Charlie O’Donovan goes into today’s Irish Life Health All-Ireland Schools Cross-Country Championships in Waterford with twin ambitions — an individual medal and a team prize for Coláiste Chríost Rí.
O’Donovan is one of Ireland’s most promising distance runners and he will take up a scholarship with the fabled Villanova University at the end of August.
Before that he has plenty of business to attend to, starting with today’s renewal of his rivalry with Bantry’s Darragh McElhinney, who edged him out at the Munsters on the same challenging course.
“It’s real proper cross-country, let’s put it that way,” said O’Donovan. “It’s not what I’m going to be what I’m racing on in the US next year.
“We raced hard from the start (at the Munsters) and it was a blistering pace from the off. I wasn’t far off at the end with main gap being built at the start to Darragh.
“There will be other good runners from around the country to compete against too. I’ve never won the schools cross so this is my last chance. I was fourth last year and that was my highest placing to date and hopefully I can improve to gold this year.”
Alongside his individual target will be the task of guiding Críost Ri to a first senior team medal in many a year.
“It’s been years since Críost Ri have won a team medal at senior level so a medal of any colour will be a real bonus and achievement for the school.”
After the hills of Carriganore will come the track and, of course, exams.
“I still want to do well in the Leaving Cert. Then I’ll look at the World U20 Championships in Finland.”
Then there is the question of America which has been portrayed negatively in recent times in Ireland. For O’Donovan it was a “no-brainer” to attend Villanova, which has a rich tradition with Leevale and Cork athletes, guided by Marcus O’Sullivan.
“I’ve seen it both sides, where people have made it at home and have made it in America,” said the Cork teenager maturely. “Equally I’ve seen people not make it on both fronts.
“For me though the connections with the club are so strong with my coach Ken Nason and Donie Walsh. Marcus O’Sullivan grew up five minutes away from where I live. It’s a no-brainer going forward and obviously I’d like to follow the dreams of making the Olympics and running a sub-four minute mile.”
Action gets underway at Waterford IT from 12pm noon.
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