There was a great sense of shared purpose and excitement at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus this morning as six of our sporting bodies came together to announce their plans and hopes for the European Championships taking place in Glasgow and Berlin between August 2nd and 12th.
The Championships are being promoted as one multi-sport event with shared facilities and services across the seven sports who have come together in hosting.
In fact, they will be seven individual Championships but the very fact of coming together and working with the European Broadcasting Union to deliver widespread coverage gives them a sense of scale and importance that might otherwise have been difficult to secure seven times over.
Ireland will be sending a team of as many as 100 athletes across six of the seven sports and we will report on the plans and the performances as they come together in the next two weeks.
Jon Rudd outlined that there would be twelve swimmers and three divers heading to Scotland. In terms of targets Swim Ireland is aiming at 50 per cent achieving lifetime bests in the competition and 65 per cent to hit a season-best as well.
Qualification was undertaken in competition format for the first time earlier this year and gearing up to peak at the most important time is an important part of the high-performance structures which Rudd has been putting in place.
Thomas Barr and Phil Healy were both present having put in strong performances at last night’s Cork City Sports and both will be hoping to do so again in Berlin. There could be as many as 30 Irish athletes travelling over with the Morton Games this Thursday and the Irish Life National Championships the following weekend serving as top class preparation for these Championships.
The successful 4 x 100-metre relay team who won silver at the World U20 Championships will compete at the London Diamond League this weekend in a bid to qualify as well as add to their growing experience.
Double Gold winning European U18 Champion Sarah Healy will race at the Morton Games but will hold back from stepping up to this level of senior competition in Berlin.
With three disciplines of track, road and mountain biking coming together Cycling Ireland will be sending a strong team. Kelly Murphy, who has just declared for Ireland will compete in the green vest for the first time, while double Tour de France stage winner Dan Martin is on a provisional list for the road race.
Sixty-five per cent of the start line at the Rio and London Olympics triathlon events came from Europe so competition will be strong.
The elite teams competing in the Men’s and Women’s events will also be supplemented by a first entry in the Relay event on Sunday while an additional 69 athletes will travel over in green to compete in the Age Grade Championships that are a unique part of triathlon just below the highest level of competition.
Another strong team with World Cup winner Rhy McLenaghan, Adam Steele and Andrew Smith competing in the Men’s events and Meghan Smith taking part in her first major international tournament.
All four are among a core group of athletes based now at the National Indoor Arena where the sport is building a real momentum.
A Junior Women’s squad will also travel to Glasgow. All have competed together as part of an Olympic Start programme since they were seven years old and this will be another valuable step along the way.
Gary and Paul O’Donovan have committed already to compete, fresh from their World Cup lightweight triumph in Switzerland at the weekend.