Athletics: Price is right to help replace Ireland's 'lost generation' of throwers
Published 23/12/2011 | 05:00
IRELAND'S chances of replacing what has been described as "a lost generation of throwers" has been considerably boosted by securing a new sponsorship deal for 2012.
Brian Price is well known in domestic athletics circles as his company ProSportEurope have long been providing timing and other specialist athletic equipment across the country and he has now injected some badly needed cash into the country's top throwers.
"Coaching budgets are tight and Brian's sponsorship has at least doubled ours," said Dave Sweeney, who took on the role of National Throws co-ordinator a year ago.
"Up until now we were only able to get our national squads together four times a year, but this will allow us to do additional coaching and provide extra support for athletes."
Sweeney admits that Ireland "lost a generation of throwers" recently, pointing out that, apart from Eileen O'Keeffe, no one else came close to world-class after the retirement of the previous elite group that included Terry McHugh and Nick Sweeney (no relation).
"There were 10 years there where nothing really happened," Sweeney said. "But we have some really promising underage talent now, particularly in the hammer."
He believes the dawn of professional rugby has also diverted some serious talent away and Leinster star Cian Healy, a regular throws champion at Irish schools level, is a case in point.
But Wexford discus thrower Marco Pons (DMP AC) has bucked that trend, opting to go to DCU and now focussed on qualifying for World Juniors. Rising hammer talents Alice Akers (Marian AC) and Adam King (Iveragh AC) both broke the British U-15 championship records last summer, while Cara Kennedy (Ferrybank) and Killian Barry (Crusaders) continue to progress at U-23 level.
Claire Fitzgerald (Tralee) and young Spa-Muckross star Kayleigh Cronin are two to watch in discus.
The new deal will allow Sweeney extend the coaching programme that saw him bring in Vesteinn Hafsteinsson, coach to Olympic discus champion Gerd Kanter. The national squad will now be called the 'Polanik Throws Squad.'
Elsewhere, Fionnuala Britton was runner-up to Ana Dulce Felix in European Athletics 'Athlete of the Month' for November, which, given that she then became European Cross-country champion ahead of the Portuguese runner, makes her a front-runner for December. The Kilcoole AC star intends completing a full cross-country season in the new year, starting with the Great Edinburgh XC on January 7 and will likely include the IAAF Antrim International on January 21.