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Sport Ireland confirm long-awaited change to Olympic athlete funding

Ireland’s elite athletes have been given a better chance of success.

Tipperary hurling manager Liam Sheedy, who also serves as Chair of Sport Ireland's High Performance Programme, speaks with Rhys McClenaghan.
Tipperary hurling manager Liam Sheedy, who also serves as Chair of Sport Ireland's High Performance Programme, speaks with Rhys McClenaghan.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

SPORT IRELAND TODAY today confirmed that the Irish athletes they fund directly through the International Carding Scheme have been awarded grants on a two-year basis rather than annually, has has been the case to now. 

Athletes have been awaiting this decision for some time, as it allows them more security in preparing for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Sport Ireland today confirmed this is the first step in ultimately funding athletes in full, four-year Olympic/Paralympic cycles. 

14 athletes received the highest-level of annual funding, known as ‘Podium’ and worth €40,000 a year: Thomas Barr, Jason Smyth, Michael McKillop, Niamh McCarthy, Noelle Lenihan, Orla Barry (Athletics); Rhys McCleneghan (Gymnastics); Joe Ward, Kellie Harrington (Boxing); Paul O’Donovan, Gary O’Donovan and Sanita Puspure (Rowing). 

Paracyclists Katie George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal, meanwhile, are also classed as ‘Podium’ and received €60,000 between them. 

Podium athletes are guaranteed that their funding status will not drop until the end of 2020, but athletes in lower categories may have theirs increased in 2020. 

Gymnast Rhys McClenaghan, who won gold for Ireland at last year’s European Championships and is a major medal hope at Tokyo 2020, declared his delight at the change in funding. 

It’s huge. It relieves so much stress. The last thing you want an athlete to have is financial stress. So to have Sport Ireland come in and say ‘here’s your funding, and you are sorted up to the next Olympics’ is the perfect scenario. I’m over the moon with it. 

The funding for High Performance athletes totals €1.93 million, and is a part of an overall state investment in sport totalling €31.8 million. 

It is an increase of more than €4 million on last year’s figure, with €2 million of that increase going to National Governing Bodies. 

Almost all of these saw increases, the outliers being Motor Cycling Ireland and Camogie, whose funding remained the same. The lack of increase for the latter was attributed to upheaval at a governance level, as the Camogie Association is currently advertising for a new CEO.

Karate Ireland, meanwhile, had their funding suspended until the rectify governance issues. 

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Gavin Cooney

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