Irish medal prospects at the Olympics

The bookies predict between 2/3 medals for Ireland at the Olympic Games. The BBC suggests two – a gold and a bronze.

SportsNewsIreland though believes that this is the strongest and best prepared Irish team to travel to any Olympic Games
and we go further and predict seven medals for Ireland.Yes, we do appreciate that this would far exceed most people’s expectations and be a magnificent achievement by any standards for a small nation.

One Gold, One Silver and Five Bronze. Indeed there are reasons to suggest that, with a little luck, the haul could even exceed our expectations.

So who will get those medals for Ireland? Undoubtedly as in Beijing our hopes will to a large extent rest with the boxers. In Beijing the tally was three medals, a silver and two bronze medals.

Those who say that Katie Taylor is a “certainty” for Gold are extremely naive. One thing that is certain is that there are no certainties for Gold in London , not even Usain Bolt.

Taylor though has prepared for these Games in the right frame of mind. Team Taylor, with the full backing of the Irish management, have followed their own plan and allowed nothing to distract them – not Facebook, not Twitter, not the Media. Low profile – just getting on with training and leaving nothing to chance. Katie arrived in the British capital Thursday afternoon, in good time for this morning’s weigh-in, this afternoon’s draw and tonight’s opening ceremony when she carries the Irish flag but it is not impossible that she will again return to Ireland before her first bout on 6 August.

Gold will not come easy in London. Albeit only one bout away from a medal at the Games, Taylor faces tough opposition from Russia’s Sofya Ochigava, GB’s Natasha Jonas, and Queen Underwood of the United States.

It would be no surprise if this quartet ended up with the medals at 60kg. The final is likely to be a repeat of their close encounter in China recently – indeed Russian journalists here in London tell me that Ochigava is in the best shape she has ever been in and is confident of Gold . The Americans too are very confident of Underwood’s chances and many are suggesting she will cause a major upset and take Gold.

That said I can see nothing to suggest that either will defeat Taylor. So Gold to Taylor, Silver to Ochigava and Bronze for Jonas and Underwood.

Nothing would give greater pleasure than seeing Belfast light flyweight take Gold after his Bronze in Beijing but the competition is extremely strong with his main competitors including World and reigning Olympic champion Zou Shiming from the People’s Republic of China who had dominated this weight division for the past decade.. At 30 he remains the favourite though the 23 -year-old South Korean Jonghun Shin, and Barnes will provide serious opposition. Those who have written off Barnes do so at their peril but as we have seen in other championships of late, the South Korean has hit a rich vein of form and Barnes may have to settle for Silver with Shiming claiming one of the bronze medals along with Russian team captain David Ayrapetyan .

Irish boxing team captain Darren O’Neill, the former Kilkenny Minor Hurler is a good bet for bronze as is John Joe Nevin. The 2012 Games have arguably come too soon for Belfast’s Mick Conlan – surely a good bet for Gold or Silver in Rio four years hence.

Ireland has an excellent team in the Sailing events down in Weymouth and Portland and here I predict a ‘surprise’ Bronze for Dun Laoghaire’s Annalise Murphy in the Laser Radials and one for our Star class team of David Burrows and Peter O’Leary.

And finally a bronze for Cork’s 35 yrs old show Jumping star, Billy Twomey. He is in excellent form again of late and is well capable of causing a major upset.

In other sports, we look to see excellent swims from Grainne Murphy and Sycerika McMahon. In Athletics, no one should overlook the chances of Olive Loughnane in the Walk and Robert Heffernan is another who should do well especially in the 50km event.

Fionnuala Britton has had an amazing season and could reach the final in the 10,000m or 3,000m steeplechase.

Nicholas Roche will be seen to the fore in the 250km Road Race but alas is not expected to medal. If there is to be another Irish ‘surprise’ it could come from Derry’s Aileen Morrison in the Triathlon. Watch out for another brave performance from Gymnast Kieran Behan and a fine Games for Lisa Kearney in Judo and Natalya Coyle in the Modern pentathlon also.

We wish the best of good luck of course to all the Irish in London 2012.

So there you have it:

Gold : Katie Taylor
Silver: Paddy Barnes
Bronze: Darren O’Neill, John Joe Nevin, Billy Twomey, Annalise Murphy, David Burrows/Peter O’Leary

What do you think? Are we ‘over optimistic’? Who do you think will get a medal for Ireland?

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