Ireland’s Winter Olympics team could get increased funding from the new Olympic Federation of Ireland under a four-year plan


IRISH winter athletes could expect better public funding and better facilities under a new four-year plan from the Olympic Federation of Ireland.

Ireland enjoyed some success at the recent Beijing Olympics as a team of six athletes finished in the top 15 three times.

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Ireland squad could get more funding under new federation
Elsa Desmond competing in the luge event at the Winter Olympics for Ireland

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Elsa Desmond competing in the luge event at the Winter Olympics for Ireland

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And OFI and the winter sports bodies want to develop this with a strategy based on facilities, athlete funding, greater promotion and better governance.

A key factor will be getting winter athletes into the government carding system, which is not currently the case.

OFI CEO Peter Sherrard said: “There was a crossover between summer and winter where rowers and sprinters were bobsledding – and taking it pretty seriously.

“But there was no system for winter sports.

“The problem is that recognition comes down to the number of participants and there is a chicken and egg to that.

“It’s not a grudge. But you recognized tug-of-war and road bowling, but you don’t have Olympic sports.

“We know it’s wrong.

“When you hear the athletes’ stories, it’s hard not to be touched.

“And we hope that discussions with the government can lead to that.”

Talks are also underway on the development of a privately funded ice facility in the Dublin area which could be used by Irish athletes.

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There are currently two ice rinks on the island of Ireland, both in Belfast, and only one is accessible to athletes.

Even then, it’s only at unsociable times, as the rink is primarily a community facility.

Limited facilities are having an impact with Ice Skating Ireland revealing they have to turn away 90% of those wishing to try the sport.

And there have been talks between winter sports bodies in Ireland before pushing for a facility, with OFI now involved in a bid to secure land for the project.

Sherrard explained: “We don’t want to give the impression of being Dublin-centric, but we think it’s the best place for it, as the infrastructure would make it accessible to most people on the island.

The OFI and sports bodies also have investment groups and developers keen to build it as part of a larger leisure or hospitality centre.

But doing it at Sports Campus Ireland in Abbotstown would require a different way of thinking, with all campus facilities currently state-owned.

“We’re trying to get everyone to work together because it’s something that’s been talked about before, and everyone agrees it should happen, but not everything that needs to happen happens.

“There was supposed to be an ice rink in the Liffey Valley, but it couldn’t get planning permission.

“So this is a facility that we need everyone to be on the same page for and that we are working towards.

“To be fair, long before Sarah (Keane, OFI President) and I got involved, winter sports bodies were talking about it and had interested investors.

“Hopefully by the fourth year of this strategy, we will have a firm plan.”

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