With little more than six weeks before the action begins, the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council (NICGC) has revealed its largest ever team, with a total of 117 local athletes participating across 14 sports, during 11 days of world class competition at Glasgow 2014.
Replicating the incredible haul of ten medals from the 2010 Games is a very tall order but there are a number of genuine contenders who are ready to challenge the best in the Commonwealth. Across boxing, cycling and shooting, Paddy Barnes, Steven Ward, Wendy Houvenaghel, Martyn Irvine, Sean Downey, Philip Lavery and David Calvert will all be seeking to repeat their medal winning exploits of four years ago.
In that search for medals they are joined by, amongst others, Michael Conlan, Steven Donnelly, Aileen Reid, Lisa Kearney and Madeline Perry while both the male and female bowling squads will also fancy their chances on the Kelvingrove greens. Three paralympians make the team with James Brown being piloted by Dave Readle in the track cycling while Jason Smyth and Bethany Firth both compete in the mainstream competition as their preferred events are not available within the limited para-sport program that, uniquely at the Commonwealth Games, is integrated into the general schedule of events.
A Northern Ireland netball squad makes its debut at the Games while both judo and triathlon make a return, having not been included within the program for Delhi 2010. Overall, the team represents a broad cross section of local sport with the seasoned campaigners being joined by many younger athletes tasting international multi-sport competition for the first time, and undoubtedly using the Glasgow experience as a stepping stone towards the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
This theme is highlighted with NI’s most experienced and successful Games athlete Calvert being joined by young Jack Alexander in the full-bore shooting, David ‘Bud’ Beattie pairing up with David Henning in trap shooting and Michael Craig making his bow alongside Perry in the squash mixed doubles. While the Games will provide a fantastic experience for the team members, it also provides a challenge to them all to perform as they travel with the support of the Northern Ireland public.
This call for support was emphasised by Chef de Mission, Robert McVeigh, as he stated, ‘we’re delighted to be taking our largest ever team to Glasgow, in what is essentially a home Games for Northern Ireland. We have a great mix of youth and experience within the team which is drawn from all parts of Northern Ireland and from all sections of our community. As we travelled around with the Queen’s Baton Relay last month, we received many wonderful welcomes and there was a really positive feeling of support for our local athletes and I know they will compete with the best wishes of the pubic and all those involved in sport.’
With coaches, medical personnel, support staff and team management included, the total team size travelling to Glasgow will be approximately 160. The NICGC has expressed its appreciation to all the governing bodies who have engaged so enthusiastically in preparation over the last two years, Sports Institute Northern Ireland for the ongoing support of athletes and to the sponsors, local authorities and Sport Northern Ireland who are contributing financially to the presentation of the team.