MARK NAMED IN EURO YOUTH OLYMPICS SQUAD

YOU’VE heard the saying that sport runs in the blood of a family - well the famous cycling family of the Downeys from Dromore are proof that it’s true!

Last week Mark Downey (14) discovered that he had been named in the Irish Youth Olympics squad for this year’s Games to be held in Trazbon in Turkey.

He follows in the footsteps of his dad Seamus, who competed Olympic Games in LA 1984 and two Commonwealth Games, and his brother Sean, who last summer was a broze medalist with Northern Ireland at the Delhi Commonwealth Games.

The event that Mark will be competing in is for U16s, so for someone of his age to be selected is no mean feat.

“He is punching above his weight already at such a young age - we’re all proud of him,” said his dad.

“Mark won all of the qualifying heats so he’s going to be one of the top riders at the event. Hopefully he’s going to have a bright future ahead of him.”

Mark, a member of Banbridge Cycling Club, said he was delighted to receieve the call up.

“I was happy to get the call - I honestly didn’t think I would be selected because of my age,” he said.

“The Youth Olympics happen every two years so I was worried that if I didn’t get called up this time that I would miss the next games, so I’m glad I’m in the team.

“I think it’ll be good fun to go out and face some good competition and it’ll be interesting to see where I be in comparison to all the other riders from around the world.”

“We go out to Turkey on July 18. The first week will be just to acclimatise and then for the second week we will be racing.”

And that week of racing will involve a time trial on the Tuesday, a criterium on the Wednesday and an indivudual road race on the Thursday.

Mark said he has received plenty of support ahead of going to Turkey - the first time that he has represented Ireland.

“Last year I was away with the Ulster U16s at the Inter-regional Championships but this is the first time I’ve been away on anything like this,” he added.

“The club have been very supportive of me, as have my school, St Patrick’s College.

“Sean’s happy for me as well, we’ve been having an argument about who’s the best. I think I’ll win it,” he joked.

The Downeys won’t be the other Irish cycling dynasty represented in the Ireland squad - Mayo’s Jason Prendergast, whose elder brother, Charles, who was national junior champion and rode in the European youth championships, has also been named in the team.