Killarney Valley AC sprinter Sarah Leahy clocked a PB and reached the final of the 100 metres at the National Senior Championships in Dublin last weekend.
Adam Moynihan caught up with the 21-year-old to discuss her impressive performances, and her subsequent call-up to the Ireland U23 squad.
Hi Sarah. Congrats on your recent success. What were your expectations going into the National Senior Championships and how did things pan out on the day?
Thanks. I didn’t have too many expectations really. My first goal was to get another PB – the two weeks prior I was getting one every time I ran. My second one was to make the final. Looking at the names and the times, I wasn’t too sure I was going to make it. But I was delighted that I did make it and I was able to attain both my goals.
You have been selected to represent Ireland at the European U23 Championships (4x100m). When did you find out about that and how did you react?
I found out on Sunday night when I came back from Dublin. I was over the moon. I probably ran faster down the stairs to tell my parents than I did in the 100 metres! My brother heard me roaring about it in the next room.
And was your selection a direct result of your performances over the weekend?
Very much so. Three weeks ago, nobody really knew who I was. My name wasn’t in the mix at all because I hadn’t been running. Then my name kind of came up at the AAI Games, and at the U23 Championships I got a glimmer of hope that I might be in the mix. Running well at senior definitely helped. That’s what pushed me over the line.
It must be a proud moment for you and your family?
It has been a dream of mine for years. I didn’t really think about it this year because I had just come back (to running – Sarah had been playing with the Kerry ladies up until last year). I didn’t think it was an option because I didn’t think I’d be running this well. It’s a dream come true. I can’t wait, I’m so excited.
You will be competing in the 4x100m. Do you have any experience with this type of race?
I did the mixed relay at the Community Games years ago and we got a silver medal one year and a bronze another year. So I have some experience with the relay.
The championships are on in Estonia from July 8-11. Are you looking forward to getting over there?
Yeah, I didn’t realise how close it was. We’re leaving in like a week.
And what about your teammates (Gina Akpe-Moses, Aoife Lynch, Lauren Roy and Molly Scott)? Would you know them well from competing against them?
I would, yes. They are elite athletes and they have all ran for Ireland multiple times already. Two of them were in the World Relays there a few months ago in the 4x200m and they came second. So they have a lot of experience and I can’t wait to run with them.
What will be the team’s goal heading over to Estonia?
We’re having a meeting on Friday (today) so we’ll find out then. I’m sure the aim will be to run as fast as we can and aim for a medal.
Is it challenging switching over from 100m to the relay?
I don’t think it should be too hard, although there is a bit more pressure. Obviously, the baton change is highly important in a relay. If you mess that up, it can mess up your time and your placing. But overall the relay can drive you to run even faster because you’re not just running for yourself, it’s for your whole team. Especially now with Ireland… You’re representing a lot more than just yourself. But yeah, [running the 4x100m] shouldn’t be too much of a difference. Don’t drop the baton is the main thing really!
In terms of training, what does your weekly schedule look like?
I do a bit of gym during the week and I train four times – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday – all at the Killarney Valley AC Arena. I train with a whole pile of athletes in the sprint and jump group. I’m one of the oldest there. They’re all very dedicated and very fun, I’m really enjoying the training at the moment. Tomás Griffin is my coach and he’s excellent. Obviously the training he’s doing with me is definitely working. It’s all very enjoyable. It doesn’t seem like hard work.
Has the new track benefitted you and your training?
100%. The track was one of the main things that made me go back to athletics. It’s so handy, I can be down in training in five minutes. Before, we were training on grass or we were driving to Castleisland. The track is of huge benefit. A lot of work went into it and I can’t praise the people involved enough.
Athletics can be very technical. Is there any aspect of your running that you feel you need to work on?
I think there’s plenty! My trainers are very nice, they think I’m running well. But me and my mom see a few things. My arms could be improved, and things like lifting up my knees. When I look at myself compared to the other athletes, I feel like I look a bit silly. They’re so perfect technically. I have plenty to work on, which is exciting because when I get those things improved, I should be going even faster.
And looking ahead to the future, after Estonia, what are your long-term goals?
I suppose the typical answer for every young athlete is the Olympics. Right now, I would say that’s the dream rather than a goal. For the next year, I have PBs I want to get to and new times I want to reach. And hopefully, after experiencing it next week, I’ll get to represent Ireland again.
Crokes hurlers set for senior championship bow
Sunday will be a momentous day for Dr Crokes GAA as the club’s hurlers are set to participate in the Kerry Senior Hurling Championship for the first time.
The Crokes famously won the Intermediate in 2020 and after exercising their right to graduate to the top level, they now face into the daunting task of negotiating the rough and tumble of the top tier.
The Killarney club will take on four-time champions Abbeydorney in their first Group 1 pool game, with throw-in at Austin Stack Park at 1.30pm. O’Dorney are sure to provide a stern test; they reached the last four of last year’s competition before exiting at the hands of eventual winners Kilmoyley.
Two teams from each of the three groups of three will progress to the knockout phase.
Crokes will be hoping that the likes of Kerry senior Michael Lenihan and his brother Jack can lead the way on Sunday, while Kerry U20 footballer and accomplished soccer player Tom Doyle is also considered to be a real talent.
Elsewhere in the Kerry SHC, champions Kilmoyley will get the defence of their title up and running against Ballyheigue tonight at 7.30pm, and last year’s beaten finalists Causeway will do battle with St Brendan’s on Saturday at 7pm.
Neighbours Spa and Crokes vying for Division 1 final
Killarney rivals Spa and Dr Crokes will face off in Round 5 of the Kerry Senior Football League on Saturday with the winners advancing to the Division 1 league final. The match will take place in Lewis Road at 5pm.
Crokes currently lead the way in Division 1A with seven points from four matches, with Spa one point behind having won two, drawn one and lost one of their four fixtures to date. The new competition structure, which was devised to reduce the amount of games and travel required for all teams involved, sees the top team from each pool (1A and 1B) meet in the decider.
In the other pot, Kerin’s O’Rahilly’s are favourites to finish first as they currently sit on top of the pile with seven points. The Killarney Legion are still in contention – they find themselves just one point behind in second – but Rahilly’s will fancy themselves to win their final group phase match against bottom-of-the-table Beaufort. Legion travel back west to play An Ghaeltacht in Gallarus.
Beaufort have already been relegated to Division 2 for 2022 on the back of four consecutive defeats and they will be joined in D2 by the bottom-placed team in Division 1A. Kilcummin currently occupy that position but they can claw their way out of danger with a final day victory over Austin Stacks.
The second-from-bottom team in each pool will also meet in a playoff to decide the third and final team to be relegated to Division 2. These places will go down to the wire with John Mitchels and Stacks in the firing line in 1A and Rathmore, Kenmare Shamrocks and An Ghaeltacht all potential candidates in 1B.
In the second division, Castleisland Desmonds can secure their promotion back to the top table by defeating Na Gaeil in their final fixture, thereby securing top spot in Division 2A. It’s all to play for in 2B as Templenoe, Gneeveguilla and Ballymacelligott are joint top on six points apiece.
The runners-up in both pools will also play each other to decide the third team to be promoted with Glenbeigh-Glencar and St Mary’s in contention in 2A. They will duke it out for that final spot when they meet in Glenbeigh on Saturday; in fact, the winners will secure automatic promotion if Desmonds lose to Na Gaeil in Tralee.
The Dr Crokes B team are currently facing the chop as they sit bottom of 2A on zero points, but they can avoid automatic relegation by beating the team directly above them (Ballydonoghue) away from home on Sunday. Listry can do likewise in 2B if they can get the better of Dromid Pearses in Listry. If Crokes and Listry do the needful, they will meet in a relegation playoff to see who will retain their Division 2 status.
Churchill and Listowel lead the way in Division 3A with Laune Rangers, Milltown/Castlemaine and Brosna in the running in 3B. Glenflesk are safe but the same cannot be said of Currow, who will need to defeat St Senan’s to have any hope of avoiding the drop.
Firies are in pole position in Division 4A with Renard and then Fossa gunning for top spot in 4B. Stacks B and Cordal are in pole position in Divisions 5A and 5B, and it’s all to play for in Division 6 as the B teams of Dingle, Firies, Fossa, Kenmare, Glenflesk and Rathmore, as well as the Dr Crokes C team and Tuosist, are all still in the mix for promotion.
Full fixture list and tables can be found on the Kerry GAA website and across the Kerry GAA social media channels.
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