It wasn’t written in the script, but a tremendous finish by Darragh McElhinney saw the Bantry teenager take the senior boys’ title at the South Munster Schools cross-country, which took place in ideal conditions at Tramore Valley Park yesterday.
Intending to use the race as part of a training session undertaken just before the start, 17-year-old McElhinney was content to sit around sixth place in the early stages as Frank O’Brien (Midleton CBS) set a strong pace.
Charlie O’Donovan of Coláiste Chróist Rí — like McElhinney, a member of the Irish junior team at last December’s European championships — took over on the second lap and looked all set for a comfortable victory.
McElhinney was around 50m back in second with half a lap to go, but, cresting the final hill, he suddenly took off to pass O’Donovan just before the line for a thrilling victory.
“No, it wasn’t planned, I wanted to keep it steady for the whole race but along the bottom I realised there wasn’t a whole pile left and if I picked it up a small bit I might win it, and I got it in the end,” said the Coláiste Phobail student.
Tomorrow week, he switches to the indoor arena with a 3000m at the AAI Indoor Games in Dublin, followed by the Armagh International 5km road race on February 15.
Laura Nicholson of Bandon Grammar School was an impressive winner of the senior girls race, finishing a half-minute ahead of Laura Hayes (Loreto, Fermoy).
“I liked the course, it wasn’t too muddy and there was a good mixture of hills,” said Nicholson, who gave cross-country a miss last year, enjoying an excellent late track season.
The intermediate boys race saw Tommy Connolly (CBC) use his track speed to good effect as he moved away from Chris O’Reilly over the closing stages for an 11-second win.
O’Reilly, 16, of Douglas Community School, has just signed on to play soccer with Cobh Ramblers, but hopes to combine the sports: “I’ll probably be doing more football from now on but I’ll still do two or three days of running a week, so I’m happy with that run today.”
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