Team Ireland consists of 77 members and we have a total of 65 entries in the Rio Olympics. For some qualification for the Olympics is the height of their career. For others, anything less than a gold medal will disappoint them. It’s time to assess the prospects, medal or otherwise, of each Olympic competitor for Ireland.
Athletics – 17 athletes with 19 entries in 11 events
Tom Barr – 400m Hurdles
Barr is a world class athlete. If he had a fully fit 2016, a final was likely. However injuries blighted the early part of his season and he’s playing catch up. A semi final is a good return
Mark English – 800m
A proven championship performer, English could sneak into the final if everything falls for him. He doesn’t have the times that most of the field will have but on race day, he can grit out a result. Another only returning from injury.
Ciara Everard – 800m
It’s still up in the air as to whether Ciara will make the games as she hasn’t raced this season with injury. Progression from the heats would be great.
Ciara Mageean – 1,500m
A European medallist this year, Mageean will be looking to make the final on the far tougher world stage. Like English, she has proven race skills.
Michelle Finn, Sara Treacy, Kerry O’Flaherty – 3,000m steeple chase
This trio have been amazing over the last 18 months. They worked together to achieve the Olympic standard together in a race in Donegal and last month all qualified for the European final. If any of them make a final, it will be a result to be celebrated.
Fionnuala McCormack – 10,000m
Our best long distance runner finished 4th at the European Champs twice over 10k but the Olympics is on a whole other level. She may be using this race to tune up for the marathon so a top 12 placing would be a great return.
Tori Pena – Pole Vault
Pena qualified for London but failed to register any height. Her first priority will be to clear any height this time round! Anything after that is a bonus.
Kevin Seaward, Mick Clohissey, Paul Pollock – Marathon
The selection of Pollock caused a fair bit of controversy so he’ll be under pressure to perform. Realistically if any Irish man finishes in the top 30 they’ll have had a brilliant day.
Fionnula McCormack, Lizzie Lee, Breege Connolly – Marathon
Lee and Connolly definitely fall into the category for whom competing at an Olympics is a huge achievement. McCormack on the other hand will be hoping to push into the top 15.
Alex Wright – 20k walk
Wright is concentrating on the 50k so a good time here would be a bonus.
Rob Heffernan, Alex Wright, Brendan Boyce – 50k walk
Heffernan is our best medal hope in Athletics. He’s nearing the end of his career and the 2013 World Champion hasn’t had any recent results to indicate a medal is likely but he’s clearly a class act so you can’t rule it out. Wright and Boyce will be looking for top 20s
Badminton – 2 athletes with 2 entries in 2 events
To advance in badminton, you must win both of your group games. Evans will hope to beat his Brazilian opponent (ranked just one place ahead of Evans), but beating the 12th seed from Germany would be a major upset.
Magee faces an even tougher task. Her opponent from Germany is ranked 40 places ahead of her but before that she faces the number 2 seed from China; Wang Yihan. Any win would be great for Magee.
Boxing – 8 athletes with 8 entries in 8 events
Katie Taylor - 60kg – Light
The reigning champion was seeded one and received a bye into the quarter finals leaving her one win from a medal. That will be against the winner of Finland v Brazil and Taylor will be overwhelming favourite. In the semis she’s likely to face Alekseevna of Azerbaijan looking for revenge. Taylor is going for gold again. She’ll get it too.
Paddy Barnes - 49kg - Light Fly
If Barnes is to medal for the 3rd time he needs to win 2 fights. The first v winner of Armenia v Spain, and the next opponent will be from Brazil, Colombia or the Philipinnes. None of his 5 potential opponents have medalled at the world stage so this is a great draw for Barnes. He could face the Cuba world champ in the semis.
Brendan Irvine - 52kg – Fly
Tough draw for Irvine. He’ll face Uzbekistan in 1st round and if he wins he’ll face the world champ from Azerbaijan. After that he’d still need one more win for a medal and his side of the draw is stacked with top class performers. A medal would be a shock
Michael Conlan - 56kg – Bantam
The world champ got a bye and faces winner of Armenia/Japan in the last 16. His medal fight is likely to be against GB or Russia. The Russian topped the WSB rankings so is a tough opponent. Conlan is aiming for gold and his toughest fight maybe in the quarter finals.
David Oliver Joyce - 60kg – Light
3 wins needed for Joyce. He should beat Seychelles in the opener but will face the world silver medallist from Azerbaijan in the last 16. At the last 8 he may face the former IBF pro champion from Thailand. A tough draw but there isn’t a tougher Irish boxer than Joyce.
Steven Donnelly - 69kg – welter
Donnolly fights Algeria in the opener and needs 3 wins for a medal. He’ll have no fear of the winner of Mongolia/Argentina in the last 16 but is scheduled to face world champ Rabii from Morocco in the quarters. It would be a huge shock if he won.
Michael O'Reilly - 75kg – middle
If he competes, O’Reilly only needs 2 wins for a medal. He’ll face winner of Mexico/Iraq in last 16 and his quarter final opponent will be from Cameroon, Colombia, Mauritius or Egypt. He should win a medal (again, if he competes!).
Joe Ward - 81kg - Light Heavy
Finally, Joe Ward gets his chance to box at the Olympics. He needs 2 wins for a medal and the first will be against Germany/Ecuador. Ward should progress to a quarter final where the biggest danger will be from Colombia. In the semis he could face world champ from Cuba, or an ex pro from Cameroon. We’re backing Joe for Bronze.
Cycling – 3 athletes with 3 entries in 2 events
Dan Martin, Nicolas Roche – Road Race
For the first time, Ireland has a genuine medal chance on the opening day. Both riders are world class but the course is absolutely made for one-day specialist Martin. It’s far too tough for the sprinters, and not taxing enough for the pure mountain climbers. Luck is needed as the Irish due can’t work as a team the way GB, Italy or Spain can but Martin is one of an elite group of 8 or so who will likely fight for the medals. He has made this race his goal for the year and he is a gold medla contender.
Shannon McCurley – Kierin
The Kierin may be a crazy race where surprises can happen but McCurley is one of the lowest ranked cyclists in the event. It would be a surprise if she qualified from the heats but in qualifying as the first Irish women track cyclist, she’s already made history.
Diving – 1 athlete with 3 entry in 1 event
Oliver Dingley – 3m springboard
Oliver Dingley is the first diver for Ireland since 1948. If he was to make the final he’d be very happy. He has a chance too but a medal is very unlikely.
Equestrian – 6 athletes with 7 entries in 3 events
Clare Abbott, Jonty Evans, Mark Kyle, Padraig McCarthy – Eventing
Individually any Irish riders that finish in the top 20 will be doing well. Kyle is the most experienced and he finished 21st in London. As well as riding for themselves, all 4 will hope to contribute to the team event. We finished 5th in London and 5th at the World Games in 2014 to qualify. The programme has focussed on improving dressage. If we can do that, another top 6 team performance can be achieved. With luck, a medal is an outside possibility.
Greg Broderick – Show jumping
Surprising many, the selectors have opted for Greg Broderick ahead of the higher ranked Bertram Allen and Denis Lynch. Broderick, and his horse, Going Global, have been in exceptional form in 2016 and Horse Sport Ireland is very confident that Broderick can last the pace over 5 rounds of jumping. He should make the finals, and once there, he can medal.
Judy Reynolds – Dressage
Reynolds is having the best year any Irish dressage rider has ever had. She’s very unlikely to medal but she could make the freestyle round (the final 18). She finished 8th at the recent World Cup final.
Golf – 4 athletes with 4 entries in 2 events
Padraig Harrington, Seamus Power
Harrington believes he can win a medal. At the PGA Championship 2 weeks ago he was the 3rd highest finishing Olympic golfer. Without the top 4 golfers in the world, this tournament really is wide open and as can be seen from the winners list of PGA and European Tours, there are about 40 golfers who will think they can win a medal.
Leona Maguire, Stephanie Meadow
Maguire is still an amateur but showed at the British Open, she can compete with the best. Meadow hasn’t followed up her 3rd place at the US Open in 2014 with any success but as with Power in the men’s she’ll be hoping for a good showing and who knows. It would still be a huge shock if either woman medalled.
Gymnastics – 2 athletes with 2 entries in 2 events
In Behan’s 2nd Olympics he’ll have an outside chance of making the final in his speciality; the floor exercise. He’s unlikely to trouble the power houses in any other event but he’ll compete in 6 individual events and the overall too.
O’Reilly becomes Ireland’s first ever women’s gymnast. For her qualification was the pinnacle. She’ll be hoping for personal best scores but is unlikely to progress past the opening round.
Hockey – 16 athletes with 1 entries in 1 event
Ireland are ranked 12th in the world. In their 6 team group they face the nations ranked 2, 3, 5, 7 and 15. They’ll hope to beat Canada (15) and shock one of the other nations. That will likely lead to them qualifying for the last 8. That would be a huge success for the European bronze medal winning team. Ireland have probably the best goalkeeper in the world in David Harte, so they’re always in with a chance in every game.
Modern Pentathlon – 2 athletes with 2 entries in 2 events
Second Olympics for Coyle who finished 9th in London. She hasn’t come close to repeating that result on the world stage since but she’s ranked inside the top 20 so any result above that is a success.
He’s European Champion, and Europeans dominate the medals in Modern Pentathlon. Such is the variance in the sport though that he failed to make the final in the recent World Championships. He’s good at every discipline but if Arthur is to medal in Rio, he’ll need to get lucky with a good horse in the show jumping. He is a medal contender though.
Rowing – 5 athletes with 3 entries in 3 events
Sanita Puspure – Single Sculls
Sanita has a good season. She was 3rd at the European Championships and 3rd in the only World Cup event she competed at this year. She was second behind a former world champion in the Olympc qualifier. Her best result on the world stage was 4th at the World Championship in 2014. A final would be huge, but a semi final is more achievable.
Claire Lambe, Sinead Jennings – Lightweight Double Sculls
Jennings is a former world champion and after a local career, she finally gets to row at an Olympics. The partnership have been effected by injuries this year but anything less than a semi final would be disappointing.
Paul and Gary O’Donovan - Lightweight Double Sculls
The brothers from Cork are medal contenders. They’re Euroepan Champions and have finished 2nd, 4th and 4th in the 3 world cup events this year. France are favourites but there’s little to choose between Italy, South Africa, Norway and Ireland behind them. Those 5 crews will contest the medals and our boys have every chance of earning the first ever Olympic medal for Ireland in rowing.
Sailing – 6 athletes with 3 entries in 3 events
Annalise Murphy – Laser Radial
So close to a medal in London, Murphy hasn’t pushed on since and her performances in the last 18 months mean a top 12 finish would be a huge achievement.
Andrea Brewster, Saskia Tidey – 49erFX
The last Irish boat to qualify, these duo are relatively new to each other. They’ll be looking to finish in the top half of the pack
Finn Lynch – Laser
A rising star of Irish sailing, young Finn Lynch is probably going to feel the benefit of this Olympics in 4 years time when he’ll hope to develop into a medal chance.
Matt McGovern, Ryan Seaton – 49er
They finished top 10 at the last 2 world championships but have shown brilliant form this year winning the big Princess Sofia Regatta ahead of most of the Olympic favourites. Sailing has a huge amount of variables but this team have proved they can mix it with the world’s best and have very realistic medal hopes. Anything less will be a disappointment to them.
Swimming – 3 athletes with 7 entries in 7 events
Fiona Doyle – 100m breast, 200m breast
So close to a European medal earlier this year, Doyle should reach the semi finals in her preferred 100m breast stroke event. She’ll be hoping to lower the Irish record in the 200m but advancing would be a shock
Nicholas Quinn - 100m breast, 200m breast
Qualifying for the Olympics has been Quinn’s achievement. He’ll be hoping for fast times but advancement isn’t likely. He’s better at the 200m breast.
Shane Ryan – 100m back, 50m free, 100m free
Ryan’s switch from the US was rewarded with an Olympic qualifying time in the 100m back stroke. He’ll hope to make the semi finals in Rio there. Anything can happen in the 50m free but it’d be a shock to see him advance in that, or the 100m free.
Triathlon – 2 athletes with 2 entries in 2 events
Morrison had a brilliant 2015 where she consistently finished top 10 in the World Tour events. 2016 has been hit by injuries though and if she manages another top 10 it’d be a huge achievement
Keane sneaked into one of the last qualifying spots and won’t be expecting much in Rio. Let’s hope he can do the country proud with a good account of himself.
Top 12 medal chances
- Katie Taylor
- Paddy Barnes
- Joe Ward
- Michael O’Reilly
- Michael Conlan
- Dan Martin
- Paul and Gary O’Donovan
- Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern
- Greg Broderick
- Rob Heffernan
- Padraig Harrington
- Arthur Lannigan O’Keeffe
We are predicting that Ireland will win a record 6 medals at the Rio Games. Come on you boys and girls in green!
Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile