When most people around Sligo were busy tucking into the roses after Christmas it wasn't the case for local athlete Michael Morgan. The 15-year-old Junior Cert student was busy preparing to represent his country at the Celtic Cross Country International Championships in Antrim on Saturday. The Rosehill runner is part of the U17 Irish Boys team.
He had a fantastic 2017, following his superb 5th place in Abbotstown at the Celtic International Cross Country in November, Michael earned himself a call up for the Irish Celtic International in January.
Michael said he's looking forward to the event. "Because I was 5th in the clubs on November 26th in Abbottstown I qualified for the Ireland team from that in the U17 category, there will be people from other countries competing as well."
He was 6th in the Schools Cross Country Championships in Mallusk, Co Antrim back in March and travelled to Wales to represent Ireland in a contest which involved eight runners on each team from Ireland, England and Wales.
Michael said: "The Irish team came second overall which was a great result, it was a really good experience competing with other runners from various schools and it was great for me to represent my school, Summerhill, too. Summerhill has always been big on sport, the teachers are big into it, Pat Tuohy and Leo Hegarty in particular," He said his family including dad Martin and sister Ailbhe were proud to see him representing Ireland. "Ailbhe is in the Ursuline and she's doing well at cross-country too."
Michael has been competing at cross-country since he was in 5th class in Scoil Ursula and is now a member of Sligo AC, which he says has a great community feel to it. "Dermot McDermott is a fantastic ambassador for athletics and he's my coach now. I never had a coach before then. I do a mix between track and cross-country.
"The schools are on in March and the indoor track is on February in Athlone. The main track season goes from the end of April until mid July. In terms of schools cross-country the distances vary, the U16 is 4,000m and the U17 is 5,000m."
He has a rigorous training schedule that he adheres to five times a week. Michael said: "I go training in all types of weather, I train on the racecourse and the track at the IT and also around town. There are fantastic facilities in the IT for running. I train five times a week, two of them are easy and then on Wednesdays I'm on the track, another day I have a session around Cleveragh and the racecourse and then put in a longrun about ten miles at the weekend in any type of weather. I'd be doing about 3:55/4mins per kilometre. I like running because I like being competitive. I like winning things and keeping healthy and fit, running is great for that.
"It's good fun and there's a lot of people my age that I train with from Corran AC too and also I train with JP Carty. There's a great community aspect with running. I'm hoping in 2018 that I'll be winning more medals, do well in March and get onto the Ireland team. "I'm hoping to win an All-Ireland medal on the track in Tullamore in June too."
Michael said athletics is getting more and more popular. "It's getting bigger and bigger in Summerhill and Sligo. Dermot and the other coaches are brilliant too." He said his diet isn't really set as such but he doesn't go overboard with what he eats.
"Athletes I look up to include Hugh Armstrong, he's from Ballina and doing well, he's on a Scholarship in Boston. I did the 5k in the IT with Mark English, Sean Tobin from Clonmel is a good runner too.
"After school I think I'd like to do something sports-related, PE teacher or Physio or something like that.
"I'm looking forward to the year ahead and hoping to represent Ireland again," Michael added.