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Dublin: 17 °C Sunday 18 August, 2019
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12 of Ireland's most promising athletes awarded funding scholarships for Tokyo 2020

And Hockey Ireland has received a separate allocation of funding for its men’s national team.

Some of the athletes awarded OCI scholarships pictured in Dublin today.
Some of the athletes awarded OCI scholarships pictured in Dublin today.
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

TWELVE OF IRELAND’S most promising young athletes have been awarded scholarships from the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) to support their bid to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

Each of the athletes, all of whom were nominated by their National Sporting Federation, will receive €17,780 in funding before the Tokyo Games and up to €4,000 in financial support to offset the cost of travelling to and from qualification events between now and August 2020.

In addition, Hockey Ireland has been awarded a separate scholarship worth €84,000 (€21,000 per anum) to aid the men’s national team’s qualifying campaign.

The funding boost follows the OCI’s application to the International Olympic Committee on behalf of the 12 athletes, who were eligible for the scheme having demonstrated potential to qualify for the Games through recent results and performances in their chosen sport.

Having received funding for eight scholarships from the International Olympic Committee, the OCI decided to invest an additional €140,000 towards four more grants for non-carded athletes.

Swimmer Mona McSharry is the youngest recipient of the scholarship and rounds off a remarkable year for the 17-year-old, who won Ireland’s first-ever gold medal at the World Junior Swimming Championships in August.

McSharry — last night crowned as the Swim Ireland Performance Athlete of the Year — also won two gold and a silver at the European Junior Championships last summer.

The Sligo native is one of four teenagers on the scholarship programme along with Nhat Nguyen (badminton), Rhys McClenaghan (gymnastics) and Jack Wooley (taekwondo), while there is recognition and support for Denise Walsh (rowing), Mark Downey (cycling), Cathal Daniels (equestrian), Ian O’Sullivan (Clay pigeon shooting), Megan Fletcher (judo) and Siofra Cleirigh Buttler (athletics).

Today announced as the winner of the 2017 Global Golf Post Female Amateur of the Year, Leona Maguire is the final name on the list as the 22-year-old looks to qualify for her second Games having competed as an amateur in Rio.

Mona McSharry Mona McSharry won World Junior Gold in August. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

If, for any reason an individual athlete becomes ineligible to qualify for the Games, the funding of €523 per month provided under the scholarship will immediately cease.

“Funding is crucial to performance sport which, by its nature given the international competition not to mention travel, expert coaching, equipment and sport science and medicine involved is resource intensive,” President of the OCI, Sarah Keane, said.

“We are delighted that we have secured funding from the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity Fund to support some of Ireland’s Olympic hopefuls and also that the OCI are in a position to invest some additional funds to bring the total number of athletes benefiting from the scholarship programme to twelve.

“It is a testament to the work by the athletes themselves and  those involved in Ireland’s sport performance programmes that we have such an exciting group of talented athletes across a range of different sports determined to represent Ireland at the Tokyo Olympic Games. It is fantastic to be able to provide some level of financial support to assist them in their quest to secure Olympic qualification.”

The receipt of €84,000 in funding is a major fillip for cash-strapped Hockey Ireland at this stage of the Olympic cycle and will assist in the implementation of a high performance programme in the build-up to Tokyo.

Currently without a primary shirt sponsor for its men’s and women’s national teams, the additional income will ease the strain on Hockey Ireland’s shoestring budget with Craig Fulton’s side also preparing for next year’s World Cup in India.

The 2020 Olympic Games is scheduled to take place between 24 July and 9 August in Tokyo, which will become the first city in Asia to host the Games twice.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Ryan Bailey

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