BY JOHN WALSHE
IT’S been quite a summer for young Glengarriff athlete Darragh McElhinney.
Back in June, he won the GloHealth All-Ireland Schools’ U16 one mile title, followed by a personal best 1500m at the Morton Games in Santry and then an exciting victory in the SIAB Home Countries International held in Kent.
And then, to cap it all, there was a complete surprise of a trip to the Rio Olympics where he acted as a training partner to pentathlete Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe.
It is very rarely that the English dominance is broken at the SIAB Home Countries International but it was a brilliant victory in the boys’ 1500m that gained for Darragh the Cork City Sports Award for the month of July. This is the second time he has received the prestigious award as he was also honoured for winning the SIAB junior cross-country race in March of last year.
Competing at Ashford in Kent, a slow race saw the 15-year-old from Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí cover the last 800m in under two minutes to win in a blanket finish.
‘I felt really fresh, all my races up to then had gone well and going into the race I knew if I got my tactics right there was a chance of a medal. With a lap to go I tried to keep the inside lane and at the finish there was very little between the four of us,’ said Darragh, who won in a time of 4:07.15.
Competing in the domestic schools’ competitions, Darragh won all three one mile races in times of 4:40.9 (South Munster), 4:26.08 (Munster) and 4:33.35 (All-Ireland). He finished second in a time of 3:57.15 for the 1500m at the junior race at the Cork City Sports and then went on to run a personal best of 3:54.50 at the Morton Games a few weeks later.
Darragh has been coached by Corkman Steven Macklin, now national endurance coach with Athletics Ireland, since last March and this connection led to the dream trip just over a month ago.
‘Steve is also involved with coaching Irish modern pentathlete Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe who was competing in Rio and the day that I finished my Junior Cert, Steve rang and said how would I feel about joining Arthur on his pre-training camp,’ Darragh explained.
‘At first I presumed it would be in Dublin and then he mentioned something about flights and it hit me that we were going to Brazil, so I was speechless. It was such a shock, but a massive experience, you were surrounded by people you were used to watching on television and people you admired, it was really cool.’
Darragh McElhinney was accompanied at the function in the River Lee hotel by his parents, Tony and Breda, his brothers Callum, Iarla and Eoghan, along with his school friend Gerard Galvin.