Pleasure and dejection for Team Ireland at Rio Olympics

 
It was an action-packed day for Team Ireland in Rio today, with two winners, four qualifiers in total - but one devastating disappointment.
The latter came when history-maker, dual Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes lost on a split decision to Spaniard Samuel Carmona Heredia in a last-32 light flyweight bout.
The Irish flagbearer and boxing team captain showed all his heart and appeared to have landed more punches but his 20-year-old opponent did a lot of his best work in the latter parts of the rounds while also throwing the heavier shots.
Each round appeared marginal and after Heredia took the first on a split, Barnes stepped it up and made sure that they were deadlocked entering the last.
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The Belfast boxer was gulping air by now but he still threw flurries in threes and fours, working hard and digging deep before tiring visibly.
Many observers thought he had won it but there were no protestations from an exhausted Barnes, or his corner.
The 29-year-old explained afterwards that he had been struggling to make the 49kg limit for some time, revealing that he had been fined twice in recent years for failing to make weight.
In a blunt post-fight interview, Barnes opined that while he thought he might have edged it, he would have been “embarrassed” in the next round.
“I thought I could have won it,” said Barnes. “I had more cleaner shots, but I think the judges looked at me and saw how tired I was.
“To be honest I shouldn’t even be fighting at this weight.
“It’s so hard to get down to it. In the second round I had nothing left, I had absolutely nothing left to give.
“I don’t know where I got the energy from to throw as many punches as I did.
“That’s just the way it goes. I genuinely thought I was coming away with the gold medal.
“This morning will the last time I’ll make 49kg.
“It’s just too hard. Even If I had won, the next fight I would have got hammered again because I have no energy.
“Just as well I got beaten, because I would have been embarrassed next time.”
Elsewhere, O’Donovan siblings, Gary (23) and Paul (22) have been pinpointed as potential medallists in the lightweight men’s double sculls and they looked very composed earlier today.
The Skibbereen boys were strong out of the gate before producing their customary lightning finish to pass Italy and win their heat in 6.23.72.
 
Having won gold at the European Championships in May, the duo will be in tremendous heart for the semi-final on Wednesday and the speed with which they finished augurs well.
Rio’s Lagoa might have been subjected to such heavy winds that yesterday’s heats were postponed but having waited nearly 20 years to become an Olympian - she tried in both rowing and cycling - Sinead Jennings wasn’t going to be worried about one more day.
Now 39 and a mother of three, Jennings had seen her husband Sam Lynch (rowing) and sister Caitriona (marathon) compete in Olympics before her but thanks to a fruitful partnership with Claire Lambe, she realised her own dream today.
 
And the pair ensured that they had a smooth progress to Wednesday’s semi-finals of the women’s lightweight double sculls despite a slow start, finishing second in 7.10.91, three seconds off heat winners South Africa.
Annalise Murphy could not emulate her stunning London start in the laser radial when she won the first four races before tailing off slightly to be agonisingly edged out of the medals - the 26-year-old Dubliner did have the tricolours waving when finishing was first across the line in Race 1 at Marina de Gloria.
Having hit the first mark in eighth, Murphy quickly surged forward and dominated proceedings from there, having 21 seconds to spare at the end.
Race 2 did not go as well as she was caught on the wrong side and lost ground to the leaders.
In the end, the former European champion did well to limit the damage to finish 14th in a race won by Gintare Scheidt of Lithuania.
That finish puts Murphy in fourth and she is clearly a medal contender but there are eight more races to go before the final and with one discard allowed, much will happen yet.
It was a remarkable day for the Scheidt family as Gintare was emulating her Brazilian husband Robert, who had just a few minutes earlier claimed Race 2 in the laser.
Finn Lynch was part of that field, the 20-year-old from Bennekerry, Co Carlow ending the day in 21st, after finishing 14th and 27th.
A former silver medallist at the world youths championships, Lynch surprised many observers when beating James Espey for the spot that the 2012 Olympian had won and he carried on the form that earned him the slot with a brilliant start.
It was tougher second time around in choppy waters, but whatever experience the young sailor picks up this year, will stand to him with Tokyo in mind in four years’ time.
Taking the optimistic view, Ireland ensured that they would have a team competing in the final showjumping phase of the eventing tomorrow – allowing for the horses passing tomorrow’s veterinary inspection – but hopes of a medal are gone.
It was a bitter disappointment for Nick Turner’s crew after such a magnificent showing in dressage, which left the team in fifth and Jonty Evans in ninth individually.
Disaster struck however, as pathfinder Padraig McCarthy and Simon Porloe fell and were eliminated. This had the knock-on effect of the remaining riders having to adopt a safety first policy, as a country needs three scoring combinations to record an overall team ranking.
Clare Abbott and Euro Prince made a couple of mistakes which proved costly but Evans (Cooley Rorkes Drift) and Mark Kyle (Jemilla) were solidity personified.
However, with all the scores counting and the riders having to take the longer, easier lines, the penalties totted up and Ireland dropped to eighth overall, with Australia, New Zealand and France in the top three.
To give context to how difficult the course was, German rider Sandra Auffarth had her first cross-country penalty in any competition for six years.
Australian Christopher Burton leads the individual standings, with defending champion and Grand slam hero, Michael Jung just behind.
Evans paid the price for having to be so careful by slipping back to 16th but will still be targeting a top 10 finish. Kyle is 34th and Abbott 38th.

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