The 2024 Summer Olympic Games are just over under 18 months away so it's time to start thinking about what Team Ireland will look like. Read this as a (loose) review of 2022 in Olympic sports for Ireland and a road map for qualification for 2023 and beyond. We'll take the most relevant sports in alphabetical order.
Rhasidat Adeleke continued to thrill Irish fans this season, competing in global finals and breaking the Irish 60m, 200m, 300m, and 400m records😮🙌#IrishAthletics #2022Season pic.twitter.com/C3vQjXDpz0
— Athletics Ireland (@irishathletics) December 28, 2022
2022 was a banner year for Irish athletics. Ciara Mageean's silver in the 1,500m at the European championships, and subsequent Diamond League performances, finally announced her arrival on the world stage. Mark English (800m) won bronze at the Europeans but the step up to world level is bigger there. Israel Olatunde captured hearts and minds with his sprinting in the summer but similarly to English, the step up to World level is steep. His 10.17 national record is a fair bit off the 10 seconds flat standard for Paris. He's still very young though and has time to improve.
The brightest star in Irish athletics is Rhasidat Adeleke and she is on her way to being world class. She's still inexperienced at 400m but nearly made the World final and finished 5th in Europe this year. Lets see what she's like now that she's likely to concentrate on the distance from her University of Texas base. Our young talents won medals at cross country level and we even saw shoots of a field athlete with Reece Ademola finishing 5th at the World Juniors in long jump. Qualification for Paris for most events starts in the summer.
Dubliner Nhat Nguyen had an up and down 2022. He's ranked 25th in the world but hasn't won a game on the world tour since the early summer. He should easily qualify for Paris but at the moment he'll likely be our only Olympian in Badminton. The 2023 European games may see the mixed doubles win another medal though.
GOLD FOR IRELAND! ☘️
Louth's Amy Broadhurst has claimed gold in her Women's World Boxing Championships Light Welterweight final after a dominant win over her Algerian opponent 🥇 pic.twitter.com/M7scGBvwW4
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) May 19, 2022
*The* Olympic sport for Ireland may not even take place in Paris but that's another story for another article. For the purposes of this paragraph, we're going to highlight another brilliant year for the Irish boxing squad. It was a year dominated by women. In May, Lisa O'Rourke and Amy Broadhurst became world champions and while O'Rourke missed some of the year through injury, Broadhurst didn't stop winning. She added Commonwealth and European titles to establish herself as, by some distance, the best fighter in the world at 63kg. The best fighter at 60kg, Olympic champion Kellie Harrington, missed the worlds but came back to add the only title she was missing to her CV; the Europeans. Lisa's older sister Aoife became European champion for the second time. It leaves Ireland with World Champions at 63kg and 70kg and European Champions at 60kg, 63kg and 75kg. The Olympic weights are 60kg, 66kg and 75kg and we have four women vying for those 3 spots. Harrington is favourite for 60kg (she is Olympic champion after all), Broadhurst is aiming for 66kg which leaves the O'Rourke sisters vying for 75kg. They've both said they won't fight each other so how 2023 develops for them will be very interesting. We haven't even mentioned stellar years for Michaela Walsh, Christina Desmond, Caitlin Fryers and more.
The men's team was more of a transitional squad this year than last. They still produced a European champion in Galway's Gabriel Dossen who looked imperious throughout the tournament. Young Dylan Eagleson continued the great Belfast bantamweight tradition with a silver at Europeans followed by gold at the Commonwealth games. Olympic medalist Aidan Walsh missed most of the year but still popped up to win Commonwealth gold. Early in the year Jack Marley marked himself as our best heavyweight prospect in years with gold at the European U22 championships. The European Games tournaments in June/July will give our men and women their first chance to qualify.
Ireland has three good, but not "world class" slalom canoeists. At the European Championships, Liam Jegou finished 16th, Jake Cochrane 18th and Robert Hendrick 36th. Later at the World Championships, Cochrane was 24th, Hendrick 27th and Jegou 51st. It's a sport that needs luck, but Ireland should qualify a boat for the Olympics without threatening to win a medal. Our best "sprint" canoeist is Jenny Egan who fights for medals in the longer, non-Olympic distances. She won bronze this year in the 5,000m event at the World Championships.
2022 was the first year without the stalwart cousins of Nico Roche and Dan Martin on the road. A tough year for Sam Bennett was redeemed somewhat with a double stage in La Vuelta. He'll hope for a more consistent 2023. He'll need to improve his world ranking points if he's to help Ireland improve from the 26th place it ended 2022 in. If that's repeated next year we'll qualify only one men's cyclist for the Olympic road race. We need top 20 to get a second rider. Ben Healy and Archie Ryan should help if they continue their development.
The women's track pursuit team should qualify if they repeat their results over the past two seasons. They finished 9th at the World Championships. If they do qualify, we'll also have a madison team at the Games. The return to form of Lara Gillespie should help confirm that too. 2022 saw Ryan Henderson emerge in BMX freestyle/park. He finished 10th at the European championships but unfortunately broke his arm at the World Championships. He could be an outside shot for a spot in Paris.
Divers will have three chances to qualify for Paris with the first being the 2023 World Championships in June. That might be a little too soon for Jake Passmore who finished 3rd and 5th at his two events in the World Juniors late in 2022. He'll have a European and World qualifier to come if he doesn't get in through the World Champs. Our 2020 Olympian Tanya Watson finished 7th at the Europeans this summer with team-mate Ciara McGing in 10th. They, like Passmore, will hope to qualify this summer.
Our show jumping and eventing teams have already qualified for Paris thanks to their results in the 2022 World Championships, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. The show jumping team showed particular promise and were less than a fence away from a medal. They'll remain in contention for the big global prizes over the rest of the Olympic cycle. Our dressage team has shown signs of life recently but qualifying a team will be difficult now. It's hard to pin down the 2022 show jumping season as we have so many competitors at the top level of the sport. Getting three of them to click for Paris is going to be a tough task.
Football in the Olympics? Yeah, it's a possibility now that our women's team can challenge Europe's elite. It's very unlikely though as they'll need to finish in the top two of the upcoming European Nations League. Men's qualification is through the European U21 championships and we just missed out through the play-offs.
Rory McIlroy ends the year as world number one while Leona Maguire finished 2022 ranked 11th. With Shane Lowry, Seamus Power and Stephanie Meadow comfortably in spots that would qualify for Paris, Irish golf is likely to be among the medal contenders again. Qualifying began in June 2022 and ends in June 2024.
Rhys McClenaghan has won Ireland's first ever gymnastic GOLD at the World Championships in Liverpool this afternoon 💚
Here's the routine that got him there 🥇pic.twitter.com/ZjVMPoUMRn
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) November 5, 2022
Rhys McClenaghan is one of the best gymnasts in the world and he proved it in 2022, winning gold in the pommel event at the World Championships. It was a strange year for McClenaghan. He had to deal with his heartbreaking fall in the Olympics early on and later in the season was embroiled in a political fight over his right to represent Northern Ireland in the Commonwealth Games. His silver there was seen as a disappointment and he failed to qualify for the final at the Europeans. All of that was forgotten in October when he became Ireland's first ever gymmnastics world champion. With Eamon Montgomery, Adam Steele and former GB star Dom Cunningham making up Ireland's strongest ever team, we might even sneak an all round qualifier in with Rhys. Emma Slevin and Halle Hilton will try and qualify on the women's side. The 2023 World Championships will be crucial for all of them.
2022 saw the women's team qualify for 2023's Eurohockey finals with the men just missing out. Both teams ended the year ranked 13th in the World. With 12 teams to qualify for Paris, effectively 11 with the host taking a spot in each tournament, qualification will be very tight. The qualifying tournaments will be held in early 2024.
Olympian Ben Fletcher confirmed his retirement in 2022 and it's unlikely now that we'll have anybody in Paris. Our best chance might be Nathon Burns who won bronze for NI at the Commonwealth Games this year.
Double Olympian Natalya Coyle hasn't officially retired yet, but she hasn't competed since Tokyo. Sive Brassil has taken over as Ireland's number one and she has a shot at qualifying for Paris too. 2023 will see qualification spots awarded at a number of events including the European championships but the more likely route is the rankings list in early 2024. She ended 2022 in 28th.
Paul O'Donovan and Fintan McCarthy are the undoubted best in the world in their lightweight double sculls event. The Olympic champions added European and World gold medals to their incredible palmares this year. It cannot be overstated how dominant this pair are in world rowing. Our other Olympic medal winning team, the women's four, won European silver before disappointing in the Worlds with a 6th place finish. It was a rare blot on another brilliant year for Irish rowing.
Sanita Puspure transitioned into the double and won world bronze with Zoe Hyde. Mags Cremen and Aoife Casey won their first major medal with a world bronze in the lightweight doubles. The heavyweight men showed promise too and are on track to qualify in the fours and pairs based on this year's rate of improvement. Ireland is developing into one of the power nations in world rowing. The 2023 World Champs will see most of the qualification spots decided.
2022 was the year that the Irish rugby sevens teams arrived on the World stage. The men's team won bronze at the World Cup and finished second in the Dubai world series event. The women's team were 7th at the World Cup but rank 5th in the World Series standings after two events. Qualification is still tough for both squads. They need to finsih in the top 4 at the end of the World Series or win the European qualifying event that will follow. There's a final world qualifier in 2024 with one spot at stake. Such is rugby sevens that both teams could miss out on qualification but will be medal contenders if they make it.
Our brightest sailing talent is Eve McMahon who has dominated at youth level in 2022. The step up to senior level was shown by her 44th place at the World Championships and 21st at the European Championships. Qualification for Paris will be primarily through the 2023 World Championships with further spots available throughout 2023 and early 2024 at European and global levels. Finn Lynch won silver at the 2021 Worlds but couldn't build on that in 2022. He'll look to get back on track in 2023. Two 49er crews, including Tokyo Olympians Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove, had mixed results in 2022 and will fight for qualification this year.
Aoife Gormally is ranked 28th in the World and will have multiple chances to qualify for the Paris games throughout 2023. She finished top 25 in the European Championships and in both World Cup events she competed in during 2022.
Daniel Wiffen was the star of Irish swimming in 2022. A silver medal at the Commonwealth Games was supplemented by a stunning short course season that saw him break the European 800m record in Dublin in December. The Loughborough student will be aiming for a final in Paris, and dreaming of a medal. It's a serious possibility if he continues the rate of improvement since his moved to England. Our two world class swimmers with the University of Tennessee had mixed fortunes with Ellen Walshe suffering with injuries in 2022. Mona McSharry was 5th in the 100m breast stroke at the European championships and will hope to reach the final in Paris again.
During the 2022 Short Course Irish Nationals, Daniel Wiffen won the men’s 800 free in 7:25.96. This is the 4th fastest performance of all time. Since Mykhailo Romanchuk and Henrik Christiansen’s 2020 swims were not ratified by LEN, Wiffen’s performance is the new European record. pic.twitter.com/g5FXyL4U7X
— Swimming Stats (@SwimmingStats) December 15, 2022
Tallaght's Jack Woolley is ranked in the world's top five and was seconds away from a medal at the World Championships. In May he won silver at the Europeans for his first senior international medal. Bronze at the World Grand Prix in Manchester further illustrated how he can compete with the world's best. Top 5 in the world at the end of 2023 will earn him a ticket to Paris without the need to enter qualification tournaments.
Some Tokyo Olympians, such as Triathlete Carolyn Hayes, effectively took 2022 off to get their non-sporting careers back on track. She might try for Paris again. The 2023 European Games in Poland will see several sports come together with boxing being our likely focus once again. Maybe we'll see an Irish breakdancer emerge in 2023. Whatever happens, we'll be tracking the 2024 Olympic qualifiers all year.