.
Darragh’s plan and approach is paying off, and he hopes to add to his memorable year at the European Cross-Country Championships on the outskirts of Turin this Sunday, 11th, when he runs in the men’s U23 race.
‘In the last 12 to 18 months, it has definitely clicked a bit more,’ the 22-year-old told The Southern Star.
‘Coming out of junior into senior is something I was always conscious of, and I had every belief that I could make the step up.
‘There have been so many great juniors that don’t make the step up, and it would be in your mind, but for years my training was geared to make sure I do transition into a senior.
‘You can definitely take short cuts. If I did the mileage and hours that I do now when I was 16 or 17 years old, I would have ran unbelievably well and quicker than what I did, but that’s not sustainable.
‘I have always trained to a point where it’s hard and honest training, but something that I can always build on.
‘In this block, for the first time ever I hit 100 miles per week whereas when I was 16 or 17 years old you were hitting 55 or 60 miles a week. We didn’t plan for short-term success, but the way it has worked out is that my body has become adapted to decent mileage and I am quite durable, and that allows me to be consistent, and then successful.’
His progression and development is a joy to watch, as he learns and matures. Take the recent senior national cross-country championships in Donegal. In 2021 Darragh finished second behind Hiko Tonosa Haso, but 12 months on, it was the West Cork man who showed his class with a well-timed injection of pace inside the final few hundred metres to win senior gold. Perhaps that’s an omen for the Europeans this Sunday?
Last year Darragh won a sensational silver medal in the men’s U23 race, one of his greatest-ever runs, to finish just behind Great Britain’s Charles Hicks. One year on, they’ll battle again, with Darragh keen to show he’s a better all-round athlete than last year. 2021 bronze medallist Ruben Querinjean from Luxembourg will be in the mix, too.
This is Darragh’s last-ever U23 race, and he wants to bow out on a high.
Hopefully his hard work pays off on the big stage.