A day to forget. For the majority of the Irish team in action in Rio yesterday, that was how they’ll look back on the fifth day of the Paralympic Games.
It wasn’t all bad – far from it – but let’s not beat around the bush: it wasn’t very good.
After the heroics of Jason Smyth, Eoghan Clifford and Michael McKillop last week, this was never likely to be a very happy Monday for Team Ireland, but the reality was the sole medal chance never materialised, while the men’s football team endured another annihilation, this time at the hands of Great Britain.
Early in the day, hopes were high that Galway’s Deirdre Mongan might grab Ireland’s fourth medal in the F53 shot put, but the 38-year-old was below her best, struggling to find peak form in sweltering temperatures that soared into the 30s.
Mongan’s best effort was the 4.01m she threw in the opening round, well down on her best of 4.26m. As it turned out, she would have needed a lifetime best of 4.28m to make the medals in a competition won by Bahrain’s Fetema Nedham with 4.76m.
“It was way off what I wanted or would have expected,” said Mongan.
“The conditions were not great and it’s disappointing when you know you are capable of more. I do struggle in the heat and was unfortunate to be throwing on one of the hottest days.”
Later in the day, Ireland’s 7-a-side footballers endured another shellacking in what was their final group game, going down 5-1 to Great Britain.
In truth, they were outclassed and overmatched from the start, with Britain’s Jack Rutter running straight at the Irish defence when the game opened, dancing around the defenders and firing a rocket past keeper Brian McGillivary.
For seven minutes the Irish held the barrage at bay, but then Rutter once again dribbled his way into the box, the stray leg of Irish attacker Tomiwa Badun taking him to the ground.
Though McGillivary repelled the subsequent penalty, Britain’s Michael Barker charged in to slot the rebound home.
Great Britain found the net twice again in the final minute of the first half, but the Irish emerged with a fresh resolve in the second-half, an impressive workrate helping to keep the scoreboard at 4-0 until the 59th minute.
It was then that substitute Conor Tuite fired home and gave Irish fans in the stands a few brief moments of celebration.
It didn’t last long, with Sean Highdale immediately responding in kind for the Brits, slotting it home from close range in injury time.
With the group stages now at a close, just one game remains for the Irish side, a seventh-place playoff with the United States tomorrow afternoon.
Across town, there was better news for the Irish at the aquatics centre, where teenage prodigy Nicole Turner reached her third straight final, the 14-year-old from Portarlington finishing fourth in her heat of the S6 200m individual medley in 3:17.09.
“It was a really good swim,” said Turner. “I normally struggle on the backstroke so I was delighted to keep in there and make another final.”
No such joy for teammate James Scully, who was knocked out in the heat of the 50m freestyle after finishing sixth in 37.38. Though dejected at missing out, Scully had the consolation of a lifetime best.
“My hunger for this Games has been second to none,” he said. “I’m coming in here really wanting those PBs those top performances. Finals, medals and placings are secondary. I’m here to beat myself.”
Elsewhere, para shooter Seán Baldwin was in action for the third time but could only manage a 20th-place finish in yesterday’s rifle 3 positions qualifier, well shy of the top-eight placing he needed to advance.
Ever the optimist, the 48-year-old was quick to turn his thoughts to tomorrow’s event. “Today was a hard start,” he said, “but I am really enjoying the day and looking forward to Wednesday.”
The sonar sailing trio of Ian Costelloe, John Twomey and Austin O’Carroll finished 10th and 14th in their opening races yesterday, and will return to the water for races three and four this afternoon.
In shooting, Phillip Eaglesham will be the sole Irish competitor, going in the R5 mixed 10m rifle prone qualifier.
Irish in action
Swimming: S6 400m freestyle heats (1:55pm): Nicole Turner
Swimming: S8 100m backstroke heats (3:16pm): Ailbhe Kelly
Shooting: R5 mixed 10m rifle prone qualifier (5pm): Phillip Eaglesham
Sailing: Race 3 (5:35pm), Race 4 (7pm)
Shooting: R5 mixed 10m rifle prone final (7:15pm): Phillip Eaglesham
Swimming: S6 400m freestyle final (9:41pm): Nicole Turner
Swimming: S8 100m backstroke final (11:21pm): Ailbhe Kell
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