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Killarney sprinter Sarah Leahy ‘over the moon’ to make Irish 4×100 team

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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.

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‘There’s definitely more in me’ – Leahy feeling positive after close-run thing at nationals

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Kerry woman Sarah Leahy chats to Adam Moynihan about her recent outing at the National Outdoor Championships in Dublin. The Killarney Valley AC sprinter competed with the best of the best, including new Irish record holder Rhasidat Adeleke.

Adam Moynihan: You recently took part in the 100m final at the National Championships. How was that experience for you?

Sarah Leahy: Atmosphere-wise it was absolutely amazing. Just very good energy all around. And coming out for the final, obviously, Rhasidat brought a massive crowd. So that was really cool to be a part of because I don’t think there’s ever been a crowd that big at nationals before. To be in the final where so many people were there to watch her was obviously amazing.

What about the race itself?

I came fifth and ran a time of 11.74. On the day, with the whole excitement of it all, I was actually really happy with that. I was a bit disappointed but I was like, it’s a great day overall. I ran well, didn’t get a medal but I was really close. I didn’t get the perfect start like I did in the heat. So I was a little bit behind, but I just managed to come fifth in the end.

A week on, the excitement has kind of worn off, and I think there’s definitely a lot more in me. I could’ve pipped the third place But yeah, it is what it is. It was still good. I’m happy with it.

It was very tight for third place, wasn’t it?

Yeah, it was two-or-three-hundredths of a second and it was a blanket finish for four of us. So it was close but no cigar. Not this time. I came fifth last year as well, so I was hoping for at least fourth this year, but it ended up being the same. At least it wasn’t sixth! And there’s definitely more in me as well. Time-wise I’m just waiting for it to kind of happen a little bit. I believe it will. It was amazing to be in a race where a national record was broken.

And the standard was obviously very high across the board. All the big names were there.

It was a very high standard, yeah. Going in we kind of knew that first and second were gone (to Adeleke and Sarah Lavin). Everyone else was battling for that third medal and only one person could get it in the end. (Mollie O’Reilly got the bronze.) We were all close.

But overall I was super grateful to be in the mix, especially in a race that was that big. It’s one that will go down in history. It was a massive weekend and it was very enjoyable.

Rhasidat is a massive superstar now. What’s it like to run alongside her?

Rhasidat is a great athlete and a very nice girl. As you can see in interviews, she’s very humble. So to compete next to her, to literally be running in the lane right beside her, was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for more from the day in that respect. I thought she might have ran sub-11 because she did it before but she still got a national record. To be part of that race was a big deal for me.

Athletics in Ireland seems to be in a good place, particularly after the success the Irish team had in the recent European Championships in Rome. Does it feel like the sport is getting more attention and more recognition these days?

Oh 100%. Support for athletics has grown hugely in the last few years and I think it’ll continue to grow, especially with the success that Ireland had at the European Championships. I think the Olympics this year is going to drive that on even more because we have such great athletes going. The support is growing and rightfully so. The athletes are really getting the recognition they deserve. I think the future is very exciting for athletics in Ireland.

What about your own career? What’s next for you?

I have one last race of the season left, which is at the AAI Games on Sunday in Dublin. I’m hoping to just get a good run out, a good time, and execute the race well. Training will continue until the end of July, I’ll get a month off, and then we’re back training for indoors next year. I love indoors. I think I excel at that. There’s European Indoors and World Indoors next year, so to qualify for them would be a huge, huge goal.

As for outdoors, I’d like to get on the Irish relay team, but I’ll be focussing on indoors first. It should be a good year.

Are you enjoying it?

Yeah, I’m really enjoying it. I think sometimes you might put too much pressure on yourself and try to get a PB in every race but this year I’ve really learned that I’ve done the training, so it will happen when it happens. Just go out and run and let your body do its thing. And I’m actually really enjoying competing this year. I know I’m going to continue enjoying it for the next few years.

With the surrounding support of the club and coaches and my training group, it’s all going really well for me at the moment. I have no complaints at all. I’m very lucky.

Thanks for your time, Sarah, and all the best for the rest of the season.

Thank you very much, Adam. It was lovely talking to you.

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Kingdom ladies hoping for repeat performance against Royals

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LGFA All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final

Kerry v Meath

Saturday 5.15pm

Austin Stack Park

Live on TG4

Just like they did in 2023, the Kerry ladies will take on Meath in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Tralee this weekend and a repeat of the result they earned that wintry day 12 months ago will do just fine.

Last year’s encounter at Stack Park was a classic game of two halves as the home team ran up a 10-point lead with the unseasonable elements at their collective back.

Meath, who at the time were on the hunt for their third All-Ireland in a row, fought back admirably in the second period but the Kerry women held firm and won by four (2-8 to 0-10) after an emotionally charged final quarter.

Síofra O’Shea was Kerry’s top scorer on the day with 1-1 and her return from injury in recent weeks is a major boost to Darragh Long and Declan Quill’s squad.

The Kingdom made light work of Meath when the sides met in the league in March as Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh kicked 0-8 in a 1-15 to 0-5 victory. Shane McCormack’s charges subsequently lost to Dublin in the Leinster final by 18 points before finishing second to Armagh in the All-Ireland group stage.

Marion Farrelly, Emma Duggan and Meadhbh Byrne caught the eye in their recent win over Tipperary, combining for 2-11 of the team’s total of 2-15.

Former Player of the Year Vikki Wall could be in line for a dramatic comeback after a spell with the Ireland Rugby Sevens team.

As for Kerry, they should arrive at the last eight in decent spirits having put in their best display of the season so far against Waterford three weeks ago. The Munster champions were excellent and eventually ran out 4-13 to 0-9 winners with skilful forward Hannah O’Donoghue (1-3) and all-action half back Aishling O’Connell (0-2) particularly impressive.

Meath are a capable opponent on their day, though, so another professional performance will be required if Kerry want to keep their All-Ireland dream alive.

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