It's not the taking part

Published in Club News on 15th July 2012

Setanta Sports are showing three 1 hour documentaries highlighting some of Irelands Olympic talent ahead of the games, including our very own Paul Hession. These will be shown on July 19th,20th and 21st at 9pm. 

It’s not the taking part is a documentary series of three one hour films, which follows the lives of eight of Ireland’s top athletes for twelve months as they attempt to qualify and prepare for the 2012 Olympics in London.

The London Olympics is as close as Ireland are ever likely to get to a ‘home’ Olympics and for many of Ireland’s leading sportsmen and women these games are a defining moment. Over the course of three films, we follow eight of Ireland’s finest on the road to London. Some will be happy just to reach the Olympics; for the very select few, anything short of a medal means failure.

The real journey started many years ago of course and one of the key components in this series will be the use of very personal archives that the families have built up over the years that chronicle the successes and sacrifices common to all these athletes. Their stories are all very unique, very personal and begin in very different places, but as the series unfolds these tales interweave and converge at one event, one city in July 2012.

The cast of characters (listed below) are the leading players and their stories are certainly the foreground of the series. But this drama is played out on a broader canvas. Through the lives of these thoroughly modern athletes these films will also paint a wider backdrop, that of sport, and the Olympics in particular, in the twenty-first century.

There is always drama, there is always action and there is always a story.


Co. Down swimmer Melanie Nocher reached the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by achieving The B-standard for qualification.  However, Irish swimmers can only qualify for London 2012 by achieving the A-standard qualifying time in their event, meaning Melanie has to take nearly a second off her personal best to make it to London.

Olympic silver medalist boxer Kenneth Egan was on course to win his eleventh consecutive senior title until he was unexpectedly beaten by a 17 year old, Joe Ward, from Moate in one of the greatest upsets in modern Irish boxing.  It was a defeat that initiated one of the most intriguing stories in Irish sports for many a year.

Dubliner David Gillick won Ireland’s first sprint gold medal for 75 years when he became European indoor champion in 2005.  After a disappointing Beijing Olympics, 400-metre runner Gillick relocated to America to train in a new coaching set up in Florida.  However, the gamble left him injured and chasing Olympic qualification as he begins the 2012 summer season.    

200-metre runner Paul Hession has been dubbed "The Fastest Man in Ireland" and "The Fastest White Man in the World".  After qualifying for London at the Irish national athletics championships in August 2011, he felt that a change was needed to take him to the next level of his career and he relocated from Scotland to Ireland.  It’s not the taking part follows him as he adapts to life at home in Ireland with a new coach and a new training regime.

Belfast's Paddy Barnes is one of the most decorated Irish boxers ever. He was the 2010 European light-flyweight champion, won an Olympic bronze medal in Beijing and took Commonwealth gold in Delhi in 2010.  However, injury has blighted him since 2010 and his Olympic qualification is in the balance.

Carlow's Sam Watson narrowly missed out on a place in the Irish equestrian team for Beijing and it is a failure that has left him with a driving ambition to qualify for London 2012.  The son of double Irish Olympian John Watson, Sam has been competing with horse Bushman for ten years and believes that qualifying for London will change his life.

Denmark based Scott Evans is Ireland's number 1 men's singles badminton player and was the first Irishman ever to compete at Olympic level when he played at the Beijing Summer Olympics 2008.  He also played in the Denmark Super Series 2007 where he took his place amongst the world’s top 32 shuttlers.  However, after being one of only three players to receive a black-card in the history of Badminton and a series of disastrous draws in tournaments around Europe, qualification for London was an almost impossible goal for the Dubliner.

High-jumper Deirdre Ryan qualified for her first Olympics with a jump of

1.95 metres at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu in August 2011.  She has also avoided much of the hype building up towards London because she spends most of the year training with the renowned coach Gerd Osenberg in Germany.  Since finishing 6th in Daegu, Deirdre has not jumped more than 1.85 metres in a competitive competition because of a serious of injuries that have affected her training.