Ryan the talk of the track

Cycling Ireland President Denis Toomey believes that an indoor velodrome would lead to more medals on the European and World stage after Kildare woman Caroline Ryan was the latest to medal at a major event over the weekend.

The Garda CC member, and world number two, stormed to a brilliant bronze medal in Saturday’s 3k Individual Pursuit ride-off against Anna Solovey of the Ukraine at the Track World Cup in Mexico, winning by a mere three 10ths of a second.

And her performances over the weekend ensured her place at next February’s World Track Championships in Colombia.

Following events in Mexico, attention quickly turned to the possibility of building a velodrome on the National Sports Campus at Abbotstown in Dublin and Toomey revealed he will meet Government officials in the coming weeks to present the results of a feasibility study he, as well as senior officials at Badminton Ireland, completed on the possible construction of an indoor track — which would also be used as a headquarters for the latter body.

“We’re hoping to meet the main people in the Department of Sport before Christmas and if we get them to buy into the idea, it will be brilliant for the future of cycling in Ireland,” said Toomey.

“Talks are only starting, we’ve been asked to complete a feasibility study and we’ve done that in conjunction with Badminton Ireland and it has been proven to be quite feasible but it will take a ballsy decision from the minister to say ‘we can make this happen’ but I think it is very do-able.

“Badminton Ireland have 17,000 members, we’ve 20,000 members so I don’t think there’s a better opportunity to go to the Government with this proposal. A velodrome is the missing link in the chain at the moment. We’ll produce more Martyn Irvines and more Caroline Ryans and more Eoin Mullens with a track. Imagine the amount of people that’d come up behind them? It’s essential we get it.”

Toomey said the project could be delivered in two years. “By the time we get through planning and hopefully get between €6.5 and €7.5 million, it’s so do-able. A velodrome ticks so many boxes; from getting school kids in, to helping our own development squads, to the elite squad and for teams coming in from outside the country. It would be self-financing, it would drive up membership.

“Minister Varadkar is a cyclist and I think he feels, from the chats we’ve had, he can see the benefit of it and if he can find the wherewithal to put the money up, it would be incredible. Everyone from the Sports Council, the Olympic Council, Paralympics Ireland, Badminton Ireland are behind it, so it’s now or never.”

Cycling Ireland Performance Director and chief executive Geoff Liffey echoed those sentiments. “Caroline won the bronze medal in the Individual Pursuit, bringing to close a great year for her and Cycling Ireland,” he said.

“Over the last two years the Irish team has clocked up 38 medals at European and World level, across the Paralympic and Olympic programmes. 15 of those medals have been in track cycling, which is a remarkable achievement for a country without a velodrome. It would be exciting to see what we could achieve with a facility at home that would allow much more talent to develop, as we have proven expertise in our coaching system.”

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