Patsy McGonagle looking forward to his fifth Olympics

Patsy McGonagle looking forward to his fifth Olympics
Tom Comack @dgldemocrat

Patsy McGonagle is a veteran of five Olympic Games, four as team manager and one as a member of the management of the Irish Track and Field athletic team.

In all he has been part of the Irish Track and Field team from Sydney in 2000 to the last Games in London, four years ago, in 2012.

He was the manager in Sydney in 2000, part of the backup management in 2004 in Athens, and manager again in Beijing in 2008 and London last time out.

And this month he will once again manage the Irish Track and Field team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

He insists that he does not do highs and lows and justs gets on with the job of managing the team of athletes and doing his job to as high a professional standard as humanly possible.

“All of the athletes at that level have their own coaches and it is up to Athletics Ireland to provide the support staff such as medical, physios, psychologists, dieticians and other supports,” explains Patsy.

“It is my job to co-ordinate all that and liaise with the athletes and the various support staff to ensure that everything is just right for the athletes.”

The Finn Valley coach has been to Brazil already on a reconnaissance trip to find a training camp for the Irish team in the lead-up to the Games.

Patsy, along with Athletics Ireland officials, was in Brazil back in May and selected a camp in the city of Uberlandia.

Back to the highs and lows over the five Olympics.

“Obviously Sonia O’Sullivan’s silver medal in the 5,000 metres in Sydney was the highlight of them all,” Patsy said.

“It was special because she had been such a favourite and while there was initial disappointment that she had not won a gold, it was fantastic because she had experienced so many huge disappointments at previous Olympics and at other major games.

“Rob Heffernan’s fourth place finish in London, just outside the medals, has to be the biggest disappointment. I know it has since been upgraded to bronze but I was really disappointed for Rob at the time because I knew the effort he had put into getting into the medals in London.

“Rob is fierce competitive and a very strong individual and mentally very tough. He has been at the last five Games with me and he is also going to Rio which is testament to his dedication and commitment and I have nothing but admiration for the man.

“He is one of our medal hopes again for Rio.”

Patsy and most of the 18 strong Irish Track and Field team jetted out to Brazil last week (Thursday 28th) to their training base in Uberlandia. They are sharing the base with the Irish swimming and cycling teams.

Finn Valley AC’s American-born pole vaulter, Tori Pena, is one of the Irish team to skip the camp. Pena has instead opted for a training camp in Phoenix, Arizona and will fly directly to Rio de Janeiro ahead of the start of the pole vault competition.

“Tori has decided to go to camp in Phoenix where the facilities are much better for the pole vault than those available in Uberlandia.”

The Irish Track and Field team is also made up of two other Donegal athletes in Mark English from Letterkenny and Brendan Boyce from Milford.

Letterkenny woman, Sinead Jennings, is a member of the Irish Rowing team at the games and will also be in the Irish camp once in Rio.

“It is brilliant for the county to have such a high representation at the Games and obviously I will be taking a keen interest in how they all do in their respective competitions.

“Rob Heffernan is again one of our medal prospects and we will be hoping that Ciara Mageean can make the 1,500 metre final.”

Mageean was a bronze medal winner at last month’s European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam. The Down native, a student at UCD, has been labelled the next Sonia O’Sullivan.

McGonagle is also keeping a close eye on the progress of Mark English, an 800 metre prospect, as he recovers from an ankle injury suffered earlier in the season.

“Mark has been desperately unlucky to have suffered the injury and it has really set him back and has hampered his Olympic preparations.

“We are monitoring his progress and keeping our fingers crossed that he is back to peak condition in time for the start of the athletics.

“There is no question but that he will be competing at the Games, it is just we are hoping that he is at his best so that he can challenge for a medal.”

As the athletics does not begin until the second week, the Irish Track and Field team are going to miss the opening week of the Games.

Patsy McGonagle and the team will only fly into Rio at the beginning of the second week, just in time for the start of the athletics and in the hope of least one medal and a host of personal best performances.

For Pasty and Ireland that would be a good Olympics.