Indoor Track & Field

Emerald’s Newest Star: No barriers too high for gifted Neville

by Jack Corbett

In the third instalment of our junior interview section JTG caught up with Ciara Neville who starred at the recent GloHealth National Senior Indoor Championships with silver in the 60m and 60m hurdles. She is one of the production line of female sprinting talent to emerge from the Emerald club in Limerick city. Neville belied her youth with an amazing 7.45 60m performance in the 60m semi-finals to scalp established senior international and Ireland’s most decorated indoor athlete at national level, Kelly Proper, at the age of only 15.

This exemplary performance sent waves which reverberated around the AIT Indoor Arena and no sooner had the dust settled on that display of sprinting masterclass did Neville return to cement her position as one of the athletes of the meet with a stellar 8.74 performance over the 60m hurdles.

Neville’s 60m performance was of such a standard that it places her 2nd on the World u17 lists for 2015 and ranks her in the top 10 Irish all time lists. Looking to the Irish lists for 2015 so far, it even ranks her ahead of of seasoned internationals such as Amy Foster, Claire Brady and Niamh Whelan; athletes who have represented Ireland on World and European Level with distinction and all this at only 15.

Credit must be given to Ciara’s coach Noelle Morrissey who at this stage has a record of developing and nurturing junior talent, first with her outstanding work with Sarah Lavin who has risen to prominence over the past number of years and now with athletes of the ilk of Neville and outstanding 400m prospect Jenna Bromell who is a EYOF Gold medallist in the relay from 2013 and who also medalled against far older athletes at the national senior indoors, garnering a silver medal at 400m.

It is clear that the structure and model of coaching that Noelle Morrissey and co are developing in Emerald is a winning one and the onus is now on AAI to implement this throughout the country through increased coach education and training and providing greater support and services for such athletes as Neville who are showing such potential. As alluded to in this week’s podcast, talent such as this needs to be harnessed as early as possible to give enough time for the hardening process that is vital for success on the international stage to develop. For now, we catch up with Neville as she prepares to take on Britain’s best in the English National age group champs in the EIS, Sheffield this weekend.

Coach: Noelle Morrissey
60m: 7.45
60mh (2”9”): 8.74
100m: 12.17

Picture by Pat Murphy of Sportsfile courtesy of Athletics Ireland

Picture by Pat Murphy of Sportsfile courtesy of Athletics Ireland

Firstly Ciara, how and when did you first get into athletics?

My coach Noelle had training every Wednesday after school and I started going with my friend Ellie who is Noelle’s daughter at age 6 and I competed in my first competition that year in the County u8 community games.

What were the highlights of 2014 for you?

My highlights for 2014 were winning the Irish Schools Junior 100m and also winning the junior 4x100m with my team mates from Castletroy College.

Looking forward to the outdoor season, what are your goals for 2015?

My goals for 2015 would probably be to achieve the qualifying standard in the 100m for the EYOF, represent Munster at the Tailteann Games this summer and continue to improve my PBs throughout the year.

What are your three favourite things about being an athlete?

My three favourite things about being an athlete are training with my friend’s every day that I’ve been friends with since I started school. Competing in relays with my team mates who I’ve been running with since I started at age 6 and finally the Irish Schools is my favourite competition of the year which I really enjoy competing in.

What’s the best piece of coaching advice you’ve received to date?

The best piece of coaching advice I have received is that a relaxed muscle is a fast muscle which my coach Noelle tells me before any competition. She always told me when I didn’t medal at a young age that if I keep training and be determined my time will come when I’m older.

Describe a perfect non-training day?

A perfect non-training day would probably be having a movie marathon all day with my friends in our Pyjamas!

What is a typical training week for you at present?

Monday: Gym with medicine balls (no weights)
Tuesday: Hurdles indoors
Wednesday: School training with Noelle
Thursday: Day off
Friday: Circuits and core
Saturday: Sprint/Hurdle Training
Sunday: long hard sessions of 150m or 200m repeats.

Neville keeps pace with Proper in women's 60. Image: Kieran Carlin

Neville keeps pace with Proper in women’s 60. Image: Kieran Carlin

Your recent performances at the National senior indoor champs were one of the main talking points across all events given that your 60m performance which edged out established senior international Kelly Proper into second place in the semi-final puts you no.2 on the world u17 lists for 2015 and top 10 in the Irish all time lists at 15 years of age. What would you put the massive progression in your recent performance down to?

A lot of hard work I put in over winter with my coach Noelle doing hard sessions with all my training partners as we all push each other on.

You are a member of Emerald A.C. in Limerick, a club which is becoming a hotbed for developing and nurturing female sprinting talent in recent years; first with the emergence of sprint hurdler Sarah Lavin and now with the rise to prominence of both yourself and Jenna Bromell. What do you feel is the main reason for this success?

Very hard working coaches particularly Noelle Morrissey and Ger Lavin who are there with us at the track 5 or 6 days a week.

Looking ahead to next weekend, you are competing in the English u17 championships in the 60m and 60mH in Sheffield, what are your goals for these championships and how do you feel you will fare out against England’s best?

I’m not really sure what to expect as it is my first time competing out of Ireland but I’m hoping to get into the final of both the 60m and 60mH and as my coach Noelle says once you get into the final, anything can happen.

Coghlan breaking 3:50 for the mile indoors. Courtesy of Eamonn Coghlan
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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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