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10 August 2021   |   2021 Trends   |   

Ireland at the Olympics, Our Top 10 Moments

What a couple of weeks it has been for the men and women of Team Ireland in Tokyo. There’s been highs and lows, but throughout it all there has always been amazing camaraderie and Olympic spirit from the team. We’ve loved watching all the action. Sports we know, sports we don’t, returning champions, and new kids on the block. Its been incredible, and we’ve tried to keep you updated along the way. But, in case you missed anything, here’s our Top 10 Team Ireland Moments from the 2020 Games.

1. Mona Makes the Final

You may have seen Mona McSharry first when she and her family won RTÉ’s Ireland’s Fittest Family back in 2019, but she’s come a long way since then. To be precise, she’s been to Tokyo and back. The 20-year-old from Sligo became the first Irish person to qualify for the final of an Olympic swimming event for 25 years, when she finished 4th in her semi – final of the 100m Breaststroke on 26th July 2021.

“It’s amazing. When you think about it like that, 25 years and there hasn’t been anyone else, I think it puts it into perspective.” McSharry said of her swim.

She eventually finished 8th, in a time of 1.06.94, just fractions of a second outside of her own national record. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for Mona come Paris 2024!

2. The Lightweight Sculls Go One Better

An undeniable highlight of the 2016 Games in Rio was Brothers Gary and Paul O’Donovan taking the silver medal in the Lightweight Double Sculls. This year Paul was back, this time with new partner Fintan McCarthy. The pair were in a class of their own, finishing half a boat length in front of their closest rivals from Germany. It was Ireland’s first Gold Medal in rowing and only 3rd medal of any colour in the sport.

Jiri Simanek, who led Czech Republic to a fourth-place finish, said of the Irish pair

“We are in good shape, but they are something out of space for us. They deserve it. Paul is a monster.”

His team-mate Miroslav Vrastil agreed.

“We are in very good shape, but they are just better.”


3. First Ever Gymnastics Final

Coming off the back off Commonwealth and European gold (2018) and a bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships, Pommel Horse specialist Rhys McClenaghan was looking like one of Team Ireland’s most promising medal hopes heading into the Tokyo Games.

The 22-year-old of County Down posted a 15.266 in qualifying to be joint second highest qualifier into the final. Unfortunately, the final did not go to plan, however, McClenaghan is already the emerald isle’s most decorated gymnast of all time, and this year became the first Irish Gymnast to qualify for any Olympic Apparatus Final. Rhys is already looking forward to the World Championships in two months’ time, and of course Paris 2024. We can’t wait to see even more great things from this young man in the future.


4. Brotherly Love and a Bronze Medal

Belfast brother and sister duo Michaela and Aidan Walsh were among Ireland’s brightest medal hopes heading into the 2020 Games. Twice Commonwealth silver medallist was devastated to take an early exit when she failed to proceed past Irma Testa of Italy. Younger Brother Aidan however, had a much more successful campaign. He held he’s nerve throughout his fight with Merven Clair of Mauritius and guaranteed himself at least a bronze medal.

Aidan was quick to dedicate his medal to big sister and best friend Michaela.

“Me and her are best friends. I would actually cut the medal in half and give her half of it, that’s how much she means.”

Unfortunately, Walsh was unable to proceed in the competition, due to a freak ankle injury incurred during his victory celebrations. However, we’re excited to see what the future holds for this young boxer, who has already confirmed that he’ll never celebrate like that again!


5. A Gutsy Omnium 

Emily Kay’s Olympic debut didn’t exactly go to plan. But the 25 year old rider didn’t let a massive crash in the opening race of the Omnium stop her. She battled on and enjoyed a superb Elimination Race, where she finished in 9th position. Overall Kay finished in 13th place in the Omnium and also represented the emerald isle in the Women’s Madison alongside Shannon McCurley.

Proud of her Irish heritage, having spent childhood summers between Wicklow and the capital with family, Kay described her allegiance change as, “100% the best decision I ever made.”

The grit and determination she demonstrated in Tokyo, even in the face of adversity, clearly showed the long personal battle and 20 year journey she had been on to reach her first Olympic Games, and how much it meant to her to do the Nation proud.


6. Heroic Efforts in the Triathlon

Triathlon is widely regarded as one of the toughest tests of human endurance going. At the Olympics, you swim 1.5k, then bike around 40k, then tackle a 10k run. A real challenge under any circumstances, but in the punishing heat and overwhelming humidity of the Japanese summer just completing the race was nothing short of heroic.

Russell White of Banbridge fought valiantly in his Olympic debut, despite the challenges presented by the conditions. He finished his Olympic challenge in 48th place.

“I’m absolutely honoured to be here today and compete for Ireland in the Olympic Games – but obviously, just not the performance I was looking for.”

For Carolyn Hayes, in the women’s race, the conditions could not have been more different, but still, the toughest challenge of the day was the elements. The start of the race coincided with the tail end of a typhoon, which delayed proceedings. After a challenging swim, Hayes found herself in 41st place, and had a lot to do on the slippery and technical bike course. After a crash ridden 40 km, Hayes found herself moving from 41st at T1 to 28th at the dismount line.

Then onto the run. Hayes had the best executed T2 of the entire race and went on to run the 8th fastest 10 km of the field. As a result, she picked up a further five places, eventually coming home in 23rd.


7. Thomas Barr – Athletics’ Ultimate Gentleman

Barr captured the hearts of the nation at the 2016 Rio Olympics, when he stormed to a national record of 47.97 in the final of the 400 m hurdles, finishing just five one hundredths of a second outside of the medals. This time around the Waterford athlete was desperate to go one better, but knew, with the calibre of the field, even getting through the heats was going to be a big ask.

He proceeded comfortably to the semis, however his semi-final run of 48.26, although a season’s best was not enough to advance. He finished his Olympic campaign in 9th, just one place outside of the finals.

However, ever the gentleman, Barr followed the remainder of the competition keenly, cheering on his rivals as they ran a 400m Hurdles final that will go down in history ass one of the greats. Karsten Warholm of Norway stormed to a new World Record of 45.94, while the top 3 finishers all now feature in the top 5 fastest times of all time.


8. Bronze in Coxless Four

The girls of Ireland’s Coxless Four rowed themselves into history, taking Ireland’s first female rowing medals. Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty had the race of their lives to narrowly pip tehe British boat and, in the process, secure the third-place medal.

It was not only Ireland’s first medal of the games, but also a powerful moment for Women’s Rowing in Ireland. Before Tokyo, only one other women’s crew from Ireland had made an Olympic final. That was the lightweight duo of Claire Lambe (sister of Eimear) and Sinéad Lynch five years ago in Rio.

“Hopefully it gives the young girls coming up now a bit of hope that this is completely possible. If we can do it anyone can.”


9. Marathon Efforts

A marathon is always daunting. In temperatures close to 30 degrees and 73% humidity, its almost inhuman, but that was the task facing the Olympians of Tokyo 2020, and to be an Olympian is to face the inhuman and battle on regardless.

In the women’s race, Fionnuala McCormack finished in a fabulous 25th place, in a time of 2:34:09. Elsewhere in the race, Mayo native, now based in Melbourne, Sinead Diver, became the oldest person to represent Australia in an Olympics, as she made her Olympic debut aged 44. Diver had only taken up running at the age of 33, to improve her fitness following the birth of her children. She went on to eventually finish the race in 10th position!


The men’s event was a real war of attrition, with around 1/3 of the field withdrawing before the end of the race. Among the eventual finishers were Paul Pollock who bravely battled on to finish in 2.27.48 for 71st place, and Kevin Seaward who stormed the second half of the race, picking up 30 places, and crossed the line in 58th with a time of 2:21:45.

It was marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, who defended his Olympic title and claimed the win in a time of 2:08:38.  He became the first Olympic Marathon Champion to successfully defend a title since 1980.

“I think I have fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time, back-to-back. I hope now to help inspire the next generation.”


10. Kellie is Ireland’s Golden Girl!

Ireland has a strong tradition in Olympic boxing. 18 of our 34 Olympic medals have come from the sport. Now, Kellie Harrington, the 31-year-old part-time cleaner at St Vincent’s Psychiatric Hospital in Dublin has joined Michael Carruth and Katie Taylor as the newest member of Ireland’s golden boxers.

Although she entered the competition seeded number one, Kellie’s victory was far from a foregone conclusion in the strong Women’s Lightweight field. She had to overcome reigning World – Champion, Brazil’s Beatriz Ferreira in the final to claim the title.

Harrington, from Dublin’s St. Mary’s Boxing Club, Tallaght, came through strongly in the second and third round of the match to claim the gold by unanimous decision. Although the Brazilian fighter look strong at first, the match soon became a dominant display.

Always true to her roots, an emotional Harrington’s thoughts were with her family, as she took in the news of her victory.

“I can’t put it into words. If I could be in two places at the one time I would be at home as well because I would say the atmosphere is fantastic.”

We loved watching all the action from Team Ireland at the 2020 Olympics. What we’re your highlights from the past two weeks? And, what are you looking forward to from the forthcoming Paralympics?





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