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Watch: 8 of Ireland's leading medal hopefuls at the 2016 Rio Paralympics

Ireland brought home an impressive haul from the London 2012 Paralympics, and are well poised to do so again.

AFTER THE UNHERALDED success of four years ago, Ireland’s 48 strong Paralympic team will be hoping to repeat the trick at the 2016 Rio Games, which get underway on Wednesday.

Team Ireland came away from London with 16 medals and while the target this time around is half that, this group of athletes possess the potential to achieve great success over the next 11 days of competition.

The likes of Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop need no introduction after their exploits in 2012 and they lead a team containing youth, experience and genuine medal contenders.

Here are eight we’ll be keeping a close eye on in Rio.

Source: The42.ie/YouTube

1. Jason Smyth (Athletics)

Labelled the ‘Usain Bolt of the Paralympics’, Jason Smyth has never been beaten at this level having won double gold in Beijing and then London. The sprinter is Ireland’s most decorated Paralympian and will be looking to defend his T13 100m title for the second time in Rio.

2. Michael McKillop (Athletics)

Like Jason Smyth, Michael McKillop was one of the stars of London. He claimed a superb gold in the men’s 1500m T37 classification and then did it again in the 800m final. The triple Paralympic gold medallist also holds world records over 800 and 1500m and big things are expected of him again in Rio.

London Paralympic Games - Day 5 Michael McKillop receives his T37 1500m gold medal from his mother in London. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

3. Noelle Lenihan (Discus)

Teenager Noelle Lenihan is one of Ireland’s leading medal hopes. Not only does she go into her first Games as the current European champion and World silver medallist, the 16-year-old from Cork is also the current world record holder.

4. Katie-George Dunlevy (Cycling)

Along with her pilot Eve McCrystal, Katie-George Dunlevy has progressed hugely since London where she achieved a couple of fifth-place finishes. In the space of four years, the 34-year-old has emerged as one of the world’s elite, winning two golds at the World Cup and also finishing highly on the track.

5. Ellen Keane (Swimming)

She may only be 21 but this will be Ellen Keane’s third Paralympic Games. The swimmer from Clontarf made three finals in London but since became a three-time world bronze medallist. Keane is very much an all-rounder and will compete in four events in Rio.

Ireland are fortunate to have four very talented swimmers in the team but Keane is undoubtedly the headline act and she’s grown in stature enormously since London so can be considered as a genuine contender for a place on the podium.

London Paralympic Games - Day 10 Ellen Keane could be a star in the pool. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

6. Nicole Turner (Swimming)

The youngest member of Team Ireland, Nicole Turner is a swimming sensation having burst onto the scene earlier this year. The 14-year-old reached six finals and won three medals at the European Championships in May and big things are expected of her next month.

7. Catherine Walsh (Triathlon)

Catherine Walsh is a former Paralympic medallist in pentathlon and track cycling and since London has made the switch to triathlon.

Alongside her pilot Fran Meehan, the Dubliner has shown form in 2016 with a strong performance at the European Championships and claiming two golds and a bronze at the ITU World Cup events.

They have a a realistic chance of winning Ireland’s first triathlon medal and the form books would certainly suggest they’ll be in the running in Rio.

London Paralympic Games - Day 4 Catherine Walsh has already won Paralympic medals in two sports. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

8. Eoghan Clifford (Cycling)

Eoghan Clifford heads to Rio for his first Paralympic Games on the back of incredible success. An engineering lecturer in NUIG, the 35-year-old recently won gold at the UCI Para Cycling Road World Cup in Spain.

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The Paralympic Games takes place between 7 and 18 September. Follow The42′s coverage from Rio here.

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