By Lee Dover
The buzz is filling the air and the excitement is building to fever pitch – we are in the week that marks the beginning of London 2012.
Britain is finally back hosting the biggest sporting event in the world as hundreds of athletes look to achieve glory in the shadows of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.
And with all the hullabaloo around Team GB it’s easy to forget some of the finest athletes that are coming out of the Emerald Isle this week.
Here are three of the best to look out for as the Irish try to take the world by storm for the first time since The Corrs released ‘Breathless’ in 2000.
Katie Taylor is arguably the greatest hope of thumping her country to glory during the 2012 Olympic Games, quite literally.
The 24-year-old already has four world titles to her name in the amateur boxing scene – her latest coming at the 2012 World Amateur Championships when she defeated Russian Sofya Ochigava.
Fast forward two years and Taylor is now the 1/4 favourite to clinch the gold medal and cement her Olympic legacy in the Women’s 60kg competition.
Taylor is certainly primed for the challenge, declaring: “For me it has been a lifelong ambition to represent my country in the Olympic Games, so I want to enjoy the privilege and take it all in. I am aware of the expectation that is on me, but nobody expects more of me than myself.”
Seeing as though his first name is Paddy, this Olympic bronze medallist is already a favourite around our office.
However, the mountain for Barnes to climb in order to achieve glory in the Mens 49kg contest has been made much more challenging by the fact that he shockingly dropped out of the 33-strong world rankings list last week.
The Irish Olympic hope stated: “It’s a disgrace. It’s just terrible. It has to be a computer malfunction, that’s the only way I could see it. I’ll be bringing it up all the time because this can’t happen. I could have to fight the world champion in the first fight. I’m confident that I can beat anybody, but it’s just making my job harder.”
Paddy Power is offering odds of 16/1 that Barnes can overcome the tough task ahead and still grab the gold in the Mens 49kg, if you’re feeling confident in the boxer’s heart and spirit.
Derval O’Rourke has certainly fallen under the radar in the past few months – so much so that Paddy Power is offering a huge 200/1 for the athlete to win gold in the Women’s 100m Hurdles.
It may sound like a long shot but O’Rourke is a former world indoor champion, as well as a European silver medallist twice over. She sure knows how to step it up a gear on the grandest stages.
O’Rourke has even quashed question marks about her fitness recently, when she finished second in a 100m hurdles event in Lignano, Italy, in 13.02 seconds – her quickest time in the race this year.
All of a sudden, that 200/1 price seems rather tempting.