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Dublin: 10 °C Monday 18 March, 2019

'Sports funding structure needs to change if Irish athletes are to achieve more success'

This year’s allocation was revealed earlier in the week but a former world champion claims a longer-term view is needed.

Martyn Irvine at the GPO yesterday.
Martyn Irvine at the GPO yesterday.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

FORMER WORLD TRACK cycling champion Martyn Irvine believes the funding structure for Irish athletes needs to change if more frequent success is to be achieved.

The state funding allocation for 2016 was announced earlier this week with Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy revealing a €27 million package for the year ahead.

Over €10 million is being invested in the high-performance programme ahead of this summer’s Rio Olympics while hockey, modern pentathlon and golf benefited from increased funding.

Sport Ireland’s budget is up €3 million from twelve months ago but Irvine, who announced his retirement from professional cycling last month, says the structure needs to change.

“I think that’s where it needs to change in Irish sport,” he told The42. “You wouldn’t be in a job you’re in if you weren’t good at it and that’s the way sport is, but if you’re not winning, you’re out.

“I had a bad year last year and I’m only 30 and I would have received no grant this year because I had no results last year. That’s a bit cold.

“Sponsors want to back sports that are doing well and are in the public domain. You want to be in those plans but if you’re not winning they’re not interested.

“I think there should be long-term plans – maybe two or three years instead of one. There should be longer cycles and that would give athletes the time and opportunity to really concentrate on what matters and excel.

“At the moment it’s a bit short-sighted.”

Irvine called time on his career after failing to qualify for Rio and ‘falling out of love’ with the sport.

The county Down native won gold at the Track Cycling World Championships in Minsk in Belarus in 2013 and also secured a men’s individual pursuit silver medal at the same event.

Although he’s tried to seperate himself from cycling since calling it a day, Irvine was back in the spotlight yesterday as he helped launch the 2016 An Post Rás.

This year’s edition of Ireland’s only UCI ranked race will travel anti-clockwise around the country with the opening stage starting from Dublin Castle.

Eddie Dunbar, Martyn Irvine and Bryan McCrystal with An Post Chief Executive, Donal Connell Irish riders Eddie Dunbar, Martyn Irvine and Bryan McCrystal with An Post Chief Executive, Donal Connell at the launch of the 2016 An Post Rás. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Before the customary finale in Skerries, there will be stages finishes in Multyfarnham, Charleville, Dingle, Sneem, Clonakilty, Dungarvan and Baltinglass.

“The Rás is unlike any other race in the world,” Irvine said. “On one side you have the international riders coming from abroad and on the other you have amateur riders here who train on this terrain all year round chomping at the bit for a win.

“I’m sure this year, after seeing the route, there will be Irish guys in the mix.”

The route, totaling over 1200 kilometres, was unveiled by race director Tony Campbell at the official launch at the General Post Office. This year’s Rás takes place between 22-29 May.

Keep an eye out for an extended interview with Martyn Irvine on The42 this weekend.  

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Ryan Bailey

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