Delivering medals on the world stage is one of the chief aims of Athletics Ireland’s High-Performance Strategy 2022-2028, and a coach with a “track record of global success” will be recruited to help them achieve it.
Under the plan, at least five home-based coaches will also benefit from investment this year.
Global medals are the ultimate goal, with one medal targeted at the next two World Championships and at the Paris Olympics in 2024. “In terms of the results in Tokyo, it’s perfectly reasonable to say we’re not where we want to be,” said Paul McNamara, Athletics Ireland’s High-Performance Director. “But moving forward into Paris and beyond, I think it’s very, very exciting times.”
Getting a coach with a proven medal record to mentor Irish coaches is a key objective, with that contracted role likely limited to one day a week when it’s introduced next year, the long-term goal being to develop financial capacity to turn it into a full-time position. “The problem is they come with a very high price tag,” said McNamara of such experts.
Young athletes have won a raft of medals at underage events in recent years, but Ireland’s last global championship medal was back in 2013 via Rob Heffernan.
Leaning on the findings of the Tokyo Review, the strategy outlines seven pillars that range from performance investment to improved governance, with a commitment to exploring alternative revenue streams to allow for further investment.
On funding, McNamara said a performance director is “never happy” with the amount available, but he noted that despite Athletics Ireland’s high-performance allocation remaining virtually static for the coming years, it actually received “a 17 per cent investment increase” from Sport Ireland accounting for increases to the carding scheme.
Volunteer coaches currently form the backbone of the high-performance structures in athletics, and McNamara believes this strategy will allow them to become a more valued and integrated presence. “Ultimately, this is about supporting indigenous coaching talent,” he said. “Enfranchising rather than disenfranchising it.”
Enhancing the support and investment in young athletes via the Performance Pathway Programme is another objective, with a range of training groups that have a proven record of transitioning talent to senior ranks set to be identified, the coaches receiving financial support. A minimum of three such groups will receive investment next year.