Paul O'DOnovan and Fintan McCarthy

Sport Ireland reflects on positive Olympic Games

09 Aug 2021
David Gash

As the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games draws to a close, Sport Ireland acknowledges the performance of Team Ireland at what has been an extremely positive experience for Ireland on a number of different levels.

Going into the Games Ireland was targeting 3-4 medals, as identified in Sport Ireland’s High Performance Strategy. That medal target was realised with excellent performances from Paul O’Donovan, Fintan McCarthy, Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh & Emily Hegarty in the rowing and Aidan Walsh & Kellie Harrington in the boxing.

Chairman of Sport Ireland Kieran Mulvey commented: “On behalf of Sport Ireland, I congratulate all of our athletes for their wonderful performances and commitment in Tokyo. In particular, we congratulate our medal winners, their families, support staff and NGBs. High performance sport is all about fine margins and Ireland narrowly miss out on a number of other medal opportunities across a range of sports. Those that got so close to winning medals and all of our athletes can be extremely proud of their efforts. It’s important to acknowledge the role of the Olympic Federation of Ireland and the excellent job they did in leading Team Ireland to and at Tokyo 2020. Through the National Sports Policy, the Government has reinforced its commitment to supporting High Performance Sport. This has provided vital stability and certainty to the system, allowing Ireland to continue to make significant strides on the international stage.”

In total Ireland was represented in 19 sports in Tokyo, with all programmes receiving support from Sport Ireland through funding and the facilities & expertise of the Sport Ireland Institute.

Sport Ireland Chief Executive John Treacy said: “This is has been an excellent showing by all of our athletes and teams. Funding, services and facilities can all be reflected on positively in contributing to Team Ireland’s performances. Sport Ireland strategically invested over €70m over the last 5 years into the High Performance System, with all National Governing Bodies receiving funding through High Performance Programme Funding; this is showing real reward. This has been an incredibly challenging Olympic cycle for high performance sport, however our overall targets for Tokyo were achieved. In that regard, facilitating the return of High Performance Sport last June during the pandemic cannot be underestimated. The Irish High Performance System has emerged from this difficult period and delivered on the world stage. This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our athletes, high performance support staff, National Governing Bodies and the experts in the Sport Ireland Institute.”

While medals are the ultimate goal at an Olympic Games, they are not the only key performance indicator in an event featuring the very best athletes in the world. In Tokyo, Ireland has recorded 19 top-ten finishes across a wide spread of sports, which exceeds the pre-Games target of 10-15.

Sport Ireland Director of High Performance & National Governing Bodies Paul McDermott added: “While our medal winners will fittingly take the plaudits, it’s important to commend all those that performed exceptionally well in their chosen code. Top 10 performances are an important metric as they indicate genuine medal opportunities that Ireland is competing for; this is something to be built on for Paris 2024. A significant portion of Team Ireland delivered lifetime and season best performances and delivering these performances on the Olympic stage is critical. In addition, relays provide huge value to individual sports such as athletics and swimming, presenting an opportunity to progress further in Paris 2024. For many sports, reaching the Olympic Games themselves is a significant achievement and Ireland was delighted to see the debut of both our Women’s Hockey Team and Men’s Rugby 7’s Team in Tokyo. All of these athletes deserve significant recognition and admiration for their performances.”

Tokyo 2020 saw a number of firsts for Team Ireland:

  • Final in Gymnastics
  • Final in Athletics 4x400 Mixed Relay
  • Qualification of Rugby Sevens Team
  • Qualification of Women’s Hockey Team
  • Qualification of a Female Diver (Tanya Watson)
  • Qualification of a Relay Team in Swimming
  • Largest ever Olympic Team
  • Female and male gold medallists at same Olympic Games

Not only has this been a positive Games from a performance perspective, the boost that Irish athletes have given the nation has been invaluable.

Earlier this year, Minister Martin and Minister Chambers launched the Sport Ireland High Performance Strategy 2021-2032. This is a long term plan for the Irish high performance system over the next three Olympic and Paralympic cycles that will be underpinned by a commitment to significant and sustained investment from Government. The publication of the strategy, and endorsement from Government, is a vote of confidence in Ireland’s athletes & National Governing Bodies, and reassurance that there is belief in them and their programmes as Ireland looks to continue its upward trajectory on the international stage.