What can #TeamIreland usefully learn, borrow, beg and steal from #TeamGB?

World Champion Michael Conlon is the final Irish boxer out of the Olympics without a medal. He believes it’s a result of corruption.  Boxing has never run what you might call an open book on how it makes decisions.

And it has long been a medal banker (16 since 1924) for Team Ireland. Now it’s not, the slack has already been taken up by a couple of rowing brothers from Skibbereen and a heroic woman sailor from Dublin.

Other bright spots include Irish Hockey, which having long subsisted in the shadow of GB put in a great show. Efforts to keep hockey’s best players at home is starting to pay off. Sailing too is moving in the right direction.

But the limitations remain obvious. Northern Irish sailors Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern had to put out an appeal for funding just to get them to Rio, and are now set to compete in the Men’s 49er medal race.

The fact that Team Ireland is transnational in character should be positive. As one retired Irish athlete put it to Slugger, it usually means NI has more Olympic medals than GB (or indeed Ireland).

It also (in most, if not all cases) facilitates real choice, whether in giving the English-born diver Oliver Dingley a second chance, or an individual opportunity to represent their favoured nation at the very highest level.

Yet there’s gap growing between the increasingly professionalised way that TeamGB hunts new talent then funds and facilitates it, with Ireland’s more ‘have a go’ coaching approach to the development of elite sports.

It’s sobering to think that just twenty years ago Ireland pipped the UK in the overall medal table (albeit courtesy of three swimming golds that have never been properly accounted for).

TeamGB picked up just one Gold that year, so they didn’t take much beating. Yet almost all of GB’s huge success since can be measured from that moment of national humiliation and the resolve which followed.

As we have seen in the more limited example of Irish Rugby, organisation and a scientific and professional approach to recruitment and training can make all the difference to a team’s fortunes.

Ireland’s latent talent base cannot emerge until Irish athletes are enabled to compete on an even playing field. In the UK that’s meant money and commitment (even benefiting the GAA in Northern Ireland).

The length of that commitment shows in a medal table in which Team UK look certain to improve on both their Bejing and London tallies, whilst Ireland looks set to fall from its 2012 high of six.

Ireland cannot conjure facilities on the scale of GB/UK. Arguably 1996 was an aberration on both sides. Denmark is a better comparator. Yet it can and must learn from GB’s tremendous and inspiring example.

The trouble is that Ireland’s never really properly ‘owned’ the Olympics. That may be a result of its many historical conflicts which saw competing bodies run separate teams in the 1948 games.

As a result, it’s been left to the corinthian efforts of boxers (and its sailors and rowers) and their often impoverished clubs to make the effort individually.

Fair play to Sport NI for helping to get Seaton and McGovern to Rio in the end, but shouldn’t such cooperation be a matter of policy? Where’s the north-south sports body? And who is calling for such a move?

Pulling like a dog is old Ireland all over. Most of its early athletic success came in throwing heavy weights about the place. Isn’t it time to take sport, and ourselves, more seriously? Time to open minds and the purse.

As one Irish-born Welsh friend put it, science and team working have made British cycling the new German soccer.  Time to open Irish minds to new methods, ways of learning and co-operation, and the public purse.

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  • terence patrick hewett

    UK sport is an industry only second behind the US: an industry worth £20 billion and one of the fastest expanding sectors in the UK employing 450,000 people: 10,000 students graduate in sports science annually and the number is rising. And as an industry it is no different from sectors such as UK Aerospace.

    Ireland should do the same or join it: the employment possibilities for Ireland are staggering.

  • Donagh

    “What can #TeamIreland usefully learn, borrow, beg and steal from #TeamGB”

    Well the obvious answer is, their pharmacist.

  • mickfealty

    #Cynic.com

  • Karl

    Look at the records from the 80s and 90s when steroids and later EPO and blood doping were in the ascendency over the testing regimes and then look at the number of broken records after out of competition testing came in and testing methods caught up with EPO in the 2000s. That was 10 years ago. Both sides have moved on.
    To think British dominance, in cycling of all sports, is down to skin suits and wind tunnels is a joke.
    National sports organisations have responsibility for testing – what incentive do they have to catch their own athletes?
    Look at the organisations involved, boxing, OCI now theyve got FIFA on board – hardly paragons of sporting virtue.
    The Olympics is a bigger commercial behemoth than ever before. When the rewards are great, the risks are taken. Why do you label that cynicism and not the norm?
    Cui bono
    http://sportsscientists.com/2016/08/world-records-fossils/

  • Dan

    A north-south sports body to fund athletes competing under the Tricolour?
    Aye, dead on.

  • mickfealty

    Because, it, well, it is a tad cynical to disregard everything else in the field and focus on drugs? Also means we don’t have to think why we keep relying on the spirit of keen amateurs to (literally in the case of the Olympics) keep the flag flying.

    Blaming it on drugs or cheating Russians lets us off the hook of thinking about what we might do to actually support Irish athletes in the field. That’s why I believe it’s cynical.

  • mickfealty

    The Sports Council did it…

  • hgreen

    British Olympic success is underpinned by the private school system and the upper and middle classes. Spending an average of £5m per medal by a country where the use of food banks is growing is obscene. We have nothing to learn from this quadrennial dose of British jingoism.

  • mickfealty

    Jason Kenny, a public schoolboy Hugh?

  • hgreen
  • Thought Criminal

    They already have no shame and are stealing athletes from the UK, especially shameful the behaviour of the Irish hockey and rugby bodies forcing UK players to play for the Republic of Ireland.

  • mickfealty

    I thought as much, but the point is that GB had a class structure in Atlanta 96 when they were still crap. I take your point about food banks, but there *might* be a public health case for increasing participation in sport on scale and at the elite level.

  • terence patrick hewett

    It is a business HG an industry. Jingoism has nothing to do with £sd. The Olympics are an industrial shop window.

  • mickfealty

    That’s incorrect TC. David Ames is from Cookstown and went to play hockey in Rio with TeamGB. Mark Gleghorne also played in the same squad, but his brother played for Ireland. It’s a combination of choice, and opportunity.

  • hgreen

    Now they’ve got the class structure plus a load of money on top. Bingo. If we are looking for a health benefit the money the would be better spent on public sports facilities.

  • hgreen

    A business? So what are we getting back from our £350m investment?

  • mickfealty

    Maybe. I’d be open to a conversation about that. There’s no doubt GB started at the top (certainly with cycling and swimming), but there’s been a strong trickle down/up effect , especially via lottery funding.

    Ireland has talent, but the structures for scaling it are either embryonic or non existent. We’re just continuing with a polite fiction if we don’t recognise that.

  • terence patrick hewett

    A great deal. 450,000 jobs for starters. UK aerospace in comparison to UK sport is subsidised in excess of a factor of 10.

  • hgreen

    Where does the 450k come from? Link please?

  • terence patrick hewett
  • Karl

    The drugs are so prevalent that you cant and shouldnt focus on anything else. Why support athletes and pour money into it when it is rotten to the core or do we take Donaghs advice and get them a better pharmacist? Did anything in the linked article pique your interest?

  • hgreen

    You’ve used a bit of creative accounting there. For example football and rugby have been included in these jobs. No evidence of what we get back from the 350m olympics investment apart from a bit of flag waving.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Not at all we are talking about UK sport as an industry which is what it is.

  • Jollyraj

    Ireland don’t have their own pharmacist?

    Seriously, though, while I think drug use is a serious, serious issue which needs to be tackled, I think it is grossly unfair to dismiss Olympic sport thus.

    It is very, very far from being all about the spike.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    No I don’t think drugs would help.

    When the British decided to engineer the spud blight in Queen Victoria’s secret lab under Buckingham Palace the objective was to weaken the Irish race so that the Irish could not compete successfully when the modern Olympics would restart.

    As you must know British Special Branch had agents already working on growing test tube babies with a chemically altered DNA sequence that would ensure that the implanted idea of the modern games took root.

    The latest results from Rio only shows the plan continues to work.

  • hgreen

    You might be but I’m not. I’m questioning why we are paying 350m for a bunch of upper class kids to get medals?

  • terence patrick hewett

    It must be nice to live in a Tolpuddle Martyrs Themepark.

  • mickfealty

    Balls.

  • mickfealty

    ER, that Guardian article is spot on about the relative predominance of private schools in feeding into sport (they absolutely own school level cricket in most of ‘Blighty’), but that relates as much to the burning of school sports facilities across England which affects team sports particularly badly.

    I doubt it applies to most of the higher profile medal winners in cycling and swimming, or indeed, the boxers (I’d like to see you accuse Nicola Adams of being a toff!! 😉 ).

  • terence patrick hewett

    “A hunting we will go
    A hunting we will go
    Pull up your socks
    And chase the fox
    A hunting we will go”

    When will foxhunting, bullfighting and cricket become Olympic sports? Watch this space!

    Tally Ho! Jorrocks’ Jaunts and Jollities!!!

    List to me while I tell you
    Of the Spaniard that blighted my life
    List to me while I tell you
    Of the man who pinched my future wife

    ‘Twas at the bull fight where we met him
    Doing his daring display
    And while I went out for some nuts and a programme
    The dirty dog stole her away

    Oh yes! Oh yes!
    But I’ve sworn that I’ll have my revenge!

    If I catch Alphonso Spagoni, the Toreador
    With a mighty swipe I will dislocate his bally jaw!
    I’ll find this bullfighter, I will
    And when I catch the bounder
    The blighter I’ll kill
    He shall die! He shall die!
    He shall die tiddly-i-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti!
    He shall die! He shall die!
    For I’ll raise a bunion on his Spanish onion
    If I catch him bending tonight!

    Yes, when I catch Spagoni
    He will wish that he’d never been born
    And for this special reason
    My stiletto I’ve fetched out of pawn

    It cost me five shillings to fetch it
    This expense it has caused me much pain
    But the pawnbroker’s promised when I’ve killed Spagoni
    He’ll take it in pawn once again

    Oh yes! Oh yes!
    So tonight there will be dirty work

    If I catch Alphonso Spagoni, the Toreador
    With a mighty swipe I will dislocate his bally jaw!
    I’ll find this bullfighter, I will
    And when I catch the bounder
    The blighter I’ll kill
    He shall die! He shall die!
    He shall die tiddly-i-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti!
    He shall die! He shall die!
    For I’ll raise a bunion on his Spanish onion
    If I catch him bending tonight!

    I tracked him to London
    And he gave me the slip once again
    And they told me this morning
    That he’d doubled and gone back to Spain

    But whatever it costs me I’ll catch him
    Then no more will he give me the slip
    With my last one and ninepence on Sunday
    I’m going to Spain by the Sunday League Trip

    Oh yes! Oh yes!
    And then the dark deed will be done

    If I catch Alphonso Spagoni, the Toreador
    With a mighty swipe I will dislocate his bally jaw!
    I’ll find this bullfighter, I will
    And when I catch the bounder
    The blighter I’ll kill
    He shall die! He shall die!
    He shall die tiddly-i-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti!
    He shall die! He shall die!
    For I’ll raise a bunion on his Spanish onion
    If I catch him bending tonight!
    Olé!

  • hgreen

    Would you not agree that dedicating yourself to an Olympic sport is much less risky undertaking for the already wealthy and privileged? For example Chris hoy, Ben ainslie both privately educated. Since you didn’t like my previous link here’s another.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-19109724

    We see the same trend in the arts as well.

  • hgreen

    Well it’s yet another example of socialism for the rich and brutal capitalism for the less well off.

  • Jollyraj

    Certainly one thing they could take from other Olympic teams, if Michael Conlan is any example to go by, is how to take a defeat with grace. To be fair, I’m sure he is very untypical of the Irish representatives generally, but his outburst after losing by decision was no credit whatever to his team and his country.

  • Dan

    …and the rugby?

  • Zorin001

    I find it hard to condemn him, i’m sure the adrenaline levels were running high after the fight. He probably won’t look back on it with any pride but I can’t blame him after that shocker.

  • terence patrick hewett

    To reiterate:

    “…for there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey”.

    Thus does the dramatist Robert Greene in his pamphlet, Greene’s Groats-Worth of Wit, castigate the ignorant and provincial upstart actor William Shakespeare for having the temerity to write plays in competition with the Great and the Good.

    We are a sporting nation more Jorrocks than Jacobin so we may be inclined to give Will the benefit of the doubt. It is in paraphrase of Henry Fielding’s sporting Squire Western. “…Lards! Lards! that pack of Hanoverian Rats” that we regard the smarties who think they know it all.

  • Karl

    Well thats the prize for cogent well structured argument gone then.
    There are none so blind as those that will not see.

  • Kev Hughes

    I find your article a tad, well strange Mick.

    I was talking to a Cambridge friend of mine, Aussie, and we were pondering whether this is ‘peak sports’ now or just passed. You’ve got half empty stadiums at these games and it would appear from my pool of friends (physios, ex-rowers etc) that there’s a lack of interest in these Olympics when compared to others. It could easily be the time difference, but the whole Russian doping scandal, the games being staged in a bubble where the population outside don’t have decent sanitary conditions and are facing the zika virus whilst being asked to entertain big-wigs as well as those who have, in fairness, sweated themselves ragged to get there makes it somewhat hollow for me and many I know.

    It could also be that Ireland is stocked with interest in many other sports already, rugby, GAA, football etc, many of which either pay better than athletics, boxing or swimming or that just present better opportunities in the intervening periods?

    I congratulate Team GB for their medal haul, it’s genuinely impressive, but (and watch as our PUL blogging friends below try and say otherwise) for me these were games that I really couldn’t have given a monkey’s about and I feel it’s kind of lost its shine though it shouldn’t take anything away from the winners/participants.

  • mickfealty

    No, it’s just that that was pure troll talk.

  • mickfealty

    So, why did you think the OP was strange?

  • JohnTheOptimist

    There is no doubt that Britain has done extremely well in comparison with other European countries of similar size. While drugs may have played a part, I don’t think there is any evidence that Britain is more guilty than other countries (including Ireland) in this respect. Britain has twice as many medals as Germany, France or Italy and four times as many as Spain. So, well done. In fairness, though, all of these countries have a much better soccer team than England and soccer is 100 times as popular as many of the Olympic sports. Would the Spanish or Germans, for instance, swap winning the last couple of World Cups for Britain’s current gold medal haul? I doubt it.

    But, I think expecting Ireland to replicate Britain’s undoubted success is a bit far-fetched. The population of Ireland is 1/14th that of Britain. Currently Britain has 50 medals. So, on a per capita basis Ireland should have 3 or 4. Instead it has 2 (although extremely close to 3 yesterday). Ireland’s relatively poor performance is in fact par for the course for small European countries. Currently Portugal has 1 bronze, Austria has 1 bronze, Norway has 3 bronze and Finland (most surprisingly) has no medals.

    One (possibly politically-incorrect to mention) factor in Britain’s success is its large Caribbean and East African populations. Most of the world’s best sprinters are from the Caribbean or black American and most of the world’s best long-distance runners are from East Africa, Ireland will never produce a Usain Bolt or Mo Farah no matter how much funding it puts in. Britain could (and indeed has in Farah’s case) as it has large populations from both these regions.

    If Ireland wants to put more money into sport, that’s fine. But, it should focus on non-Olympic sports as much as Olympic ones. As a small country, Ireland should limit funding to about half a dozen or so sports, those that are actually popular and which it has some talent for. Excluding GAA sports which deserve funding but which don’t involve international competition, Ireland should concentrate its funding on soccer, rugby, golf, boxing, horse sports, rowing/sailing and limited athletics. There is a realistic chance of success in all of these.

  • Kev Hughes

    To surmise (broad strokes), it would appear we should throw all of our efforts into helping people attend a horrible spectacle of drug cheats and big wigs who ask that laws be suspended for their corporate sponsors while the population as a whole should forego basic sanitary standards and the municipal government is to be bankrupted all so a few folks can win some medals for a population that’s losing interest when we’re already saturated with sporting events the remaining 3 years, 11 months and 2 weeks of the time.

  • Kev Hughes

    Of course, I had hinted at it in my original comments, perhaps you didn’t see it…

  • John Collins

    Good one, but they must not have done a great job
    In the first six modern Olympic Games Co Limerick born men alone (aye! aye! Sinn Fein) had 13 Olympic medals won, the entire German Nation had won eleven.

  • mickfealty

    Yes, I thought that mention was weird too. Ireland didn’t qualify for Rio in either men or women’s competition.

    I think he means Ulster players wouldn’t get included in GB: Rugby (like boxing) is organised on an island-by-island basis.

    That’s never applied in Hockey. The best Ulster players have always aspired to play for GB, much like England in cricket.

    We did see massive improvements in Irish hockey this time out, and that has to be a win win for Northern Ireland sport.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Dare I post this? What the h*ll he tore the a*se out of everybody.

    Spike Milligan – The Irish O’lympics

  • mickfealty

    A fair enough position to take. But most of the time we kid ourselves about these things. What’s worth picking up on is the longer term investment can pay big dividends over time.

    Such investments can be framed a dozen ways, not least in terms of public health spend (which is a appallingly low spending priority in both jurisdictions).

    GB have used the Olympics to focus funding, and measure success, Ireland can and should do the same. Integral to that is finding and raising talent to that level playing field I’ve mentioned above.

    We need forward momentum in this area, across jurisdictions and within Northern Ireland and the Republic.

    My home town sends athletes to both teams (two local men running the Rio marathon for Ireland), holds sailing events that attract people from all over these islands, has decent clubs in hockey, soccer, cricket, golf and rugby and GAA.

    The point is to open out possibilities and give our athletes proper backing: whether they’re from the Falls or Holywood.

  • Kev Hughes

    You see, I disagree with everything you just said (first stanza aside).

    You’ve rushed to a whole host of conclusions (I’m on an iPhone so could take a while) regarding investments for the okympics when studies have shown ZERO uplift for the populace’s overall health from increased funding for the higher level sports.

    The question that you didn’t ask is why should we do that? You’ve 2 people from your town running marathons, great, what’s stopping the rest of the town? How is funding for top level sports going to help all? Why aren’t you focusing on the diets of people and their decrease in spending power as the root cause for poor health and pinning your hopes on elite athletes?

    You’ve run off to this solution and ignored the fact that perhaps the reason these sports don’t get funding that you believe they ‘deserve’ is probably because they’re not that popular. That they get what the deserve already and that contributing to an overall sporting event as obscene as the Olympics is tolerated by the populace 2 weeks out of 208, otherwise they’d probably pull all funding for these guys.

  • kensei

    Yet almost all of GB’s huge success since can be measured from that moment of national humiliation and the massive amounts of cold hard cash which followed.

    Fixed that for you there.

    I’m not convinced that it’s the right thing to do. Yes, people need role models, but I’m not sure something like £5.5 million a medal could not be better put into grassroots sport. The impact on lower level participation seems to be highly uneven and there is the stench of geopolitics to it.

    I’m sure there are organisational improvements that can be made. the Boxing failures seem to be at least in part due to the loss of Billy Walsh and resulting administrative chaos. But I’m not sure that chasing Olympic medals is a great use of national resources.

  • Kev Hughes

    ‘What’s worth picking up on is the longer term investment can pay big dividends over time.’ – waft are these dividends then; medals?

    ‘Such investments can be framed a dozen ways, not least in terms of public health spend (which is a appallingly low spending priority in both jurisdictions).’ – spending money on elite sports has a ZERO uplift for the general population. Usually, it’s the sporty kids taking it up.

    ‘GB have used the Olympics to focus funding, and measure success, Ireland can and should do the same.’ – why? You’re working on the ‘I know where we should be’ thesis instead, I’m asking why? Well aware that they’ve focused their funding and good for them, but as I’ve noted, apart from money going to elite athletes, the general public sees none and there’s no improvement in the public’ health.

    ‘ Integral to that is finding and raising talent to that level playing field I’ve mentioned above.’ – level playing field? Otherwise known as throwing good money after bad?

    You’re problem here with me is I loved the olympics, and this was the first one I’ve said enough, it’s just too corrupt.

  • mickfealty

    I can wait (for your research)…

    In the meantime, on the why question, well, I was no great sportsman in my own youth, so I can understand a lack of interest/motivation, but I’ll have a go at the why.

    First, I see facilities in my home town we could only dream of in my day. The GAA pitch used to curl up at the corners, had a severe slope, and relied on the cricket club to cut the grass.

    The quid pro quo was that the GAC used to let the cricketers use the lower end of the pitch as part of their outfield. It was cosy, but we never produced teams that could beat anyone.

    Now the ground share is gone, but we have a changing rooms on site, and full length pitch and we cut our own grass, and a decent coach who knows how to beat teams.

    Not being sh!t any more is a big asset in life.

    Investing in the health and well being of our kids is big bonus. Having people you know (or their kids) doing well in international sports brings a can do attitude.

    Yes, there are downsides (drugs, etc), but they are a very long way downstream. But, I think the bigger and more productive question is (as someone once said), ‘why not’?

    Lastly, I would say in Northern Ireland (on both sides of the community) we rather treasure our stories of oppression, and we find it hard to let go in search a broader ambitions.

    But at times, sport has been about the only thing we’ve had going for us. I don’t say invest at the exclusion of the arts or health, or infrastructure.

    But we should use our unique position in and between two states to invest over time and to do it strategically through policy, not just via ad hoc responses.

  • kensei

    It’s not all just about the drugs. There is also genetics – ignore doping and the sprints still select for a very narrow genetic range. My kids will never be world class sprinters, no matter how hard they try. And technological doping – as impressive as the UK Cycling set up is, a lot of the gains made are technological in nature and not open to a large number of countries. And that’s by no means the only sport where that’s the case.

    No idea how clean the UK sporting set up is or otherwise. But I’m out of love with the Olympics a bit. though I’ll give it this – it still manages to find some events and stories that can cut through all that.

  • mickfealty

    Ken,

    “I’m not convinced that it’s the right thing to do.”

    Good, nor am I. But I thought it was a good time to raise the question. Er, remind me again, what are we going to do that we maybe shouldn’t do?

  • kensei

    I agree, but I think it should seek some opportunities for individual talent athletes to train in other countries systems, if one comes along.

  • kensei

    Not sure about the question, but if it is – what should we do?

    UK Gymnastics is perhaps the most instructive. it lost all it’s funding, but poured what it did have into improving grassroots coaching and increasing participation. The success in the past few cycles is built-in that. That can risk spreading resources too thin, but I think it’s the way to go. If we don’t get any elite medals, we potentially get a lot more healthier and happier people.

    At an elite level, focus on a few sports because we’ve really no choice. If they can be commercially successful enough to help fund themselves, like rugby or soccer, great. Don’t let your best coaches walk out when they would really prefer to stay, and for god sake get a Rugby 7s team.

  • kensei

    Prove the trickle down effects to me. Most of the participation schemes after London 2012 fell pretty flat.

  • Kev Hughes

    ‘I can wait (for your research)…’ – I’m undertaking a project? Oh dear, don’t try bitchy, it doesn’t suit you, but in the meantime you could just go and find the evidence in front of you, it’s already in the public sphere.

    ‘First, I see facilities in my home town we could only dream of in my day. The GAA pitch used to curl up at the corners, had a severe slope, and relied on the cricket club to cut the grass.’ -wonderful, but I think all would agree that this is grass roots sorts you’re referring to and not elite sports.

    ‘Not being sh!t any more is a big asset in life.’ – it is, as much as perspective is too. Example? Russia for starters. For a man who gives the impression is for people being comfortable in their own skin you’re advocacy for open national hubris is amusing.

    ‘Investing in the health and well being of our kids is big bonus. Having people you know (or their kids) doing well in international sports brings a can do attitude.’ – the former is grass roots, the latter is unrelated and funding for it has little to no impact on the former. In fact, it’s taking funds away from it.

    ‘But we should use our unique position in and between two states to invest over time and to do it strategically through policy, not just via ad hoc responses.’ – have you made your mind on what it is you want? Grass roots or elite sports funding?

    Let’s take an example of where elite sports funding is completely unrelated to the wider world; football. The EPL invests 100s of millions each year on talent and this has had a negligible affect on football standards in the UK. Sure, good for Wales and the north didn’t do badly, but really, England are a mess. Who has done well? Deutschland with decent grass root football organisations, natürlich…

  • kensei

    If the goal is public health, Olympic medals is an inappropriate metric.

  • mickfealty

    Indeed, but strategy encompasses more than one goal/objective.

  • Jollyraj

    I hear what you’re saying. As far as genetics goes, that’s inevitable. Only a very small portion of the population have the physical tools to be an Olympic athlete – and only a tiny portion of those the drive, discipline and luck. But what can you do? Everyone is born with different gifts.

  • Kev Hughes

    Put simply, the USA would be the fittest country on the planet (spoiler alert, it’s not)

  • Karl

    I provided a link from a respected journalist. I drew conclusions from the article that I read. I asked if you had. Thats not trolling. You replied “Balls”

  • mickfealty

    “you cant and shouldnt focus on anything else.”, pure trollish.

  • Jollyraj

    Well, yes, a man who likes losing is never going to be a winner – and the guy is certainly a fantastic athlete to even get there. I boxed myself, so I can empathize with what it takes to compete in that sport – not that I was ever even remotely near the level of an Olympian. I’d also say it is unfair to interview particularly a boxer right after a contest – your mind isn’t immediately straight. Havimg said all that, his outburst was very disappointing. Children watch the Olympics.

    As to the result, hand on heart I’d say it was a very close decision – certainly not robbery – which I feel he lost.

    The Irish boxer had better footwork, and threw more punches – solid combinations, too – but a lot of his shots were blocked and thus didn’t score. Footwork notwithstanding, he was caught cleanly and often by the Russian to the face and body. And that, basically, was the difference.

  • mickfealty

    Yep. I do agree. I would also agree that that probably holds for some elite sports. But I also believe that doing nothing about it would have left that state of affairs in place.

  • mickfealty

    Just an overview which seeks to intelligently plug the gaps would certainly be a start. I keep thinking, rugby’s massive base expansion on foot of the success of the elite end has something to tell us.

  • Oggins

    Concentrate and develop what we are good at or good be much better with additional funding and coaching, rugby, boxing, sailing etc. Plow monies into sports that we can get better bang for our buck, hockey etc.

    Start campaigning for GAA as a sport! Sure it is now played in every corner of the world!

    It doesn’t attract the same passion from the people, because the majority of the sports are not that popular.

  • StevieG

    I was considering this question today…Team GB have done exceedingly well in terms of medal haul, disproportionately so given population, but definitely not so in terms of money. But, what do lots of medals mean? ie. So what?
    An objective may be to to maximise medals and this has been achieved with enough money, time, facilites, talent and coaching (and associated advice). It’s the Jose Mourinho approach – look for and spend on elites.
    £30M has been spent on British track cycling. Half that amount was spent in Australia. So, £30M for someone riding round and round on a wooden track in lycra brings what benefit to Britain? A jingoistic pleasure in being the best?
    So, even spending more money in Ireland may not bring medals if that is the objective as GB will spend more, so why bother set an objective linked to medals? Maybe better to focus on an other more inclusive, less elitist objective? Don’t get me wrong, the medal haul is impressive, but matches the money, and I cannot get the benefit.
    To those who site jobs, I’m not sure that could have been an original objective. Also, I’m not convinced by any trickle down health benefits…I’m not rushing out to buy an epee, canoe or horse.
    So, great and all for Team GB, but so what?

  • Katyusha

    To be fair, Mick, if it was China or Russia storming up the medals table, the headlines would be very different. You can’t blame people for showing the same scepticism towards GB that both GB and the US show towards their own designated rivals.

  • eamoncorbett

    Ban all minority sports, the Olympics should be about events that are universally played at a high level in most countries . Cycling around a ballroom with high banking is not a universal sport and therefore easy to hone in on as a medal winner . Track and field is where its at , at least its universal.

  • Katyusha

    If we are to try and kindle enthusiasm and motivation for Olympic sports among our potential young athletes, the best thing we could do is reintroduce athletics into the GAA. There seems to be few things which motivate us quite like competing for club and county. Get that running track under Croke Park, make a bid to host the international athletics championship. Athletics doesn’t occupy the same area of our psyche as Gaelic games, football, rugby, boxing and horse-riding do. We do exceedingly well at the games we actually play and care about. Most Olympic sports are minority pursuits in Ireland.

    Simply pouring government money into schemes to try and harvest a few medals is voth wasteful and futile. Our athletes do us very proud and we do well for our small size, especially in some of the aforementioned sports. If international competition is important, we should see that we redirect the energy of our young people normally inclined to Gaelic games.

    Would that guarantee success in the medal table? It may not, but its likely to be as successful and more socially useful than any government-concieved money-pit scheme.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I feel there is a great deal of sactimonous puritanism going on here:

    The feeling that someone somewhere might actually be innocently enjoying themselves is of course absolutely insupportable.

  • John Collins

    Well the Russians face was in a far bigger mess that Conlans after the fight.’ The Olympic organisers have admitted their mistakes and judges have been ejected from their position, which says a lot really.
    Bernard Dunne, a World Champion, Michael Carruath, an olympic gold medallist, and Mick Dowling, a silver medallist, as well as a highly respected commentator all vehemently disagree with your view of who won the fight. They normally accept defeat, in almost all cases gracefully, when they feel Irish boxers are fairly beaten. Experts on BBC also felt the result was a travesty.
    I also wonder if Conlon had not thrown such a display would those ‘judges’ be still in situ.

  • Jollyraj

    There are no points for blood in Olympic boxing.

    Quite a lack of concern on your part for the health of the participants.

  • John Collins

    You have no observation to make on the rest of the post. Typical.
    If his health was in such jeopardy I am sure the referee would have stopped the fight’

  • kensei

    Spectating is not participation. I thought club rugby was in fairly poor shape, with the consolidation of the top level game to the provinces. That’s certainly true in Wales.

    Rugby also has a season that continually puts it in the public consciousness AND a well defined infrastructure at all levels. Very few Olympic sports get much attention outside of the games. Even European and World Championships tend to get little coverage or celebration. I’m unconvinced top down works unless it is consistent, and has the necessary infrastructure at the bottom.

    As an example, fancied a go at fencing after seeing it at the Olympics – out of martial arts a few years, fancy something new. The only club near me is a student one.

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…lets go back and abolish all the non Irish sports then we can win some medals. We are no good at it? Ban it. You are foreign and a minority. Ban it.

    So I assume then you agree then in teh 17th century the Irish Governments ban on Gaelic sports was fully justified

  • chrisjones2

    Far better to have guys in a ring battering the hell out of each other (cause we might win that)

  • kensei

    I think that’s lessa true for skill based games. Football is truly a sport for everyone, so even FIFA and UEFA have difficulty screwing it up.

    And no, I’m sure its not 100% clean, but no drug is turning a donkey into Messi.

  • John Collins

    Yes
    If the Russian did as well as you say against Conlon how come he has pulled out of the semi final due to his injuries.

  • John Collins

    Well there banning hurling since the Statutes of Kilkenny and it only thrived. Then if you want anything to progress in this island you should firstly ban it.

  • mickfealty

    Sounds like sour grapes to me.

  • Jollyraj

    There are no points for causing lasting injuries to your opponent, either.

    The objective is to outpoint your opponent. I assume you won’t understand this as I assume you have never boxed. It is much more a game of speed, reflexes, luck and sporting intelligence than of brutality – though it is sometimes brutal.

    My sympathies, and my respect, are with both tremendous athletes. Conlan for the loss, and Nikitin for the injury which put him out.

  • Jollyraj

    Well said. Agree with all four points!

  • Jollyraj

    The rest of your post has already been (better) argued by others.

    Scoring any sport in which there is not a clear, tangible result – an unconcious opponent or a ball crashing into a net – is bound to be subjective. I also thought Hagler beat Leonard. Some people feel Pacquiao beat Mayweather (I was rooting for him, but felt that he lost), including Pacquiao himself – but he didn’t launch into a profanity-laced tirade in the ring. As I’ve said, I can understand Conlan’s extreme emotions – I merely said it’s disappointing they got the better of him, and voiced my respectful opinion that he was narrowly outpointed by a fighter with a tighter defence.

  • mickfealty

    ??

  • kensei

    !???

  • John Collins

    Well that is well argued, though I would disagree. Yes I have not boxed, though I take taken my beating either on the playing field or as a supporter with grace. Sport is after all only a game. However I would still feel the fact that expert people I mentioned, and the likes of Billy Walsh, all disagree with your assessment cannot be easily ignored. The fact that the governing body has ‘sent home’ judges early is also telling, as is the fact that those people have not been identified, unlike Michael O’Reilly, and indeed other sportsmen, who were caught cheating.
    Finally there is an interesting piece in the Sports Section of the Irish Times under the subtle heading “‘F****** cheats’ Five controversial Olympic boxing decisions’. It is in MHO worth a ‘gander’.

  • John Collins

    There is no GB team in Rugby Union. Who would NI players declare for if not for Ireland?

  • Tochais Siorai

    ‘….So I assume then you agree then in the 17th century the Irish Governments ban on Gaelic sports was fully justified..’

    I take it that’s the usual trolling. There was no Irish Government then. There was a (exclusively Anglo-Irish Protestant) parliament of sorts which through the Sunday Observance Act of 1695 tried to ban the playing of all sports on Sunday. Bans on Hurling through the Anglo Norman Statutes of Kilkenny and another one in Galway city in the 16th century had little effect.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Thanks to Brexit and Donald Trump, the pool of avaliable athletes may’ve gotten bigger.

    http://www.irishcentral.com/news/politics/Fear-of-Trump-as-president-sends-US-Irish-passport-applications-soaring.html?utm_source=outbrain&utm_medium=content-cultureroots&utm_campaign=paid

    It’s very unlikely that Trump will win,

  • murdockp

    http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/globalassets/Documents/CAL/Committee-Motions/Grassroot-and-Elite-Sports-Facilities/3.Grassroots-Sport-in-NI-A-Summary-of-Participation-and-Potential-Challenges.PDF

    As long as the sports that have the 8th and 15th highest participation levels (Soccer and GAA) receive the lions share of funding (Windsor Park £50m) (Casement Park £80m) little will be achieved with each venue only being used 4 times a year by a very small number (less than 500) participants.

    The number 1 participant sport does not have a 50m swimming pool in NI would could be in use 365 days a year every city in the UK has one except NI. Are we starting to see a correlation here??

    Another example would be we have one of the stongest Cycling communities in Europe with Cycling coming 5th on the list (and growing) yet we can’t even fix the potholes on the roads on which people are meant to cycle never mind provide track cycling fcilities.

    Sectarian political hijacking will mean we will never complete on a global level. You have to admire the ruthlesness of Team GB putting its money in the sports that are highly likley to bring sucess and having evidence based expenditure based on participation levels in sport.

    NI puts its money in cultural activities that only a small portion of the popuplation regularily participates in, unless Gaelic football, Motor Cycling or Marching is going to be introduced ionto the next Olympics anytime soon, I would not stock up on Gold Phonebox Paint just yet.

  • murdockp

    Rugby is led by capable people who ooze common sense and the sport importantrly is now non sectairan. Ravenhill was completed years before the Windsor Park and Casement debacles, it was as if the Rugby administrators had crystal balls at the time and the time decided to take the £20m and run.

  • John Collins

    Refer to reply above.

  • John Collins

    I mentioned where Limerick born athletes had won thirteen Olympic medals, when the German Nation had only won eleven. Yet I know of no substantial monument in the county to this overall achievement. I am thus anxious to ascertain where can I find a full list of all Olympic medals won by NI born people.

  • Oggins

    Troll….. Did not mention anything about foreign sports. Thought I disagree with banning, you just used this as another attempt to get at those paddies

  • kensei

    The objective is to knock out your opponent.

    It is subjective if it comes to points. Had Conlan been British, I’ve no doubt you’d have come down on the other side of the line. It’s a shock you’ve swung the other way here.

  • Jollyraj

    “The objective is to knock out your opponent.”

    Have you ever boxed, Kensei? A knockout is one way to end a contest, yes, since the opponent would be unable to continue. But KO’s are comparatively rare in amateur boxing, moreso the lower the weight division, because of the shorter bouts for one thing, and the differences in how punches are valued for another.

    The primary objective is to outpoint the opponent. I would suggest that boxing is one of those sports where anybody who has never tried it secretly thinks he might have a hidden talent for it, and thus it does attract much excitable comment from people on the various intracacies of a sport about which they know nothing.

    The fact Conlan is Irish, to me, matters as little as it does that his opponent was Russian. Though I daresay if Conlan had been from Puerto Rico you could care less about whether the decision was fair.

  • Gopher

    For me wasted our sporting budget on 3 Stadiums were one was suffice due to politics. For a fraction of the cost we can have a Grade 1 equestrian centre, Shooting facility or Sailing centre of excellence. The natural stadium for each exist they just need the facilities