Athletics – A tough World championships for Irish athletes but rising stars continue to shine
A bad dose of food poisoning, picked up in a designated team hotel, put Olympic 400m hurdles finalist Thomas Barr out of the World Athletics Championships in London. Veteran racewalker Robert Heffernan (39) finished eighth in the 50km walk at those IAAF World Championships. Rumours that Ireland’s 2013 World champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist had retired seem to have been premature with Heffernan saying; “I’d love to develop the sport here in Ireland, put something back in and maybe the best way to do that is by still taking part,” Heffernan has said since. Watch this space!
But there is a new guard of young athletes coming through who are firmly focused on Tokyo. In July, Gina Akpe-Moses took gold in the 100-metres at under-20 European championships in Italy, the first gold for Ireland at these championships since 2015. There was also medals for John Fitzsimons (bronze in the 800m) and Michaela Walsh (bronze in the Hammer).
Aquatics – Irish swimmers breaking records and winning medals
The biggest ripple in August was caused by young Sligo breaststroker Mona McSharry who became Ireland’s newest world champion. Just days before her 17th birthday she smashed the Irish senior record when winning the 100m breaststroke gold in 1:07.1 at the FINA World Junior Championships in America. The Marlins SC star prefaced it by winning bronze in the 50m and was just pipped for another bronze in the 200m final, adding to the three European Junior medals (2 gold, 1 silver) she won a month earlier. Also starring in Indianapolis was Jordanstown backstroker Conor Ferguson (17) whose 100m silver was Ireland’s first ever medal at this level and he was also narrowly beaten for a second medal. Olympic swimmer Shane Ryan also won global gold, in a new Irish 50m backstroke record of 24.97, at the World University Games in Taipei, a feat last achieved by Gary O’Toole in 1991. Ryan was also part of, Ireland’s 400m Medley Relay team that ended the FINA World Championship with a new Irish Senior record and a top 16 finish.
Badminton – The Magees continued their rich vein of form at the European Championships
August also showcased the great form of Donegal siblings Chloe and Sam Magee whose badminton graph continues to rise since Chloe sacrificed her singles ambitions to concentrate on mixed doubles. They followed up this year’s European bronze medal by reaching the last 16 at badminton’s World Championships in Glasgow where they took the Olympic champions from Indonesia (and eventual winners) to three sets, losing 21-19, 16-21 and 10-21 in a real thriller.
Basketball – Irish young stars excel on home soil
Another team who excelled were Ireland’s U18 girl’s basketballers who took silver at the European U18 ‘B’ Championships which Basketball Ireland hosted in Dublin in August. Tommy O’Mahony’s side took out some big hardcourt powers like Israel and Poland during their unbeaten seven-game run to the final where they lost to Germany. Making a European final and getting promoted to the A division were both firsts for Irish basketball.
Boxing – Ward Shows his Class
There was another big global achievement for Ireland in August when Moate boxer Joe Ward who won his second silver at the World Championships. Once again only Cuban superstar Julio Cesar La Cruz, the now four-time light heavyweight champion, stood between Ward and gold and, at 23, the London Olympian has vowed to keep chasing it. This was Ward’s third World Championship medal and his career to date already includes World Junior, World Youth and three European senior titles, a phenomenal record.
Cycling – More medals for cycling on the road
There was no shortage of Irish achievements packed into a hectic August for Cycling Ireland. There was a medal for cyclist Ryan Mullen who won Time Trial bronze at the European Road Championships. It was his third international medal after silver in the same speciality at European Juniors in 2012 and silver at the 2014 World U23 Championships.
Golf – Maguire makes more golf history
Cavan golfer Leona Maguire (22), who has just started her final year at Duke University, won the Mark H McCormack Medal (for the world’s best female amateur) for an unprecedented third time.
Hockey – Irish hockey sides in European action
There were solid rather than stellar performance for Ireland Men’s & Women’s Hockey teams at their European Championships where they finished 6th & 7th respectively. Crucially both teams retained their spots in the top tier of European Hockey. These results came at the end of a long summer. The men have however secured their spot at World Cup for the first time since 1990. The women too remain in with a chance of qualifying for their World Championship having finished 6th at the World League Semi-Finals in South Africa in July although are dependent on other results to go our way.
Horse Sport – Jumping for Joy
August was also a brilliant month for Ireland’s equestrians as the show jumping team of Cian O’Connor, Shane Sweetnam, Denis Lynch and Bertram Allen won team gold at the European Championships in Gothenburg for the first time since 2001 and, a day later, Olympic medallist O’Connor took silver in the individual final.
Pentathlon – Star pair continue to succeed as rising talent starts to shine
Modern pentathletes Arthur Lanigan-O’Keeffe and Natalya Coyle are another ‘mixed’ pair doing well. They won mixed relay gold at the World Cup final this summer and finished sixth in the same discipline at August’s World Championships where Coyle finished 14th and Lanigan O’Keefe 11th with developing talent Sive Brassil making her debut at the event.
Sailing – Murphy commits to World event
Olympic silver medallist Annalise Murphy had to pull out of the Laser Radial World Championships at the 11th hour due to a knee injury. Annalise has also recently confirmed that she is putting her Tokyo preparations on hold to take up a spot on the Turn the Tide on Plastic Team taking part in the round the world Volvo Ocean Race.
ONES TO WATCH
Each newsletter will also look to feature some of Ireland’s up and coming athletes from one of our Olympic Sports. This month it is cycling where Irish road cyclists appear to be on a bit of a roll right now but two 17-year-olds also caught the eye at the World Junior Track Championships in Italy in August. Down’s Xeno Young won silver in individual pursuit and Kildare’s JB Murphy took bronze in the points race. Both had already won silvers at the Europeans Juniors this summer and that was just four weeks after Kilcullen CC’s Murphy first rode in an indoor velodrome!