The Pobal Scoil Bheanntraí student has been going from strength to strength since winning the SIAB Schools 1,500m title last summer, setting an Irish Youth 3,000m record of 8:18.88 at the AAI Games in February, eclipsing John Treacy’s long-standing mark of 8:20.40, set in Edinburgh in July 1974.
McElhinney’s star quality also shone on the football field, but he gave up his first love last summer in order to focus solely on athletics. The Bantry athlete called time on his intercounty involvement and signed out completely on a high note, helping his divisional team Beara to a county title in October.
Football’s loss is athletics gain and there should be no one to contend with the free- flowing 17-year-old in the intermediate boys’ 5,200m race. St Kieran’s College Kilkenny duo Adam Fitzpatrick and Shay McEvoy will be in pursuit, as they bid to win the team title. Omagh’s Sean Corry put in a classy performance to win the Ulster Schools title in Mallusk and his local knowledge could play a part in proceedings.
Sarah Healy (Holy Child Killiney) is another athlete making a mark as ‘one to watch’ for the future. Healy has been rising through the ranks and made light work of a high-quality Leinster intermediate girls’ race from Abbie Taylor (Wesley) and Annie McEvoy (Loreto Kilkenny). The Blackrock AC schoolgirl has also excelled on the hockey field for Avoca and Leinster. Connacht’s Saoirse O’Brien (SH Westport) and Laura Hayes (Loreto Fermoy) will also be keen competitors over the 3,600m distance.
Fearghal Curtin (Midleton CBS) is now in his final year in secondary school and should have the strength to last the pace in the senior boys’ 6,500m. He will face off against fellow provincial winners Sean O’Leary (St Aidan’s), Fintan Stewart (Lumen Christi, Derry) and Gary Martyn (Galway CC). Charlie O’Donovan (Coláiste Chríost Rí Cork) should also be in the mix, with Colaiste Mhuire Mullingar, St Eunan’s Letterkenny, St Aidan’s and St Flannan’s College all in contention for the team prize.
Sophie Murphy (Mount Anville) will look to set a searing pace from the gun in the senior girls 2,550m. Jodie McCann (Institute of Education), Emma O’Brien (DCW) and Stephanie Cotter (Coachford College) will be among those looking to join her on the podium.
The minor girls 2,000m will get proceedings underway at noon. Wallace High’s Victoria Lightbody, Roisin O’Brien (SH Westport), and Sarah Hosey (Castletroy) will look to be crowned the first champion of the day. St Flannan’s College Ennis had the first three individuals’ home in the minor race at the Munster schools, led by Dean Casey, but still only managed second team. They bid to up the ante in Mallusk over 2,550m.