Belief Irish athletes will train full-time in Ireland a ‘fallacy’

SEAN KELLY has dismissed as a “fallacy” the notion that the recent upsurge in sports funding and facilities will mean that all Irish athletes will soon train full-time in this country.

“The opportunities are being developed here for athletes to stay at home if they want to. However, there is a perception out there that all our athletes will be able to stay here to train full-time. That is a complete fallacy,” said the executive chairman of the Irish Institute of Sport.

“While we are certainly hopeful that, with more facilities, more of our athletes will be able to choose to prepare here, there will always be a need for them to go abroad.”

As evidence, Kelly pointed to the example of reigning European Indoor 400m champion David Gillick who had the backing of the Irish Sports Council (ISC) when he decided to move from Dublin to Loughborough University in England.

“I read an interview lately where David said that he was five or six yards ahead of the other runners in training on a bad day, so it was clear he needed to move and we were happy to help him do that. Some of our top coaches like John McDonnell and Ray Treacy are based abroad as well.”

The former GAA president was speaking at the unveiling of the ISC’s high performance grants where Derval O’Rourke, boxers Kenneth Egan and Katie Taylor and the Lightweight Fours rowers were all elevated to the highest funding category of ‘Contracted World Class’.

For O’Rourke, who received funding of €12,000 last season when she won a World Indoor gold and European Championship silver medal, which represents more than a three-fold increase, bringing her up to €40,000.

Egan and Taylor will receive the same amount while each of the Lightweight Fours – Paul Griffin, Richard Archibald, Eugene Coakley and Gearoid Towey – will receive €30,000 each.

Three athletes – high jumper Adrian O’Dwyer, walker Jamie Costin and long distance runner Marie Davenport — have lost their funding altogether for 2007 while walker Gillian O’Sullivan has had here cut almost halved to €12,000 after a period out of competition last season.

Two of the Irish team for this weekend’s European Indoor Championships in Birmingham – James Nolan and Gareth Turnbull – are absent from the list of 12 athletes included under the scheme.

All recipients qualified under criteria including ‘Contracted’ (of which there 11), ‘World Class’ (16) and ‘International Class’ (61). Other recent innovations such as bonus payments, inclusions of teams and development and junior squads, have been retained.

In total, €7.285m has been allocated under the high performance system, an increase of just over €1m on 2006. €5.245m of that will go directly to 15 sports with the other €2.04m going directly to the athletes under the carding scheme.

Rowing, hockey, athletics and boxing received the biggest investments, reflecting both their extensive plans and schedules for the year ahead and their potential as international championship performers.

“We saw many excellent performances in 2006 at championship level across a number of sports,” said ISC chief executive John Treacy. “That was thrilling to see and very encouraging for the future.’’

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