Team Ireland is hopeful of being able to take 25 athletes to the Tokyo Paralympics.

The Games will take place between 24 August and 5 September, having been delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The disruption over the past year has had an effect on qualification for Tokyo but speaking on RTÉ's Saturday Sport, Paralympics Ireland CEO Miriam Malone sounded a cautious note of optimism.

"It is a little difficult to plan but we are looking forward to the Games going ahead and the Paralympic Games being two weeks after the Olympic Games, it is a bit of a light at the end of a tunnel for a number of athletes that have been training so dedicatedly and committed their lives and training to this event for a number of years," she said.

"So while difficult for us planning wise, it's really the athletes that we're focused on and for them that target is an essential one for them to drive towards and a great light at the end of a tunnel after this pandemic."

Malone added that because both the Olympics and Paralympics are "aligned" with each other, "it's either both or nothing" when it comes to decisions to go ahead or cancel.


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With Tokyo going ahead at present, the task now is for Irish athletes to guarantee their places at the Games.

"We're still in qualification phase. So the qualification keeps going right up to June. Right now we have 16 slots qualified. We hope to have a team of about 25," Malone said.

"We will increase beyond 16. We know right now that some of the challenges are the qualifying competitions - some of those have been postponed. For the competitions that go ahead, we will get more athletes qualified.

"But also we have world rankings, so some of our athletes are at top world rankings at the moment and it just depends on the closing date where they rank in the world and we get extra slots.

"So we anticipate we will certainly have 20 and we hope for about 25. We have six sports qualified right now and we have another five or six that we're hoping we'll add to that tally."

Discus thrower Niamh McCarthy is one of the Irish hopefuls for this year. The Cork athlete had a strong showing at Rio 2016, securing a silver medal in the F41 category, before winning a silver and gold at the World and European Championships respectively in two years after that.

"Currently we have a good set-up. It's going well," she said of the training regime.

"Once the weather clears up, I'll be able to get outside a bit but other than that thankfully despite the Level 5 restrictions I've been able to continue training which is a massive help and it makes a massive difference."

McCarthy added that any uncertainty about the Games going ahead is something she is pushing to the side for now.

"This year, I'm working at it as if it is going ahead. If it doesn't, I'll deal with it as it comes but for now, I'm just telling myself that it is going ahead. You have limited time to play with here, so get cracking really," she said, adding that she is hopeful of getting back to competitive action from May onwards.