Cross Country

Destination Clongowes: O’Leary looks to land schools title

Jack Corbett has joined JTG to do some interviews and first up is Jack O’Leary who won the GloHealth Leinster Schools Cross Country last weekend.

Jack O’Leary was another athlete who made huge progression throughout the 2014 season. After a stellar track season which included a dominant display to win the all-Ireland u18 3000m in Tullamore, O’ Leary pushed established international triathlete Con Doherty to the wire at the GloHealth All Ireland Junior Cross Country Championships in Dundalk, booking his place on the Irish team for the European Cross Country Championships in Samokov. Here O’Leary finished a commendable 61st against Europe’s best juniors, safe in the knowledge that he still has two more years at this age group to improve and build on his first major international experience.

At the time of interview, Jack, a boarder at Clongowes Wood College in Clane, Co. Kildare was finalising his preparations for the upcoming GloHealth All Ireland Schools which are due to be held on his school grounds on the 7th of March. Having recently won the Leinster Schools senior boys title, Jack will surely be one of the main contenders for the coveted senior boys’ title, bolstered by the support of his friends and schoolmates.

Personal Bests:

3000m steeplechase-9.50 (Leinster u18 CBP)

How did you first get into running?

I first got into running back when I was 9 years old in Mullingar Harriers. I was quite a keen rugby player which was probably the main reason I started running to get fit for that. I only started to run competitively when I was in second year in Clongowes where I made the Irish junior schools cross country team for the schools international in Scotland.

What were your highlights of 2014?

The obvious highlight would be competing in my major international competition at the European Cross country championships in Bulgaria. Other highlights and notable performances include: all Ireland u18 3000m gold, running a CBP in the Leinster u18 3000m steeplechase, winning silver in the tailteann games 3000m, winning bronze in the all-Ireland schools 3000m and going to Australia for an international tetrathlon competition which team Ireland won.

What are your goals for 2015?

My goals for 2015 would be to win the all-Ireland school senior boys cross country on my home turf in Clongowes, qualify for the European Junior Track and Field Team in the 3000m steeplechase and to improve my PB’s significantly from 1500m up to 5000m. I also hope to make the European Junior Cross country team in 2015 and to contribute to a team medal winning performance.

What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses with regards to athletics?
My greatest strength is commitment. I commit myself 110% to running and have a huge desire to be successful. I always give 100% and when I walk off the track I always know deep down that I gave it my all no matter what the result. My weaknesses; well I am busy trying to eliminate them and don’t want to make my competitors aware of any! Any weaknesses I have I intend to eliminate them by competing more often internationally to become more comfortable running in a high class field.

Whats the best piece of advice you’ve received since you started running?

I have received a lot of advice over the past few years of running. My hero in the sport is Mo Farah and a lot of his quotes mean a lot to me. One which sticks out is; “train hard, win easy”. This is a great piece of advice and I would hope this would carry over into other aspects of my life the more I apply it to my running!

Describe a typical training week at this time of year?

Training varies depending on the stage of the training cycle. A typical week at this stage in the season is:
Monday: 55 minutes easy aerobic run.
Tuesday: Steady state intervals or Threshold run.
Wednesday: Strength and conditioning plus an easy aerobic run.
Thursday: Steady run/Tempo.
Friday: Rest Day.
Saturday: Power hills plus an easy/steady run depending on the stage of training cycle.
Sunday: Always a long run which usually consists of 75-90 mins.

All training paces are determined by heart rate. We also make adjustments as required on a daily/weekly basis to keep me fresh and ready for the key workouts each week.

What are your favourite and least favourite training sessions?

My favourite sessions have to be the long tempo efforts which last from around 8-15 mins. My least favourite session is very easy to decide it has to be 200m repeats. Being told to try and stay on Shane Fitzsimons for as long as I can is no mean feat when the guy can do 27 second reps without breaking a sweat.

Your attending Clongowes Wood College as a boarder, describe a typical day for you there and how you balance your studies with training?

Yes I am, Clongowes is a seven day boarding schools which consists of 6 days of school with a half day on Wednesday and Saturday. A typical day for me would be wake up at 7.30, breakfast followed by morning study. Class runs from 9 to 3.45. We then have an hour and a quarter which is when rugby begins for most while I go running. Dinner goes from five to six then from 6 to 8 is evening study. You then have an hour or so of free time. This I great for getting in some quality foam rolling, stretching, ice baths or strength and conditioning. Then late night study runs from 9.15 to 10.15. Small bit of free time after this then bed time and lights out is from around eleven to quarter past. The school and Mr. Shane Heslin have been very supportive of my training and development of my running to date.

You competed in your first major international championships at Euro Cross last December. How would you describe the experience? What positives did you take from it and what lessons have you learnt moving forward?

It was a great experience to compete at this level with a further two years eligibility. It was my target for the cross country season to compete there and it should help me greatly in my final two years as a junior. The race was of an extremely high standard but I believe it’s one where myself and other Irish juniors can be very competitive and successful. The lesson is that we need to keep progressing and striving to improve in order to make the desirable impact at international level.

With regards to racing and competing, what one ritual/thing do you have to do before every race?

Well I would be a bit superstitious leading up to a race but I always wear the exact same lucky pair of socks when racing.

Finally, the upcoming Irish Schools cross country championships are being held on your home turf in Clongowes. How are things going in preparation for this and how will it being in your own school grounds add to the occasion?

Yes the all-Ireland schools cross country is being held in Clongowes. The school are really looking forward to the occasion and so am I! Preparation wise I have never had a better run in to an event, so far everything has gone perfectly. Being on my home turf really adds to it for me and really just gives me a lot more fight and it will take a lot to stop me and to have the lads on the side line cheering me on will really help when the going gets tough.

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Feidhlim Kelly

Feidhlim Kelly

Con Houlihan once told me that tomorrow is now. In taking on this venture I’ve started to try and put his words into action.

I worked for Con from 2007 till his passing in 2012 taking down his copy and a whole lot more. I have a Con Houlihan section which will go in to more depth on that.

I’m a long-time contributor to the Irish Runner magazine and am also working for the Irish Examiner.

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