ANOTHER of West Cork’s rising young sporting stars, Maeve O’Neill of the Doheny Athletic Club, has been named as the Cork City Sports Athletics Person of the Month for March.
This most recent accolade came as a result of her indoor performances during that month where on two successive weekends of the National Indoor Championships in Athlone she struck gold on both occasions.
At the junior championships, she won a very competitive 800m race in a time of 2:11.89 and then, a week later, Maeve took the U19 800m title with a championship performance of 2:08.80.
Speaking at the awards ceremony in the River Lee Hotel, the 18-year-old said she was delighted to get the prestigious award, especially considering the famous athletes who have won it in the past.
Looking back on her March performances, she said she loved running indoors and both performances were a great opener to an eagerly-awaited outdoor season.
“The junior race was a real championship race with a big burn-up over the last 200m so I was happy to win. A week later, I was really happy to run a championship best performance as I took the record off of a real established 800m athlete.”
Both performances sets her up nicely for the upcoming outdoor season to build on the string of outstanding performances last summer which culminated at the European Junior Championships in Estonia where she reached the semi-final of her specialist 800m event.
“That was my first really big international competition and it gave me a good taste of what’s out there and where I want to be.”
At the South Munster Schools’ on the MTU track last season, she recorded another performance of note when breaking a 34-year-old South Munster Schools’ record held by the great Sonia O’Sullivan.
Also, along with winning 800m gold at the national juniors, she had a 400m/800m double at the All-Ireland U18 championships.
The main goal for the outdoor season ahead will be qualification the World Athletics U20 Championships which be held in Columbia in early August.
“Preparations are going pretty good, I’ll definitely will be looking at that and hopefully I can get the time. There’s an A and a B standard, I should definitely get the B standard which would allow me to go but I would hope to get the A standard as well.”
With a personal best of 2:06.38 from Estonia last summer, O’Neill is already inside the B standard of 2:07 and certainly, the A standard of 2:05 is within her capabilities and she has until July 17th to achieve the time.
“I think it’s really important that I race against myself and keep trying to get better. I have a lot of races to get the time but I suppose the national senior championships at the end of June will offer the best opportunity as you’ll have all the super-fast girls there.
“The 800m is so competitive, you have three Olympians at senior level at the moment and it’s really nice for me to look up to those people as well.
“My training is pretty much as it has been last year, just looking at progressing in small ways and I suppose consistency is the key in that I’m out there every day training,” she added.
Coached by her father, Tony, the MICC fifth-year student trains three evenings a week at the MTU track in Bishopstown and on the other days does her easy runs around her local GAA pitch.
Maeve, who lives at Ballinacarriga between Ballineen and Dunmanway, was accompanied at the function by her parents Anna — well known and a regular prize-winner in Cork races — and Tony, along with her aunt May Crowley.
The Cork City Sports Athletics Person of the Month Award is sponsored by the River Lee, 96&C103FM, The Echo, Cork Crystal and Leisureworld.