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Shireen McDonagh – the Virtual Interview

Our next interview is with Shireen McDonagh, who collected many national medals for the club as a juvenile, competed internationally and is now a very successful coach in DSD



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When and why did you join DSD AC?

Being born into it definitely helped me join (lol) – when you’re attending training with your parents 5 days a week, you’d be a bit bored to do something other than join in! Seriously though, seeing athletes older than me in action on the track definitely piqued my interest in competition, and making lifelong friends helped me stay in the game for all the years I competed.

What was your best event and what event did you like best?

Funnily enough, relays were definitely my best event based on the time splits. I wasn’t the fastest flat sprinter in the group but put me into a relay and I’d be almost on a par with the fastest in the group. My favourite event, that’s a hard one, but could only be the best event on the track – hurdles! Followed by multi events in close succession, there’s nothing quite like spending the day competing against a group.

What was your favourite training workout?

I remember really enjoying 8x150m sessions as it was the perfect distance, or a sprint hurdles session that went down as many hurdles as possible.

And your least favourite?

Hills (and if my Dad is the no.1 advocate for hills and it still didn’t make me any more passionate about them I don’t know what ever will!), or a pure starts/blocks session, at just under 6ft tall it was never the easiest to master blocks as a lanky kid.

What is your most cherished or proudest moment in your athletics career?

International selections aside, it would have to be winning an outdoor multi events having come 2nd in indoors the previous season. The previous season I was well ahead, and then the 800m happened…I was so disappointed! So when the outdoors came, I brought a serious game plan, prepare to win all events except the high jump & shot, and make sure I didn’t let the number 2 from Galway (Orla) who was the 800m All Ireland Champion get any more than 100m ahead of me. I’m still proud of gritting my teeth, dealing with the lactic and taking home gold that year.

What is your most loved athletics sporting moment of all time?

I actually find it too hard to pick only one, so I’ll have to say any time Sonia O Sullivan medalled for Ireland in the major competitions, and every time Bolt smashed World Records!

What was your favourite race / athletics meet to take part in?

Probably the Celtic Games as the atmosphere was just so relaxed and fun!

What was your worst injury – and how did you get over it?

I’ve never managed to clear my chronic patellar tendonitis unfortunately, and this is what initially brought my involvement to a halt. It resulted from injury at a Leinster squad day, where a coach (non DSD and will remain nameless) that was trying to prove their own skills insisted I continue to do bounding and jumping drills despite feeling a lot of pain….

What did you eat before a race and how long before did you eat?

I was the worst, I would always eat breakfast the morning of a race, but otherwise couldn’t bring myself to eat before I ran. Mum always made me nibble on something to give me some energy!

If you could have dinner with 3 sporting personalities past or present who would you pick ?

I should probably pick my former relay team members (including Claire Bergin & Aoife MacNeill pictured), but why not go for a more eccentric mix – the ghost of Florence Griffith Joyner (Flo-Jo) as I was obsessed with her and her nails [yuck] as a kid. Caster Semenya, to hear the full story first hand, & Adrian O’Dwyer (former Irish high jumper) to see if he ever tried high jumping with his hard core rock boots on.

What is your next running / athletics goal?

To get as many people as possible passionate about hurdling as possible, and to equip them with a technique that will help them achieve their best.

How are you motivating yourself to continue training at these difficult times?

It’s hard, but I’m still coaching a few senior athletes via Whatsapp 🙂 So if anyone would like some sessions to do to focus on hurdle technique while you’re at home drop me a mail

What piece of advice would you give an aspiring athlete?

Stay level headed, stay focused, put in the work, be patient and do your drills properly!!!

Do you have any memorable or funny story from DSD that you could share?

As Lucy said ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’! But, what I could say is imagine the look on Eddie’s face when four coaches full of Spanish male footballers my age arrive at the hotel we were staying in for warm weather training in Monto Gordo #ProtectiveParent...

Can you share an old picture from your running days

Thank god those were day’s where people didn’t really take photos, but here’s one of Aoife MacNeill passing the baton to me. She always went first, I always ran second, whoever was around ran third and Claire Bergin always ran last. We were the three musketeers and were very protective about taking home gold indoor and outdoor for the club every year we ran together



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