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'It starts to remove the excuses': Why Ireland's new elite training centre matters

€4 million base on the National Sports Campus is due to be fully operational by next month.

The high performance training centre includes a four-lane, 130-metre running track.
The high performance training centre includes a four-lane, 130-metre running track.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IRELAND’S BRAND NEW high performance training centre will lead to a mindset in which there are no more excuses.

That’s according to Gary Keegan, the Director of the Irish Institute of Sport which will house the state of the art facility.

The €4 million centre brings together a wide range of services to support Ireland’s elite athletes in their preparations for European and World Championships, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It covers strength and conditioning, rehabilitation, nutrition, physiology, medicine and analysis.

The facility can rival some of the best in the world, Keegan said, and it’s a far cry from the modest surroundings where he started his work with Ireland’s top boxers in the early 2000s.

“We started from a very humble space with boxing,” he said.

“We had seven bags hanging in that national gym and there was one ring in the centre of the floor and it was pretty cold and pretty depressing.

“We were going out to world-class environments in Russia and Germany and seeing what it looked like. I could see the impact on the mindset of our boxers coming back into their ordinary space and going into a world-class space.

“That’s why I think having the facility in some way impacts the belief, the psychology. It starts to remove the excuses. It makes the athletes stand with their chest a little bit further back.

A view of the boxing ring The centre's boxing gym will include four training rings and one full-size competition ring. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“When we got our facility on the South Circular Road that had a very significant impact because you compare and contrast — ours is as good as anything. That impacts on the belief that we belong there.

We’re not going to get higher levels of performance until athletes believe they belong in those spaces. We have a lot of athletes who have a lot of capability but they don’t have the capacity to bring that capacity into the big arena and that high-pressure environment.

He added: “This is as much about a physical environment as it is about feeding a mindset in our athletes and coaches that there are no excuses.”

More than 180 elite athletes, spanning 18 high performance sports, will be catered for in the training centre.

The facility, which will be fully operational by next month, is coming on stream at a time when all eyes are on preparations for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio.

While Keegan is reluctant to draw a line between the standard of the facilities and a return in the form of major championship medals, the benefit to athletes is obvious.

“I’m reluctant to say that we have any direct responsibility for medals. It’s more indirect.

“What we will be trying to do over the next year or two is to measure the impact of science and medicine on performance. If we can do that, if we can say what role we played in the medal performance of an individual athlete, that’s really important to us.

Gary Keegan Gary Keegan is Director of the Irish Institute of Sport. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“If we’re going to be world class, we’ve got to be able to define what that actually looks like in the context of performance services.

There are athletes who will tell you anecdotally that if I hadn’t got access to that psychologist, that nutritionist, that strength and conditioning coach, I wouldn’t have achieved the level of performances that I did.

“They very much know what the value is but I would like to be able to measure that value in real terms.”

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Niall Kelly

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