Treacy plays down Olympic targets

It may be the Olympics but don’t expect the world.

That was the message emanating loud and clear from Dublin’s Davenport Hotel yesterday as the Irish Sports Council (ISC) announced the last tranche of funding for athletes prior to the London Games.

Expectations habitually run riot among the public at large prior to every Olympics but that has been fuelled this time by a list of impressive performances by Irish sportsmen and women around the world since the last Games in Beijing.

ISC officials yesterday produced a slide show demonstrating the fact that Irish athletes have won 102 medals in major championships since 2008. The numbers for the two previous four-year cycles had been 70 and 54 respectively.

A record 59 medals were stockpiled on these shores last year alone but ISC chief executive John Treacy stated yesterday that “a repeat of the success at Beijing would be a reasonable target” despite that improvement in fortunes in the intervening years.

“We did exceptionally well in Beijing,” the 1984 silver medallist explained. “We have set a target of eight or nine finalists and we are sticking with that target. Obviously if we come away with two or three medals we will be doing extremely well.

“We are winning the medals at junior and development levels. We are seeing people coming through at that level. They are obviously not senior level yet but they are certainly on the way there.

“What we are trying to do is be realistic in terms of what we can achieve and not be too aspirational because if you are too aspirational when it comes to high performance you get a kick up the backside.”

That said, the fact is the Irish squad which competes in London this year will be the best-funded and supported in our history and, unfortunately, that is likely to remain the case come 2016 and Rio de Janeiro.

Yesterday’s figures backed up the long-held commitment made by the ISC to maintain the level of funding to high performance athletes for the London event but economic realities will bite belatedly once the Games are over.

A total of €2.34m has been committed to the high-performance athletes under the International Carding Scheme for 2012, which is itself the subject of a review that will be completed in June. Last year’s figure was €2.32m.

In all, there are 27 designated ‘podium’ athletes — up from 22 — between Olympic and Paralympic sports and in receipt of the maximum amount of €40,000 but there is the usual to-ing and fro-ing of athletes up and down and on and off the final list.

Some of the most high-profile absentees hail from track and field. Among them are Mary Cullen, Thomas Chamney, Ailish McSweeney, Kelly Proper and David Campbell, although the door has not been shut on any of them.

Cullen, Chamney and McSweeney are all coming off the back of injury-interrupted seasons and can still qualify for financial support subject to a medical test at the Irish Institute of Sport while the other two will need to make their cases in competition.

Among those to profit most this year are boxers Joe Ward and Ray Moylette and the sailors Peter O’Leary, David Burrows and Annalise Murphy, all of whom have moved up the grades into the ‘podium’ class and will thus earn the bump in funding that comes with it.

The temptation now is to say that, with the last pennies dispersed, it is all up to the athletes in the run-in to London but Kieran Mulvey, chairman of the ISC, was keen to stress the fact that support for sportspeople is not limited to the financial sphere.

Mulvey referenced Martin Fagan’s recent suspension for an anti-doping violation and his story of depression when he added that: “Any athlete or organisation that feels an athlete needs support should know that there are resources here to help them.

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