24 December 2019
By Elaine Murphy
With well under a year to go before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo get underway, hopes are high that Ireland can improve on its medal tally from four years ago.
Ireland performed below expectations at Rio 2016, picking up just two silver medals to finish 62nd in the final standings.
The Olympic Federation of Ireland have been working hard behind the scenes to find ways to improve performance and those efforts may well pay off in Japan.
Read on as we take a look at some of Ireland’s main medal hopes for the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games.
Shane Lowry – Golf
Golf returned to the Olympic party in 2016, with England’s Justin Rose claiming the gold medal in the men’s tournament ahead of Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry missed the Rio event, but he is expected to be amongst the favourites on leading betting sites to triumph in Tokyo.
Lowry won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship earlier this year, before claiming a memorable victory at the British Open at Royal Portrush during July.
The Irishman has admitted he would be proud to represent his country at the Olympics and it would be no surprise to see him justify his odds and return home with a medal.
Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy – Rowing
Paul and Gary O’Donovan defied most pundits’ predictions at Rio 2016, securing the silver medal in the Men’s Double Sculls rowing event.
The brothers were expected to partner each other again in Tokyo, but were surprisingly split up to spark a meltdown on many major news sites in Ireland.
However, the decision was vindicated as Paul teamed up with Fintan McCarthy to win gold at the World Championships this year.
They finished more than two seconds ahead of Italy, with Germany a further second behind, and will be tough to beat in Tokyo.
Thomas Barr – 400m Hurdles
Barr ran way above expectations in the 400m hurdles event in Rio, missing out on a medal by just five hundredths of a second.
He has had a mixed time of things this season, culminating in a disappointing exit at the semi-final stage at the World Championships in Qatar.
The 27-year-old now has a winter to regroup and prepare for what will be the biggest summer of his career to date at Tokyo 2020.
Barr will probably need to improve his personal best of 47.97 if he is to pick up a medal, but he can be expected to give it his best shot.
Annalise Murphy – Sailing
Murphy was another hero of the Rio Games, securing a superb silver medal in the Laser Radial sailing event.
She had hoped to partner Katie Tingle in the 49erFX class in Tokyo, but a series of disappointing performances forced a change of heart by Murphy.
The 29-year-old will now focus on qualifying for the women’s tournament in the Laser Radial event once again and should do so with ease.
Murphy has admitted it was tough to break up with Tingle, but her ruthless decision may be rewarded in Tokyo.
Kellie Harrington – Boxing
With Katie Taylor now in the professional ranks, Harrington is one of Ireland’s best hopes for a boxing medal in Tokyo and seems to be the favourite amongst leading news sites.
Injuries have hampered the former lightweight world champion during 2019, but she is sparring again in readiness to secure her spot in the Olympics.
A verbal spat with Amy Broadhurst in the run-up to the qualifiers has been an amusing sideshow and it would certainly be interesting to see the pair go toe-to-toe.
However, Harrington is fully expected to book her place in Tokyo and would be a strong contender for a medal there.