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Irish athletes gather at Twickenham base

Updated: Thursday, 26 Jul 2012 13:30 | Comments

Team Ireland are now embedded in their Twickenham training base
Team Ireland are now embedded in their Twickenham training base

More Irish athletes have been arriving at their west London base in the last couple of days. They’re staying at the luxurious Lensbury hotel and spa complex where they say the food and the nutrition is first rate.

Just down the road is Saint Mary’s College, Twickenham, where the sports facilities are equally first rate. When they’re not hosting Olympic athletes, this college is where they train students in sports science.

Pope Benedict came here to meet students and schoolchildren during his UK visit two years ago. Despite the heat, the Irish are out on the track under the watchful eyes of their coaches. They’re sharing the facilities with Chinese and South African competitors.

Ireland’s athletics manager, Donegal man Patsy McGonagle, is a veteran of previous Olympics and several world championships. For him this college is almost like a home from home. He tells me he first came to Saint Mary’s as a student in the 1960s when the place was run by the Vincentians.

He admits that at the time he didn’t realise the opportunity he was being given by getting a place at Saint Mary’s. He also has another connection with London and the Olympics. His father, Patsy senior, was a footballer at the 1948 Olympic Games.

This week Patsy and the squad will be travelling to the stadium for Friday night’s opening ceremony but he says they’ll be returning to their Twickenham base afterwards. The plan is for the Irish to spend most of their time at Saint Mary’s, going into the accommodation in the athlete’s village only before their events.

That likely to prove to be a very sensible arrangement because, even allowing for the priority lanes for buses carrying athletes, the traffic congestion and the crowds in London are growing by the day.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged irish, london 2012, olympics, patsy mcgonagle, twickenham. Bookmark the permalink.

Brian O'Connell, RTÉ's London editor, will be blogging for RTÉ.ie throughout the Games.

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