More than half of specially funded Irish sports fell short of Olympic target

More than half of the Irish sporting bodies that received high performance unit (HPU) funds in the quest for Olympic gold did not hit their targets.

New figures confirmed by the Irish Sports Council show that despite the London games being seen as a major national achievement in the boxing ring, seven out of 13 HPU-supported sports fell far short of what they set out to achieve.

The Irish Examiner revealed on Saturday that each medal Ireland won at the London Olympics cost the taxpayer €6m, higher than the per-medal British spend, with a further €6.5m also spent on targeted athletes who failed to even qualify.

And reports in sister newspaper the Sunday Business Post yesterday raised further concerns over the funding, showing that athletics, sailing, equestrian sports, clay pigeon shooting, cycling, swimming, and rowing all failed to achieve their HPU-agreed aims.

In all, 66 athletes competed under the Irish flag in 14 sports. Gymnastics was not funded by the HPU, meaning seven out of 13 funded Olympics sports fell short of requirements.

Among the biggest non-achievement areas was athletics, which received €3.1m from the Irish Sports Council in HPU-specific funding.

For this financial backing, Athletics Ireland said 24 A-standard athletes would qualify, with one finishing in the top eight of their sport, five in the top 12 and four in the top 16. In total, 23 qualified, one finished in the top eight, one in the top 12 and four in the top 16.

The €1.4m HPU-funded cyclists were to finish in the top 20 for the road race, time trial and track. This did not happen.

The Irish Clay Pigeon Shooting Association felt internationally-acclaimed athlete Derek Burnett could win a medal, and therefore got €220,000 from the HPU. He was placed 27th.

Despite Cian O’Connor’s equestrian bronze and Annalise Murphy’s brave sailing efforts, both of these sports — which each received over €2m — also failed to hit their targets.

Swim Ireland got €1.9m in HPU funds with the intention of at least six A standard competitors qualifying, and a minimum of one finishing in the top eight. In reality, four qualified, all of whom finished last in their heats.

The €382,000 HPU-funded badminton representatives narrowly failed to reach its target of two athletes winning one game each, with only Chloe Magee winning a contest.

Only the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (one gold, one silver, two bronze), Horse Sport Ireland (one bronze), Irish Sailing (best placed finish 4th) and the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association (best placed finish 27th) told the HPU they could win medals.


People and their businesses find themselves in an unprecedented moment.Designs for life: How designers are responding to the Covid-19 crisis

Spring is here and with it every reason to get out of the house and start planting veggies with the children. No garden? Not to worry, a large flower pot or plastic tub will produce plenty of edible greens. Helen O’Callaghan reportsWatering can-do: Veggie growing with the children

More From The Irish Examiner