In the last few years Sligo man Emmett Dunleavy has developed into one of Ireland’s top athletics coaches.
A former national Novice and Intermediate Cross Country champion, Dunleavy worked in investment banking before moving into coaching less than a decade ago.
Dunleavy admits it has taken a while to get to the stage he is at today but feels it is “going well” for him at the moment.
“Initially it was mainly with just club athletes, then I had a little bit of success with those and gradually the athletes that I started coaching got to a higher level,” he says.
“It’s got to the situation now where we’ve probably got about 30 or 35 athletes in our elite group as such that are competing for Ireland in some shape or form.”
Dunleavy cites Jerry Kiernan and Ray Flynn both of whom passed away in recent years as pivotal to how he has progressed his coaching philosophy.
Flynn coached him in his formative days in Sligo AC before he worked under Kiernan for most of his senior career.
Athletics Ireland have also helped him grow as a coach through a mentorship system.
“They set me up with Steve Vernon and I picked up a huge amount from him.”
“I definitely learned an awful lot from Steve because he had been coaching athletes at a high level for many years, it was new to me.”
“Like any coach, I’m always kind of scavenging for information everywhere,” he adds.
“When you’re having a conversation about the sport, you’re always picking up some sort of information.”
Dunleavy currently coaches out in UCD where he has started to receive support in the past year from the university.
He is coaching a number of the university’s top distance athletes and bases his elite group there.
Amongst the names in his stable at present are Darragh McElhinney, Keelan Kilrehill, Ann-Marie McGlynn, and Danielle Donegan.
“Most Tuesday nights we’ve maybe 50 to 60 people,” he says.
“We’d usually have a smaller group with the elite guys at the weekend as well.”
What I’m trying to develop there (in UCD) is a hub for endurance running so that if you’re a good athlete and you’re in the college or affiliated with the college, we can build an elite training group. It’s taking time but we’re getting there.”
It was the aforementioned McElhinney and Kilrehill that created the proudest moment of his coaching career to date, when both finished in the top ten in the U23 race at the 2021 European Cross Country Championships in Abbottstown.
McElhinney won an individual silver as the Irish team climbed to the top of the podium winning gold.
“Having Keelan and Darragh on the team that won that day was absolutely fantastic.”
“A lot of the guys that I’m coaching have ran PB’s and have had great performances but there’s something special about winning championship medals and to do it in Abbottstown in front of a home crowd was even better.”
Ahead of a vital eighteen months, with World Championships in Budapest and the Paris Olympics Games on the horizon, Dunleavy was recently announced as one of a number of Athletics Ireland High Performance Support Coaches for 2023, a step forward which he believes will benefit him greatly.
Emmett Dunleavy believes support will help him massively
The financial support he is now receiving has enabled him to go away to training camps and major races.
“I was able to go to camp in Kenya for ten days so that was really helpful.”
“I suppose when you get to spend ten days with the athletes like that, there’s no interruptions. You get to have conversations during those ten days that you wouldn’t get a chance to at home because life is busy.”
“We’ve three small kids at home so trying to get away to the camps for me is quite difficult but the coaching support has helped remove at least the financial burden of that.”
“I was able to go away to Boston with Darragh recently to his race over there.”
With increased support Dunleavy is looking forward to the future.
“There’s a nice gang of them there and they’re all coming through.”
“The individual coaching schedules matter but having a group, it feeds on itself.”
“A phrase that I’d often use is that ‘the power of the wolf is in the pack’. They train together, they support each other and most of them are very good friends with each other.”
It seems he has found a winning formula.
Emmett Dunleavy was speaking as Athletics Ireland announced its new High Performance Support Coaches for 2023.