February 24 - Paralympic and world champions Jason Smyth and Michael McKillop are among 45 athletes named as part of the Paralympics Ireland athlete panel for 2014.
Four-time Paralympic sprint king Smyth, who holds world records in both the T13 100 metres and 200m events; and triple Paralympic champion McKillop are joined on the panel by fellow London 2012 gold medallists, swimmer Darragh McDonald and cyclist Mark Rohan.
In all, eleven sports are represented on the panel which will come together for the first time as a group in March when they meet for the initial multisport training camp of the Rio 2016 cycle, in Limerick.
Ireland's cerebral palsy (CP) seven-a-side football squad return to the athlete panel for 2014 after they just missed out on qualification for London 2012 and they are joined by Pat O'Leary and Michael Delaney, who will be hoping to qualify for the canoeing and triathlon events at Rio 2016 respectively, as both sports will be making their Games debut.
The CP football squad is made up of Brian Mc Gillivary, Simon Lestrange, Joe Markey, Luke Evans, Gary Messett, Darragh Snell, Eric O Flaherty, Darragh Byrne, Podge Leacy, Peter Cotter, Aaron Tier, Tome Badun, Dillon Sheridan and Ryan Nolan.
Smyth and McKillop are joined by Orla Barry, Catherine O Neill, Nadine Lattimore, John McCarthy, Deirdre Mongan and Heather Jameson, who will all be looking to make an impression at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics European Championships in Swansea in August.
There are also seven cyclists on the panel with Rohan being joined by world champion Colin Lynch, Enda Smyth, James Brown, Katie George Dunleavy and pilots Brian and Eve McCrystal who will be competing in April's International Cycling Union (UCI) Para-cycling Track World Championships in Mexico.
Rohan will be competing at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Greenville, South Carolina, which begin in August.
Swimmers Ellen Keane, Laurence McGivern, James Scully and Jonathan McGrath along with McDonald will be hoping to make the grade at the IPC European Swimming Championships in Eindhoven later this year.
Boccia players, Roberta Connolly and Johnny Cronin; equestrian athletes Helen Kearney and James Dwyer; table tennis players Philip Quinlan and Rena McCarron; sailors John Twomey, Ian Costello and Austin O'Carroll; and shooter Sean Baldwin complete the athlete panel for 2014.
"Being named on the panel is always a notable step on the journey to secure Paralympic Games qualification for an athlete," said Paralympics Ireland performance manager, Dave Malone.
"We are looking forward to the first engagement as one entity in Limerick in what is set to be another busy year with a European or World Championships as the focus for the majority of athletes."
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