Jason Smyth game for glory bid
Paralympic ace delighted to get Commonwealths chance
Multi-Paralympic champion Jason Smyth breathed a huge sigh of relief yesterday when he was included in a list of 14 Northern Ireland athletes selected for next month's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
In all, the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council has selected a total of 117 competitors across 14 sports – its largest ever team for the event which starts on July 23 and runs for 11 days.
Replicating the incredible haul of 10 medals from the 2010 Games in Delhi is a very tall order but there are a number of genuine contenders.
Paddy Barnes and Steven Ward (boxing); Wendy Houvenaghel, Martyn Irvine, Sean Downey and Philip Lavery (cycling); and David Calvert (shooting) will all be seeking to repeat their medal-winning exploits of four years ago.
Michael Conlan and Steven Donnelly (boxing); Aileen Reid (triathlon); Lisa Kearney (judo); and Madeline Perry (squash) also have high hopes of medal success. The bowling squads will also fancy their chances.
Three Paralympians make the team with James Brown being piloted by Dave Readle in the track cycling while sprinter Smyth and swimmer Bethany Firth both compete in the mainstream competition.
Their events are not available within the para-sport program that, uniquely at the Commonwealth Games, is integrated into the main schedule.
A Northern Ireland netball squad makes its debut at the Games.
Athletics is the largest Northern Ireland team of all the sports competing in the Games.
Sprinter Smyth, Daniel Mooney (1,500m) and Dempsey McGuigan (hammer) had not achieved the qualification mark but were nevertheless added to the list of 11 athletes who have already achieved the standard.
Smyth (26) missed the previous Games in Delhi in 2010 because of injury. This season he has suffered similar problems, picking up a hamstring injury a few weeks ago.
Smyth's 100m time of 10.40 seconds in April is a 10th of a second outside the Games mark.
Smyth said: "I am delighted to be selected and am pleased that Athletics NI has pushed for me.
"It is not often that you get an opportunity to represent Northern Ireland and it is particularly exciting that the Games are so close to home in Glasgow.
"It was very frustrating to miss the Delhi Games.
"I am now getting on top of my hamstring injury.
"In view of my selection I will now be concentrating more on training rather than racing so that I can do as well as possible in Glasgow."
The City of Derry athlete, who is now based in London, has been the best Irish sprinter in recent years.
In addition, Smyth – who is visually impaired – has won four gold medals in the Paralympic World Championships and also four golds at the Paralympic Games.
Mooney has been rewarded for an impressively gutsy display when capturing the Northern Ireland 1500m title last weekend in atrocious conditions at the Mary Peters Track.
The 25-year-old has a personal best of 3 minutes 42 seconds.
Surprise addition is hammer thrower McGuigan of Shaftesbury Barnet.
The 20-year-old, who is the youngest member of the athletics team, has a PB of 66.62m, just short of the 68m standard for Glasgow.
The Ulster athlete most likely to medal is 30-year-old pole vaulter Zoe Brown who will be competing in the Games for the fourth time – in her first she competed in gymnastics!
Brown's 10-day old Northern Ireland record of 4.32m ranks her third in the Commonwealth.
Others to look out for include North Down high hurdler Ben Reynolds, Newcastle's Kerry O'Flaherty in the steeplechase and QUB students Katie Kirk (800m) and Christine McMahon (400m hurdles).
Athletics NI Development Manager Jackie McKernan said: "The depth of talent and experience within the squad truly reflects how strong athletics is in Northern Ireland.
"The selected athletes have shown dedication that is second to none and with the aid of their coaches have earned their place on the team."
Northern Ireland's team in full
Rachel Bethel (50m free, 100m free, 200m free, 400m free, 4 x 100m free, 4 x 100m medley); Curtis Coulter (50m free, 100m free, 200m free, 50m fly, 100m fly, 4 x 100m free, 4 x 100m medley); Michael Dawson (50m breast, 100m breast, 4 x 100m medley, Bethany Firth 50m free, 100m free, 50m back, 100m back, 50m fly, 200m IM, 4 x 100m free); Danielle Hill (50m free, 200m free, 50m back, 100m back, 200m back, 4 x 100m free, 4 x 100m medley); Gemma Kane (50m fly, 100m fly, 200m fly, 4 x 100m medley);
Sycerika McMahon (50m breast, 100m breast, 200m breast, 200m free, 400m free, 200m fly, 4 x 100m free, 4 x 100m medley) ; Conor Munn 50m free, 100m free, 50m fly, 4 x 100m free); Jordan Sloan (50m back, 100m back, 200m free, 4 x 100m free, 4 x 100m medley); David Thompson (50m free, 100m free, 4 x 100m free, 4 x 100m medley)
Zoe Brown (Pole vault); Amy Foster (100m, 200m); Gladys Ganiel (Marathon) ; Kerry O’Flaherty (3000m steeplechase); Katie Kirk (800m); Christine McMahon (400m hurdles); Peter Glass (Decathlon, 4 x 100m); Jason Harvey (400m hurdles, 4 x 100m); Dempsey McGuigan (Hammer); Daniel Mooney (1500m, 800m); Paul Pollock (10,000m); Leon Reid (100m, 200m, 4 x 100m); Ben Reynolds (110m hurdles, 4 x 100m); Jason Smyth (100m, 200m, 4 x 100m)
Caroline Black (Doubles, Mixed doubles, Mixed team event); Sinead Chambers (Singles, Doubles, Mixed doubles, Mixed team event); Alannah Stephenson (Singles, Mixed doubles, Mixed team event); Ciaran Chambers (Mixed doubles, Mixed team event); Tony Murphy (Singles, Doubles, Mixed doubles, Mixed team event); Tony Stephenson (Singles, Doubles, Mixed doubles, Mixed team event)
Paddy Barnes (49kg); Michaela Walsh (51kg) ; Ruairi Dalton (52kg); Michael Conlon (56kg); Joe Fitzpatrick (60kg); Alanna Audley-Murphy (60kg); Sean Duffy (64kg); Steven Donnelly (69kg); Connor Coyle (75kg); Sean McGlinchy (81kg); Steven Ward (91kg)
Claire Oakley (Cross country, MTB, Road Race); Roger Aiken (Cross country, MTB);
Connor McConvey (Cross country, MTB, Road Race); Lydia Boylan (Road Race, 10km Scratch Race, 25km Points Race); Wendy Houvenaghel (Time Trial Road); James Brown (1000m Time Trial B Tandem Sprint B Tandem); Marcus Christie (Time Trial Road, 4000m Individual Pursuit); Sean Downey (Road Race, 20km Scratch Race, 40km Points Race); Fraser Duncan (Road Race); Peter Hawkins (Road Race); Michael Hutchinson (Time Trial Road, 4000m Individual Pursuit); Martyn Irvine |(pictured) (Time Trial Road, Road Race, 1000m Time Trial, 20km Scratch Race, 4000m Individual Pursuit, 40km Points Race, Keirin); Philip Lavery (Road Race, 20km Scratch Race, 40km Points Race, Keirin); Dave Readle (1000m Time Trial B Tandem Pilot, Sprint B Tandem Pilot)
Sarah Beck (Individual, Team event); Nicole Mawhinney (Individual, Team event); India McPeak (Individual, Team event); Ciara Roberts (Individual, Team event); Luke Carson (Individual); Matthew Cosgrave (Individual)
Lisa Kearney (-52kg); Kirsty Kee |(-63kg); Caoimhin Thompson (-73kg); Eoin Fleming (-73kg); Mark Montgomery (-100kg); Gavin McNeill (+100kg)
LAWN BOWLS (Men)
Neil Booth (Fours, Triples); Paul Daly (Fours, Triples); Ian McClure (Fours, Pairs); Martin McHugh (Pairs, Singles); Neil Mulholland (Fours, Triples)
LAWN BOWLS (Women)
Barbara Cameron (Fours, Pairs); Mandy Cunningham (Fours, Pairs); Jennifer Dowds (Fours, Triples); Donna McCloy (Fours, Triples); Catherine McMillen (Triples, Singles)
Niamh Cooper, Michelle Drayne, Gemma Gibney, Noleen Lennon, Nordia Masters, Lisa McCaffrey, Oonagh McCullough, Caroline O’Hanlon, Lisa Somerville, Fionnuala Toner, Marie Toner, Hannah Willis
David Calvert (Full bore individual, Full bore pairs); Jack Alexander (Full bore individual, Full bore pairs); Gary Duff (50m prone rifle); Sam Kelly (50m prone rifle); Louise Aiken (50m prone rifle); Claudia McClung (50m prone rifle); Kirsty Barr (Trap); David Beattie (Trap); David Henning (Trap); David Christie (Skeet); Clement Buchanan (Skeet).
Michael Craig (Singles, Mixed doubles); Madeline Perry (Singles, Mixed doubles).
Ashley Givan (Singles, Doubles, Mixed doubles, Team event); Emma Ludlow (Singles, Doubles, Team event); Hannah Lynch-Dawson (Singles, Doubles, Mixed doubles, Team event); Amanda Mogey (Singles, Doubles, Mixed doubles, Team event); Peter Graham (Singles, Doubles, Mixed doubles, Team event); Paul McCreery (Singles, Mixed doubles, Team event); Ashley Robinson (Singles, Doubles, Mixed doubles, Team event)
Eimear Mullan (Individual, Mixed team relay); Aileen Reid (Individual, Mixed team relay); Emma Sharkey (Individual, Mixed team relay); Conor Murphy (Individual, Mixed team relay); Harry Speers (Individual, Mixed team relay); Russell White (Individual, Mixed team relay
Norik Koczarian (65kg); Hugh McCloskey (97kg).
Ten of our best hopes to grab glory in Glasgow
Verdict: One of Ireland's most successful amateur boxers ever, with bronze medals at the Beijing and London Olympics plus Commonwealth and European gold in 2010. Expect more medal success for the Belfast man in Glasgow.
Verdict: Won the gold medal at last year's World Track Championships in Minsk in the Scratch discipline. This came only an hour after taking silver in individual pursuit. Down to compete in seven disciplines in Glasgow. Expect medals form this world class performer.
Event: Singles, mixed doubles
Verdict: Has been operating at world level for many years, with nine top level tournament victories, including the 2007 Irish Open in Dublin. Currently ranked No.11 in the world from a career high of three in 2011. Will partner Michael Craig in the mixed doubles in Glasgow.
Verdict: One of swimming's rising stars who will compete in eight disciplines in Glasgow. Already has a host of successes to her name, including silver in the 50m breaststroke in the 2012 Europeans in Hungary when aged just 17. Also a double European junior champion.
Event: Individual, mixed relay
Verdict: World level performer who was ranked eighth at the end of 2013. Collected silver medal at the ITU World Triathlon Series Grand Final in London last season and has two other World Triathlon Series podiums with silvers in Madrid in 2012 and Hamburg in 2010.
Verdict: Bagged bronze at the London Olympics to signal his arrival at world level and followed up with silver at the Europeans last year. Will be confident of gold in Glasgow before turning his attention to the Rio Olympics. After that, the professional game beckons.
Event: Time trial
Verdict: Best known for her heroic silver medal in the individual pursuit at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but this latecomer to the sport is also a three-time team pursuit world champion with Team GB. Came home from Delhi four years ago with a silver medal in individual pursuit.
Verdict: Is one of the three Paralympians selected, along with James Brown in track cycling and Jason Smyth in athletics. Bethany won gold in the 100m backstroke at London Paralympics aged just 16 and followed up with silver in same event at the World Paralympics in Montreal last year.
Verdict: Will be delighted that judo, like triathlon, is on the Games schedule after not being included for Delhi 2010. Came through the gruelling qualifying process to make it to the London 2012 Olympics and has competed at world level despite a series of injuries.
Event: Pole vault
Verdict: Will be going to the Commonwealth Games for the fourth time and heads to Glasgow in top form. Set a new Northern Ireland record of 4.32m 10 days ago, which ranks her at number three in the Commonwealth. Returning home with a medal would be career highlight.