Funding still the barrier

 

THE perception that Hugh O'Connor of New Ross and Cork-born Lee Kelleher are Ireland's leading young prospects for the Sydney Olympics is valid. Nevertheless, both have realised, by now, that there are many obstacles in the way of their progress.

Kelleher is enjoying the 50-metre splendours of Millfield College in England, where she is at school. Fees at the school are, however, high enough to put Kelleher in danger of an early return to the more mundane short-course facilities of her native Cork if sponsorship is not forthcoming.

O'Connor, who sits his Leaving Certificate this year, does not think he will compete in the European Senior Championships in Seville because trying to qualify abroad in a 50-metre pool would take up too much study time. Instead, he has set his sights on next year's World Championships in Perth.

"Seeing that I will hardly get the opportunity of qualifying for the Europeans, I would hope to be able to get away and qualify for Perth," said O'Connor.

O'Connor may have another source of financial support, in addition to a Government grant, if the IASA secures suitable sponsorship for its Team 2000 plan. O'Connor is happy to have the process of qualifying for this elite squad out of the way since the grand prix in Swansea.

The proposed Team 2000 sponsorship package was launched last weekend.