Crushing disappointment for the Irish as Murphy leaves without a medal, and a call for more state support
On the beach in Weymouth and among the Irish armada who had claimed the Nothe as ‘Murphy’s Mound’, it was excruciating to watch.
Annalise Murphy’s Olympic medal was within touching distance until she started to be overhauled in the last few hundred metres of the final run by Belgian sailor Evi Van Acker.
The Irish on the Mound were on their feet – they were the ones pumping on the downwind leg – as if their fervour could magic a last-minute surge for Annalise, but you knew it was over.
China’s Lijla Xu claimed Gold by a sizeable margin, Ainslie’s girlfriend Marit Bouwmeester of the Netherlands Silver (not what she wanted, but the disappointment is relative) and then didn’t Van Acker only go and snatch the Bronze we Irish supporters had accepted as a consolation prize to go back to Dun Laoghaire.
One of these four sailors who have raced so hard to make the Laser Radials the closest Olympic sailing race yet was inevitably going to get their heart broken. But not Annalise’s, dammit.
The green Annalise’s Army up on the Mound – on loan as Ben Nevis (TM) – visibly slumped. Down on the beach, Irish families who had come for the day to support our new sporting hero looked on glumly.
Two kids ceased waving their sandcastle-sized tricolours planted them the sand where they fluttered like the sad little statements of thwarted ambition they were.
Twitter began going frantic straight away with messages all in the same vein: ‘You made Ireland so proud this week!’, ‘Proud of you @Annalise_Murphy raced your heart out, people like me who never watched sailing before now enjoyin it cuz of you.’
Even: ‘Today is a fine day for Mná na hÉireann.’
Yes, you go, women of Ireland, you Olympic boxers and 6ft sailors.
Comedian Dara O’Briain summed it up: ‘Huge thanks Annalise Murphy for giving us such an incredible week of racing though, she did us proud!’
Yet immediately the disappointment sank in the Irish sports supporters wanted more – not from Annalise or the other Irish athletes who have done their best, but more support, more funding. It’s hard to be here in the UK watching Team GB being showered with medals and miss out on this reachable prize.
Niall O’Neill from Middleton in Cork, on a family holiday to see the London 2012 Olympics, had come to Weymouth for the day to cheer for Annalise. He and his family are not sailors. “We don’t know a whole pile about it,” he says, “but we were about 100 miles away and we thought we’d take a spin over.”
I ask if he’s disappointed and he says: “Yes I am disappointed. When you see your British counterparts winning a lot I think we really need to come to the table and put some serious money into a few selected athletes. The problem is we’re distributing it too widely and the training they’re getting is completely sub-standard.
“It reminds me of Eamonn Coughlin,” he says, of the great Irish distance runner, world champion and mile record breaker of the 1980s, one of the greatest ever track and field athletes never to win an Olympic medal.
“I’m sorry for Annalise,” he says. “There is no place worse than 4th.”
Photo above by Richard Langdon/Ocean Images