Keelan Kilrehill running for Ireland in the Under 23 men's 8,000m event during the SPAR European Cross Country Championships 2021 at the Sport Ireland Campus, Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

Athlete Keelan Kilrehill of Mayo-based Moy Valley AC benefits from dual career pathway

Routine away from athletics is crucial for Ireland’s top athletes. For those who are not in a position to train full-time, finding a balance so they can perform to their optimal levels can often be a challenge.

The support structures put in place by Athletics Ireland and the Sport Ireland Institute have helped and will continue to help athletes in their sporting and professional careers.

The life skills team at the Sport Ireland Institute have in recent times placed increased emphasis on the dual career pathway, linking some of Irish sport's brightest talents with a wide range of employers through their athlete-friendly employers' network.

One of the many athletes employed through the programme is cross-country star Keelan Kilrehill, a member of Moy Valley AC in Ballina, Mayo.

Kilrehill graduated from DCU last year with a degree in economics, politics and law, and now works in HR for logistics company DHL, who are based at Dublin Airport Logistics Park.

Kilrehill works part-time for the company three days a week, allowing him to concentrate fully on his training for the remainder of the week. It has made the adjustment from college life to working much easier for him and has allowed him go from strength to strength as an athlete.

“It's definitely the best season of training I've ever had by a mile,” the Dromore West native said. “I'm 10 times fitter than I was last year. It's probably just down to routine.

“In work your routine is much better. I don't have to go home and worry about studying for exams or anything like that.”

DHL have also supported Kilrehill by allowing him to go on training camps to Saint-Moritz and Kenya with his group, coached by Emmett Dunleavy.

Said Keelan: “I didn't start in DHL until October because I told them I was going to Saint-Moritz and they were like, 'That's fine'.

“I'm going away this month now again to Kenya,” he added. “Before I started I made sure all this was fine with them.”

Kilrehill worked closely with Carol Keenan of the institute’s life skills team to get employment. Keenan helped him in several areas, including with his CV.

“If you look at my CV before I went to Carol and then after, there is such a big difference,” explained Keelan. “We even went through an interview and the type of questions I could be asked, which was helpful.”

Like so many Irish people, Keenan felt Kilrehill was quite modest in his initial CV and wanted him to display the full range of his skillset.

“Keelan had a huge number of skills, but they weren't on paper,” she pointed out. “I was hoping that at the end of the CV, when Keelan looked at it, he'd actually believe what he was reading as well.

“When it was finished he was like, 'Oh yeah, I actually do have all these skills and I can sell this'.”

Keenan is full of praise for Kilrehill, who DHL have been delighted with since he joined their team.

“He did so well in all the interviews, and they really were impressed by him – his skills and his attitude as well as his ambitions as an athlete.

“They want to support his journey, so they created this role within HR that's part-time and fits within his schedule.

“Having reduced hours was important as it allowed him to move to Dublin from home and be able to come into the institute for as many days as he needs to.”

Last year was the first in which Kilrehill trained in the institute, and it is has helped him progress. He has worked closely on strength and conditioning with Martina McCarthy, admitting that he had never stuck to a gym programme before.

“Martina puts me through my paces. It's nearly harder than any running session I do these days!” he laughed

Kilrehill has a busy 2023 ahead where he will look to run some indoor races before attempting his first 10k on the track. The European Cross-Country Championships in Brussels in December are also a major goal.

Ultimately, like all athletes, he harbours dreams of making it to an Olympics. “The qualifying nearly starts this year for Paris. I'll see what I can run over 10k this summer and I'll know a bit more then I suppose.”

It appears he has struck a great balance between his career and training thanks to the Sport Ireland Institute that will undoubtedly benefit him into the future. Kilrehill is an exciting athlete who we can hopefully look forward to seeing in the green singlet for years to come.

Sport Ireland Institute life skills information can be found here.