5 Irish to follow to keep an eye on over the Olympics

1. JOE WARD (Light heavyweight boxer)

5 Irish to follow to keep an eye on over the Olympics

Heavy-hitter Ward (22), from Moate BC, beat Kenny Egan in a national final when he was just 17. He won silver at the World Championships last year, to add to his bronze from 2013 and he’s also a former World Junior and World Youth champion with two European amateur titles also.

2. PAUL & GARY O’DONOVAN (Lightweight Men’s Rowing pair)

The brothers from Lisheen, Skibbereen, who live in their granny’s house in Ballincollig so they can train in the national rowing centre in Inniscarra, only moved into lightweight double two years ago but really clicked. They were not only European champions this year but finished second and fourth in World Cup races, the main barometer of their sport. They should be in the medal mix.

3. THE ‘GREEN MACHINE’ (Ireland men’s hockey team)

With a minimum of five games, here’s a great chance to appreciate Ireland’s hockey players. They won a bronze at the Europeans last year, they’re the first Irish team of any kind to make an Olympics since 1948, they’ve got the world’s top goalie in 6’5” Davey Harte (whose twin Conor is also playing) and their group includes the Olympic (Germany) and European (Netherlands) champions. Oh and one of them (Paul Gleghorne) has a brother in Rio playing for Great Britain!

4. MARK ENGLISH (800m)

Rob Heffernan and recent European bronze medallist Ciara Mageean are two obvious ones to follow but keep an eye too for the Letterkenny medical student in the 800m. English famously missed qualifying for London by less than two-tenths of a second. He lost a lot of training to an untimely injury this season, but he’s a two-time European medallist, got back racing in the past month and his recent 1:45:36 indicates he may have recovered just in time.

5. ARTHUR LANIGAN O’KEEFFE (Modern Pentathlon)

The Thomastown all-rounder, pictured left, competes in a relatively unknown sport but is the reigning European champion. His multi-sport event involves fencing, swimming, horse-riding, shooting and running all in one day and takes place on the very last day of the Games. Back in April, when a thief stole his mobile phone on O’Connell St, Arthur, 24, ran him down and retrieved it — not a man to mess with!

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