Team Ireland – moving in the right direction

Niall O’Connor, team manager for the three athlete strong team, stopped by for a chat with Racer Ready in Schladming.

RACER READY:How is the Irish team going?

NIALL O’CONNOR: It is doing well. Happy enough, ups and downs like all of these events are. One happy camper in that Conor Lyne’s qualified from Qualification race and then qualified for the second run, so you cannot complain about that.

RR: Is that the first time you have had an Irishman on the second run of the World Championship race?

NOC: In the current situation, yes, as far as I know. Previously when there was not qualification race every one got a second run. The expectation and aim was to get a second run today. He got that and accounted himself very well. There are some lot lower pointed racers that he beat in both the qualification race and today; he has to be happy with that. Tomorrow is another day.

RR: You have three very different characters on the Irish team; do they all gel well?

NOC: They do, there is good banter. Being the Irish team, there is a decent amount of mick taking and they all have thick enough skins! Conor is always happy, he always has a smile on his face and is positive but goes into the zone when he has a race. Hubert is about as laid back as you can get! There is a bit of craick, there always is. Victoria takes the slagging from the boys on the chin when it comes. They are all getting on well: Victoria and Conor know each other from the FIS Camp and Hubert knows Victoria from EYOF. In fairness it has been a good week. These things can go a couple of ways but the guys are happy enough with the way things have gone. We are a little bit out hotel wise but I have heard that a lot of people are a little bit over the place hotel wise. The guys in the hotel are very accommodating: There is a decent wax room and it works. At Garmisch (in 2011) we were way out from the wax cabins. We had to come in and spend two or three hours at the wax cabins where as now the guys can go out at their leisure. It is important that the facilities are there in the hotel. They grab their sauna at the end of the day and then do their skis and that is that.

RR: Does the Irish Team get much help from the Ski Industry? Do you get much help from brands coning out to see you?

NOC: No, not really. The difficulty with Ireland is that there is limited exposure domestically. There is not a big market for many of the brands to get into. If the guys get stuff, then they get stuff off their own back. Conor bust a couple of pairs of Fischer skis earlier in the week and managed to get to the right rep who got him another pair and is chasing another pair for him. Or the racers have to go to the reps here and put in a bit of charm and seeing as to what you can or cannot get. From a pure marketing world, there is not the number of visuals at home and the races the guys are going to, from this they will not have gear thrown at them. They will get gear for events, like jackets here and there but in terms of industry support, they will not get anything. Hopefully we will get some Olympic Scholarships coming up for the season to come and this will help the athletes on the road to Sochi. These will be direct from the Olympic Council in Ireland as opposed to Industry related.

RR: Two years ago you had three on the team in Garmisch, this year it is down to two on the Men’s team, is this due to economics or just nobody made criteria?

NOC: It is more about the spread of athletes we have in Ireland. At the EYOF there are a couple of young guys coming up but they are just not ready for the World’s. At the last Worlds three competed, since then there has only been one that has survived but the guys that are not here, it is not that there are less there at the moment it is just the fact that the guys who are just about to make the breakthrough for this this level are just not ready. We had no girls last time though. This time we have Victoria Bell and her younger sister Florence, who is also on the verge of breaking through and Kristen Sweeney. There is more depth there now than there was. The guys did not necessarily continue who were in Garmisch so the likes of Nicki McKelvey, Shane McShera and I know through my own brother that it is never too late to come back, you never know they might be enticed to come back. But at this stage it is the two boys and a couple of the younger guys who are coming up. In fairness we are in a healthier place than I would have said that we were two or three years ago. It is always going to be difficult as an Irish Ski Team, it is going to be swings and roundabouts: Sometimes you will have numbers coming through and sometimes, like previous Olympics, you will have one or two vying for spaces.

RR:: So all in all is everything going well with the Irish Team at the 2013 World Championships.

NOC: Yes, you can have disasters at these between equipment checks and things not passing but it has run smoothly.

RR: You mentioned equipment checks, in Val d’Isere one of the Irish racers went out the start hut before his suit was checked…

NOC: Since Val d’Isere with this being my third World’s, it is now very clear that the athlete’s gear is their gear. I will let them know when the check is on and we will get you down there. If they do not avail of that facility then on their head be it. They were all down at the equipment check, they all got their suits checked; they all got their skis and boots cleared. One of the guy’s suits did not clear first time so it was a lot of stretching on the knee and pulling every which way they can to get it to clear. If they do not have it and they go down then from an Association perspective it will obviously damage their selection prospects for future events. They are responsible for their equipment; at the end of the day they know what modifications they have made or if something is not quite right.

Thankfully here your man Mike Kertesz goes to every single event and faces never change. They provide a relatively good enough service and without it they would be flying blind. There are always issues that your boots could be a couple of mill over, thankfully they are all fairly safe on that perspective. I have no worries on that unless a binding broke or something like that broke that pushed them over.