Sport Athletics

Tuesday 20 August 2019

McElhinney and Healy lead a strong U-20 charge at Euro Championships

Darragh McElhinney. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Darragh McElhinney. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

It is, without question, the strongest Irish team ever sent to the European U-20 Championships, an event that serves as a key litmus test for athletes with their eyes on senior success in the years to come.

In the half-century it's been running, Ireland has won 15 medals across 25 editions, but it will be a huge shock if they don't leave the Swedish city of Boras without a chunk of excess baggage. In ways, the team is a throwback to a bygone era, with Darragh McElhinney and Sarah Healy again planting the tricolour firmly towards the top of European distance running.

In other ways it embodies changing times, with Ireland having strong medal contenders in the 200m, 400m and heptathlon. Healy gets her campaign under way in the 1500m heats this evening, where the Dubliner is ranked second: her two chief threats for gold are Switzerland's Delia Sclabas and Portugal's Mariana Machado, who finished third and fourth in last year's World U-20 1500m final.

McElhinney is ranked first in the men's 5000m, the Bantry teenager the only athlete in the field to have broken 14 minutes. At 18 he also has experience beyond his years. "I've been to three Euro Cross (Country Championships), European Juniors and World Juniors," he said. "Hopefully I can piece it together and come out with a positive result."

Aaron Sexton looks primed for a scintillating swansong - he is set to join the Ulster Rugby Academy on a full-time basis. His PB of 20.69 makes him the fastest in the men's 200m.

Davicia Patterson is ranked third in the women's 400 via her 52.57, while in the heptathlon, Kate O'Connor is also ranked third. European U-18 silver medallist Sophie O'Sullivan will race the women's 800m. The event will be streamed live on the European Athletics website, with the majority also live on Eurosport 2.

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