BRILLIANT Cork athlete Darragh McElhinney returned home to a hero’s welcome in his beloved Glengarriff following his brilliant display at the recent European U20 Championships which were held in Boras, Sweden.
The West Cork sports star produced a brilliant display which enabled him to capture a bronze medal at the prestigious European Championships.
He became the first Irish athlete in 28 years to capture a long-distance medal at the U20 European Championships and the third overall in the 5,000m.
“I was initially disappointed with the result, as I felt I was capable of claiming a bronze medal and maybe even a first- or second-place finish.
“However, looking back and reflecting back on the race in the following days, winning a bronze medal at the European U20 Championships is a great achievement. It was a very proud moment.”
Darragh concluded the 5,000m race in a final time of 14:06:05. His Spanish counterpart claimed the gold medal by a mere four seconds.
“In such a huge race, it is all about where you finish at the end. The times are not that important. Having said that, there was a good pace to the race. The two closing laps were particularly fast.
“I was pleased with my display and race on the day. It wasn’t good enough for a better finish, but I was happy with my tactics and my speed overall.”
The Cork athlete took to the front with 1,000m to go following a very patient approach all through from the West Cork teenager. He has no regrets with regard to his bold tactical approach.
“It was just the way the race unfolded. I got a bit of cold feet in the middle of the pack for the whole race. I decided to go to the front with two laps to go. Perhaps looking back, I should have held on and then with 200m or 300m to do, I should have made my move.
“You can only go with your gut instinct and I thought it was the right call to make. Every race has its own story and you can never tell what will happen.”
Darragh made light work of the heavy rain during the race.
“Conditions were grand. It was wet, but there was no wind which was ideal. There was a bit of a downpour just as we were on the starting line, I don’t mind the rain. We are used to it given our climate.
“There was a great atmosphere at the ground. The capacity was 6,000 and it was full.
“The crowd generated a great noise which added to the occasion. Sometimes arenas can be too big and if they are not full, the atmosphere can get lost. The stadium in Boras was perfect.”
The rising star was joined over in Sweden by his proud family members and close friends, a group of 14 overall.
“All my immediate family were there. My parents and my four brothers were there. My aunt and uncle, cousins and close friends were there. It was lovely to meet them after the race. I was emotional.
“Their encouragement and constant support mean a lot to me. It was nice to share my moment with them. I was delighted I did them proud in Sweden.”
He now joins a select band of top Irish athletes who have arrived home from a European U20 Championship with a medal in a long-distance event. Following in the footsteps of distinguished athletes such as John Treacy and Mark Carroll fills him with great pride.
“It is very humbling. I was very pleased and proud to hear that news. They are two of Ireland’s best athletes.
“To have my name amongst them is unreal. I am eager to keep on working hard and keep developing. I am very excited for the future.”
He only recently completed his Leaving Cert in Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí and has blossomed under the tutelage of renowned athletic coach David McCarthy.
“He has been great to work with. He is a great coach. I have improved and learned so much off him. He has really transformed my athletics this year. I am very grateful to him.
“My training regime and preparations were brilliant. Everything went very smoothly. Everything went to plan and we achieved everything from our training targets.”
The warm welcome he received back in his native Glengarriff delighted the modest athlete who proudly displayed the bronze medal for his adoring fans.
“It was such a special feeling to arrive home with a bronze medal. There was a huge crowd to welcome me home. It was a very surreal feeling.”