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Northern Ireland still lacks top facilities for gymnasts, with Dublin a far better option, claims Luke Carson


Luke Carson says Northern Ireland gymnasts like Rhys McClenaghan will keep going to Dublin

Luke Carson says Northern Ireland gymnasts like Rhys McClenaghan will keep going to Dublin

©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Luke Carson says Northern Ireland gymnasts like Rhys McClenaghan will keep going to Dublin

For the first time in history, Northern Ireland gymnasts made it to three Finals in the Commonwealth Games — but renowned coach Luke Carson says more needs to be done to keep the sport progressing.

Rhys McClenaghan earned a silver medal in the Pommel Horse, Eamon Montgomery finished fifth in the Floor exercise and Ewan McAteer sixth in the Vault earlier this week in Birmingham.

They all currently have to train in Dublin and, according to Carson, that will continue because the equipment and support systems in their home country are not up to scratch for the standards they want to achieve.

McClenaghan’s success in recent years has led to the likes of Montgomery and McAteer upping their game and more youngsters taking up the sport in Northern Ireland.

Co Down-based Carson, who has played a major role in McClenaghan’s rise to world-class status, said: “The seniors competing in the Commonwealth Games are the best we’ve ever had.

“They are doing an excellent job but really we are pretty centralised in Dublin for now.

“That’s where the right facilities are and that’s where the right support is for now.”

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Asked if the trio and other potential stars of the future would be helped by Northern Ireland having more facilities, Carson’s answer was measured and telling.

“There are facilities but the equipment isn’t up to standard and support systems aren’t quite there,” he said.

“Dublin is the right place for them at the moment. Of course I’d love to look into bringing that back up north in a more centralised manner. All the boys would love that.

“They are spending all of their time in Dublin and then international travel is a huge commitment for us all, so we are away from our families and our houses three quarters of the year.

“It’s a big sacrifice, so it’s nice when we pick up medals at the Commonwealth Games.”

Quizzed on what was required to improve the sport in Northern Ireland, McClenaghan, whose silver in Birmingham followed a gold in Australia’s Gold Coast four years ago, said: “More gymnastics coaches, more coach education, more people loving the sport.

“You need to be in this sport full-time, you need to love it to bits.

“You can’t be a gymnastics coach part-time or just do it for the wage, you need to be absolutely obsessed with this sport.

“So if anybody does have a spark or a love for this sport, go into coaching or some way of helping out gymnastics clubs local to you, because that’s a huge help.

“It’s a very niche market still and needs tapped into by some people with a vision.”

Yesterday, McAteer ended Northern Ireland’s involvement in this year’s gymnastics at the Games by ending up in sixth in the Vault.

The event was won by England’s Jake Jarman, who was claiming gold medal No.4 at the Games.

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