Mark Downey is preparing to pedal in his father's tyre tracks as he closes on his very first Olympic Games.

Dad Seamus competed at the 1984 LA Games, lining up in the individual road race as part of the same Ireland team as Martin Earley, Paul Kimmage and Gary Thomson.

Seamus Downey was a farmer who cycled for fun, a man who had enough natural talent to make it to an Olympics and then pass the bug onto his sons Mark and Sean, another very accomplished rider who won bronze for Northern Ireland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi in the team pursuit.

Cycling pumps through the veins of this Co Down family who will have see another chapter added to the proud family history when track cyclist Mark takes part in the Omnium (9.30am Thursday) and pairs up with Felix English in the Madison event in Japan.

"We stayed resilient and kept training for this big purpose."

"The sport's changed," Downey told RTÉ Sport. "Dad was from a farming background and took cycling on to get away from the farm. He got a shot at the Olympics.

"I've deferred a university degree to go full-time and pursue my dream. Everybody is very supportive. I'm looking forward to doing the family history proud. Hopefully I can go a wee bit further than he did back in the day."

The Madison is a 50km test of nerve and endurance where the riders take turns to grind out as many laps as they possibly can.

Downey and English head to Tokyo in good shape. They secured Olympic qualification at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin almost 16 months ago while in 2017 they won gold at the UCI Track World Cup.

Downey claimed bronze in the points race at the 2019 World Cup in Glasgow; English was a gold medallist in the madison at the UCI Track World Cup in 2017 and won the scratch race at the 2019 World Cup. They have pedigree.

"We stayed resilient and kept training for this big purpose," adds Downey.

"It's nice to finally know that what we worked our whole lives for is going ahead.

"Me and Felix have been quite successful in the event. We know what we can achieve. It's a really nice bond. We're two very different riders - he's lightning quick whereas I'd be more of an endurance sort of guy, but the relationship works really well. We've a good friendship and a good understanding of each other.

"We qualified last year and sat down with a realistic goal to plan for a top-six, top-seven finish. That at the time seemed like a really good goal.

"We've had some nice results in World Cups and European Championships, but it's just a matter of gelling and a wee bit of Irish luck on the day for things to fall into place."

Felix English (L) with Mark Downey

Ireland are sending their largest ever cycling team to an Olympics, all of them with eyes on string performances and perhaps even medals. But there's a bigger goal too - the chance to amplify the status of the sport and inspire younger generations to get on the saddle.

Right now there isn't a velodrome in the country, though in September 2020 Cycling Ireland chief executive Matt McKerrow aired his hope that the sport will have a purpose-built home at Abbotstown in time for preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"If the opportunity comes up to do something special we'll be knocking on that door," Downey says.

"We're not going to miss an opportunity to put cycling on the map. There's never been an Irish medallist in cycling at an Olympic Games. That door is wide open. You just never know.

"It's going to be different. Competition hasn't been the norm for a lot of us going into the Games. The opportunity is there... it'd be great to have a Velodrome in this country to really see our future champions step up and be in the position I'm in today.

"It's about the growth of the sport. It would be really great to be part of that."

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