| 9.4°C Dublin

Derval feat not enough

They call it tough love: our near neighbours, the British, may have won a record-breaking 19 medals at the European Championships, but head coach Charles van Commenee still wasn't content.

Sounding like the athletics version of Michael O'Leary, he labelled both men and women's 4x100m teams "a disgrace" for failing to make it out of the heats.

By contrast, the Irish team management meanders along, happy with Derval's silver, two fourth places for Robert Heffernan, and national records for both 4x100 and 4x400m women's relay teams.

And yes, there were also encouraging runs from Rose-Anne Galligan in the women's 800m, Niamh Whelan in the 200m and Ailish McSweeney in the 100m.

But could it have been better? Do we need tough love in Irish athletics?

When compared to the UK, there are obvious differences of scale. It means that sportsmen and women in Ireland are big fish in a small pool. Although these young stars must struggle to keep a sense of proportion, they are usually treated with some latitude, as indeed are officials and management.

That's how it works when you're likely to bump into your local superstar or national coach at Santry or Tullamore or Daingean.

Straight talking becomes hard.

While England and France develop discipline and spirit in their teams, nothing much changes here. Our most successful athletes get on with it on their own, sidestepping the grandiose five-year plans and the high-performance projections. Big name coaches arrive and then leave; the Irish system defeats them.

As Derval O'Rourke has pointed out, the aftermath of recent upheavals in Athletics Ireland has not been dealt with. Many of the people at the root of the problems in Irish athletics still call the shots. It means talented coaches and administrators are either opting out of the sport, or sticking with club athletics.

Here's a few questions: if David Gillick was on a British team, would he have opted out of the 4x400m relay team? If Alistair Cragg, a decent man, had got the support he clearly needed a few years ago, could his career have taken a different track?

So has anyone got Michael O'Leary's phone number? We hear that he's something of a runner.


Privacy