The Deise hurlers have made a fantastic breakthrough in reaching the All-Ireland final against old rivals Kilkenny.This is now the hot topic locally, but there are other great achievements this past holiday month. The boxers of Ireland bringing home three Olympic medals was a brilliant result.We felt Kenny Egan from Dublin would get the gold but fighting a local Chinese and some bizarre marking by the judges left him at the wrong side at the end.His mother Maura hails from Kilkenny, and his father, Paul, is a Dublin man. So there is a strong south-east connection.Happily, some of the Wexford and Clonmel boxing representatives told us at the Games that investment in the sport and creating full time boxers with grants from the Sports Council has paid off.
Fenor’s Geoffrey Curran, in the 3 day equestrian event, also jumps full time with the Irish Army, allowing him to concentrate on his sport. His final result of 8th was well merited.
Well done also to Waterford’s Jamie Costin on his efforts in the Beijing heat to finish 44th in the 50 k walk.
Minister for Sport Martin Cullen made the point that maybe more focus is needed on specific sports for London 2012.
Ireland can do well in boxing, where the training and coaching is top class, as is the competitive attitudes of the sportsmen concerned, who proved it with their medals haul. Ireland seems to do well in combat sports like boxing.
The Minister mentioned equestrian as an obvious one, Ireland having a great reputation for horses. Disqualifications have harmed that sport’s reputation and has led to the Olympic Council President wanting some answers.
This year we had a fencer for the first time, raised in Germany with an Irish father, judo and wrestling are other sports perhaps on which we should concentrate. Taek Won Do – Karate – has a good following in Ireland too. We had judo participants in the past.
Can world class standards be achieved in four years with better training and facilities in such sports? Water Sports, badminton and volleyball are other sports where more investment could bring results. The British proved this in sailing.
We have some strong rowers that do well in international tournaments and reach Olympic semi-finals but just miss out on the final.
Eoin Rheinisch finishing fourth in canoeing was tremendous and got special mention from the Minister.
The German who won the slalom competition was from Augsburg in Bavaria.
Named Grimm, he trained on the 1972 Olympic slalom course and interviewed afterwards, he put that down as one of the key factors in his success.
Will the government spend more on facilities? Lansdowne road is soaking up much money this year and next. Croke Park received 20 pc of its cost under Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach, Minister Cullen has the chance to put money into different sports and implement a strategic plan.
Getting more participation from schools and teachers in sport should also be part of the plan. The lure of the play station is not there as much in the developing nations, but seems to affect children in Ireland.
Identifying new talent that can be developed is another priority. Encouraging children who may not like to play hurling, football or soccer could be considered more.
Minority sports often do not get much attention in schools and that is where Ireland may be losing out. Could minority sports utilise training facilities of other clubs.
In Europe, sports clubs would be merged in one large local area, where changing rooms and showers are shared and supported often by a local authority.
The structure of sports investment may have to change in the future. Could some resources be shared among clubs with these up-and-coming minority sports.
Government grants are often given to clubs and maybe giving some assistance to other sports could be considered by way of using and sharing actual facilities.
In selecting other sports this needs to be analysed as to the best potential. We did have badminton representatives in China, could that be a possibility, as a sport? Many schools have badminton facilities too. Can some of these minority sports be given more focus and resources?
The post Olympic review may need to be different this time. John Treacy, chief executive of the Irish Sports Council, may have more sports to consider for funding in the future.