After winning the All-Ireland Masters cross-country on Sunday in Boyle, Letterkenny AC’s Ciaran Doherty is already casting his net wide for future honours in cross-country, indoors and on the track.
The Cruit Island fisherman may have been a late recruit to the sport, but he making up time quickly and has no intention of resting on his laurels.
This week, speaking to the Donegal Democrat, Doherty was planning for the national indoors in the Odyssey, Belfast this weekend as a forerunner to the World Masters in Finland in April, while the National Championships at Santry in July are also looming large on his mind and where he is determined to improve on his bronze in the 3,000m Steeplechase he won last year.
For someone, who only really took athletics seriously in 2008, it has been a something of a rollercoaster.
The 37-year-old says he always had a big interest in athletics, but Gaelic football took up most of his time, playing for Naomh Mhuire when he was available. As he reached the end of his teenage years when Donegal won the All-Ireland in 1992, sport was replaced by fishing for five years when he says himself, he “didn’t do anything at all”.
He went back playing Gaelic at that time and his interest in athletics was re-ignited when he ran a 5k in Dungloe in 2002 and was approached afterwards by some of the athletes taking part to join Letterkenny AC.
“I would always have been keeping an eye on the 5k result in the Democrat and always had a keen interest in the sport,” says Ciaran, who added that he would have been influenced by Francie Ward of Keadue, who was also running with the Letterkenny club.
However, in the years after 2002, the family fishing boat went off seeking pastures new and he spent three and a half years fishing off Morocco. “I was just getting into it when that happened and it was difficult to compete as I wasn’t getting any consistency in training,” said Ciaran, even though he had a treadmill on the boat.
However, when he began to take the sport seriously in 2008, he teamed up with coach Teresa McDaid and it all seemed to take off.
“Teresa designed training for myself and that seems to be working,” said Ciaran, who feels that the young talent in Letterkenny have also helped in the improvement.
“Training with them young flyers in Letterkenny, it seems to be taking my standard up all round,” he said, referring to the likes of Mark English, Darren McBrearty, Danny Mooney and Ruairi Finnegan.”
But while he has shown plenty of improvement, Ciaran thinks there is more to come and even though he may be 37, he also feels he can still compete at senior level.
“I still think I can do more. I never think age. I still catergorise myself as senior even though I will take part in the masters events. Getting a bronze in the national steeplechase last year was great and it also great to win on Sunday and get individual goal.
“I always felt that with the right training, it was there and I always think like that. I feel I can still lower my PBs in the future,” said Ciaran.
As for regrets about not getting involved in athletics at a younger age, Ciaran says there will always be regrets, but he was fishing at the time and that’s the way life was.
The fishing season will finish in four weeks and Ciaran will then put the head down for consistent training twice a day.
“The Nationals are early this year, in July, because of the Olympics, and they will be a target. Two years ago was the first time I had a focus on the track and the steeplechase and hopefully that will go well this year.
The immediate focus is on the indoors and Ciaran will be using the national indoors this weekend for taking part in the World Masters Indoors 3,000k in Finland in April.
Apart from that, Ciaran is enjoying the success which Donegal athletes are having at the moment. “I’m sure up in Dublin, they’re looking at Donegal and wondering. But it is happening because we have good coaches and we’re bringing out the best in each other,” said Doherty, who added that all the Donegal athletes keeping in touch with each other, but once they go to the start line, they still want to win for themselves.
In the last two years, Ciaran stopped playing for Naomh Mhuire. “It has made a big improvement. Even though I liked it, when I stopped, it made a difference.”
As for Sunday last, he said he had a race plan: “I was always going to go out hard and it worked well. You have to keep the concentration and it worked out really well,” said Doherty.
With Naomh Mhuire crowned Division 3 champions last weekend as well without kicking a ball, it was a special weekend for the Lower Rosses.