Euro 2012 a welcome distraction for Irish athletes

Irish Olympic Council of Ireland CEO Stephen Martin believes Euro 2012 will help to focus attention on the Irish athletes competing at the London Olympics.

“There’ll be a huge amount of interest in sport this summer,” said Martin, who is attending the ‘From Beijing to London sports conference at the Mardyke in UCC. “Ireland qualifying for the European championships is quite an advantage, because if they hadn’t there would have been quite an amount of preempting what was going to happen at the Olympics. There might have been a void which could have been difficult for Olympic sports to cope with in terms of expectation. We’ll have additional coverage, which has been coming through since the start of the year, but it’s a good thing that the soccer team are at the Europeans, and it’s important they perform well. Then the focus can turn naturally to the Olympics, in a shorter window. Obviously the Olympics gives a major opportunity to certain sports a chance to raise their profile in Ireland, sports like gymnastics, thanks to Ciarán Behan qualifying, or modern pentathlon if Natasha Coyle qualifies — people would learn a little bit more about that sport if she makes it.”

Martin added it was unfortunate neither the men’s nor the women’s hockey sides qualified.

“We’re gutted for them,” said Martin, an Olympic gold medallist himself in hockey with Britain at the ‘88 Games.

“It would have been fantastic if they’d made it – it was a big challenge, but they got very close.

“It would have created a new dynamic in the Olympic team. We’re expecting 12 or 13 sports to qualify, around 40-50 athletes, but if hockey had qualified it would have been a new dynamic. But there are positives – they competed well, they’ve improved their world rankings, and there’s still a lot to play for. One or two of the men’s team may move on but the profile of the teams are quite young. Obviously they’re doing a lot of good things to raise their levels, but it’s just disappointing not to get them over the line.”

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