Cork's Darragh McElhinney is hoping for a debut to remember in Poland

Cork's Darragh McElhinney is hoping for a debut to remember in Poland

Darragh McElhinney, Bantry AC, holding off the challenge of a Scottish and Ulster runner during the Celtic Games U17 boys race held in Co. Meath. Pic Tony McElhinney

THE 24 strong Irish team selected for this weekend's European Indoor Athletics Championships in Poland, is arguably one the strongest to represent the country in many years. 

Several athletes are in peak form, with many recording personal best times in recent weeks. 

Despite the news this week regarding the absence of 2019 medal winner Ciara Mageean, there are still a number of possible medal contenders in the Irish line up for this year's European Indoors..

From a Cork angle, Phil Healy and her sister Joan will be joined by 2016 Olympian Michelle Finn and newcomer Darragh McElhinney.

For 20 year old McElhinney from Glengarriff his selection is another massive indication of his current standing. 

This summer's European Under 23 Championships in Norway was realistically his top target, but current form has shot him to prominence at senior level. 

However, on reflection few should be surprised, when one looks back at Darragh's outstanding triumph last summer when claiming his first senior title, after getting the better of John Travers in the 5,000 meters Final. 

Darragh McElhinney, Bantry AC, holding off the challenge of a Scottish and Ulster runner during the Celtic Games U17 boys race held in Co. Meath. Pic Tony McElhinney
Darragh McElhinney, Bantry AC, holding off the challenge of a Scottish and Ulster runner during the Celtic Games U17 boys race held in Co. Meath. Pic Tony McElhinney

That impressive form line has certainly been carried through to early 2021 with Darragh setting a new national 3K Under 23 record at the recent elite micro meet in Abbotstown.

"Races are fairly few and far between, so it was important for me to put in a really positive performance. It was vital to capitalise on the opportunity that we were given. 

"Breaking the record was an added bonus being honest. Getting in the right frame of mind for the trip to Poland, was most important," said Darragh.

Another trip abroad has already proved very beneficial for Darragh , with the UCD runner having spent six weeks high altitude training in Kenya.

"I think it played a big part in my run in Dublin. The altitude definitely helps - it's their summer at the moment so it's a lot easier to train. 

"The big thing is that you are surrounded by world class runners, so there is no fear you can get ahead of yourself. 

"It really keeps your feet on the ground and keeps you ambitious.” 

Speaking of ambitions, with Darragh due to line up on Saturday's heats of the 3,000 meters, what are his aims on what will be the biggest weekend of his rapidly evolving exciting career?

“There will be an element of going out there primarily for experience and regardless of the result I will be hoping to come home with learnings for the future. 

"I know that the best results from these championships are probably ahead of me in years to come. 

"But in terms of immediate ambitions making the final will be the goal. 

"I want to race as hard as I can in the heat and hopefully it will be good enough."

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