Profile: Glengarriff's Darragh McElhinney shone as a teenager in multiple sports

Brilliant display by the Cork runner helped the Ireland U23 team to a gold medal in the team section
Profile: Glengarriff's Darragh McElhinney shone as a teenager in multiple sports

Darragh McElhinney of Ireland celebrates with his brother Iarla after winning silver and team gold in the U23 Men's 8,000m. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

WEST Cork athlete Darragh McElhinney’s brilliance helped the Ireland U23 team secure gold at the European Cross-country Championships.

The Glengarriff native came second in the 8,000m race, behind Great Britain’s Charlie Hicks and ahead of Ruben Querinjean (Luxembourg), to land a silver medal, which was crucial to Ireland winning the team section.

He finished brilliantly to overtake Querinjean coming down the stretch. McElhinney crossed the line in a time of 24:33, four seconds behind the winner Hicks.

Keelan Kilrehill came sixth followed by Michael Power (13th), Donal Devane (40th), Jamie Battle (44th) and Thomas Devaney (67th).

Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Back in the summer, McElhinney, running in the UCD colours, became the eighth Corkman to break the four-minute mile.

The 21-year-old had a frustrating year otherwise, until his excellent run in Dublin; Covid forced his withdrawal from the European Indoor Championships and he had to enter the B grade for the Euro U23 Championships because of the large field and the fact he hadn’t run a 5,000m race up to then.

He came second at the Irish National Cross-Country Championships last month, pipped in the final 400 metres.

Ireland's Darragh McElhinney leads the Men's U23 8,000m Cross Country event. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Ireland's Darragh McElhinney leads the Men's U23 8,000m Cross Country event. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

McElhinney holds the Irish junior 3,000m and 5,000m records outdoors and the indoor record for 5,000m. The Beara man also picked up a European junior bronze medal over 5,000m.

His signature performance, before yesterday, was in 2019 when he became the first Irish athlete in 28 years to capture a long-distance medal at the U20 European Championships in Sweden.

He earned his spurs as a teen with Bantry AC and Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí, while aged 16, McElhinney broke John Treacy’s long-standing Irish outdoor youth 3000m record set in 1974.

A fine Gaelic footballer as well, he was on Cork development squads, playing at U15 alongside the likes of Mark Keane, Blake Murphy, Daniel O’Mahony, and Mark Cronin, who all went on to become Cork seniors.

On the soccer front, his exploits with Bantry Bay Rovers earned him a place in the West Cork Kennedy Cup squad.

Earlier on Sunday morning, the Irish men’s U20 landed silver medals at the Sport Ireland Campus, just one point off Great Britain & NI in first.

The team of Abdel Laadjel (6th), Dean Casey (13th), Nick Griggs (16th), Scott Fagan (21st), Sean Kay (50th), and Cathal O’Reilly (77th) saw Ireland with three runners in the top 20. Griggs, still 16, is one to watch in the coming years, while Laadjel made up huge ground on the last lap to grab sixth.

Sarah Healy finished fifth in the Women’s U23 race.

Ireland’s mixed relay team of Ciara Mageean, Luke McCann, Síofra Cléirigh Büttner and Andrew Coscoran narrowly missed out on bronze, faltering on the last leg to finish fourth.

The Irish Men’s team also came fourth in the 10,000m.

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