The Next Generation - Seamus Clarke

June 26, 2024

Hailing from Ballina, Co. Mayo, 17-year-old Seamus Clarke is quickly making a name for himself in the world of race walking. Representing Moy Valley AC, one of the top clubs in Connacht, and under the dedicated coaching of his mother, Deirdre Gallagher, a former international race walker and 1996 Olympian, Seamus has developed into a formidable competitor on the national and international stage.

Athletics runs deep in Seamus's veins. Growing up in a family where athletics is a way of life, he has been immersed in the sport from a young age. His mother, Deirdre, has been a significant influence, coaching local athletes long before Seamus was born. The legacy extends further with his grandad, Danny, also an athletics coach, and his uncle Seán Gallagher, who serves as the chairperson of Moy Valley AC. The family's athletic prowess continues with his younger cousins, who are making their mark in cross-country and middle-distance events, and sister Aisling, who competes as a sprinter.

His father, James Clarke, adds another dimension to Seamus's sporting background. A passionate sportsman in another field, James has represented Ireland in canoe polo at both U18 and senior levels. This diverse sporting environment has undoubtedly contributed to Seamus's approach to athletics.

Apart from race walking, Seamus has showcased his versatility by excelling in other sports. He played Gaelic football for Ballina Stephenites and soccer for Ballina Town FC, also representing Mayo School Boys for two seasons. This multi-sport involvement has honed his athleticism and competitive spirit, essential qualities in his race walking career.

Clarke's passion for athletics was ignited further when he attended the World Athletics Championships in London in 2017, an experience that inspired him to pursue the sport even harder than before.

Seamus's boasts impressive personal bests in race walking, with times of 12:45 minutes for 3km, 21:25 minutes for 5km (a national U18 record), and 44:45 minutes for 10km (also a national U18 record). These achievements have earned him recognition and lead to selection for prestigious international competitions.

Competing internationally for the last three years, Seamus's career highlights are already remarkable. His first Irish vest came in 2022 when he competed in the SIAB event, finishing a close second in the 3000m distance. Although he qualified for SIABs in 2023, he opted out to focus on the European Youth Olympics.

The 2023 season saw Seamus's rapid progression. He lowered his 5000m time by over two minutes and qualified for the European Youth Olympic Festival in Maribor, Slovenia. His performance in extremely hot conditions was commendable, placing 9th. 

Continuing his momentum in 2024, Clarke broke a 30-year-old Irish U18 record for the 5000m with a time of 21:35 minutes, a record which had been held by Olympian Jamie Costin. He also shattered a 25-year-old record for the 10,000m walk with 45:02 minutes in a World Athletics Gold race walking series event in Dudince, Slovakia, which was held by Olympian Colin Griffin.

In 2024, Seamus's form has been nothing short of spectacular. Competing in the U20 World Athletics Race Walking Championships in Turkey, he lowered his own Irish 10km record to 44:45 minutes, a remarkable feat for a 17-year-old who is eligible for the event again in 2026! His triumph in the All Ireland Schools, winning gold in the senior boys 3000m walk, further solidifies his standing among race walkers in his age category.

Seamus is part of the Athletics Ireland Performance Pathway programme, which offers substantial support for young athletes. He told Run Republic that his participation in a warm weather training camp in Portugal in January was a great foundation to kickstart his 2024 season. 

Clarke was recently part of a team of 20 Irish athletes that competed in an U18 international event in Palafrugell, Spain in preparation for the European U18 Championships. His win in the 5,000m event, lowering his Irish record time by 10 seconds with a time of 21.25 (subject to ratification), in Palafrugell highlights his potential further. 

With his eyes set on a top 6 finish in the European U18 Athletics Championships and long-term aspirations to compete for Ireland at senior level and qualify for the Olympics, Seamus's journey is certainly one to watch.

Training alongside talented athletes like Jake O’Brien and Clodagh Gill at Moy Valley AC, Seamus benefits from a strong support network, including his physio Aidan Tighe. 

As Seamus Clarke continues to break records and achieve new heights, Run Republic and the world of race walking eagerly anticipates the future achievements of this young Irish star.

Featured Image: Seamus crossing the line the moment he got the u18 European qualifying standard at the Raheny World Walks Tour Dec 2023. by Perri Williams

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