2024 marks one hundred years since Ireland made its first appearance at the Olympic Games as an independent nation. Just as in 1924, this summer’s games will be taking place in Paris with Ireland’s Olympians hoping to expand on their tally of four medals won at the last Olympics in Tokyo. UCD has a legacy of representation at the games with many of the country’s athletes over the decades being alumni of the university. This year is no different with many former and current students of UCD currently working on their bids for qualification in their various disciplines. 

olympic rings image by Nicolas Michaud, via Flickr - CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED. UCD
Photo credit: Nicolas Michaud, via Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED.

In this article, we will be taking a look at some of UCD’s most promising candidates for qualification and success at the Paris Games.


Middle-distance runner Ciara Mageean is one of Ireland’s most promising athletes when it comes to contention for medals this summer. The 2017 UCD graduate is a three-time European Championship medallist and a seven-time national champion in the women’s 1500m event. 

Having reached the semi-final of the 1500m in Rio 2016, a late calf injury a week before her event in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics saw Mageean crash out in her heats. This year however she is determined to perform better telling BBC, “I feel like I have unfinished business at the Olympics”. 

2023 was a landmark year for the Portaferry native being named BBC Northern Ireland’s Sport Personality of the Year and achieving the rank of fifth in the world in the women’s 1500m. Reflecting on her recent achievements and what it means for this summer Mageean told the BBC, “I am really excited because this is the best I have ever been going into an Olympics cycle”.

Mark English and Sarah Lavin are two other Irish runners hopeful of performing at this year’s games. Mark English is a middle-distance runner and graduate of UCD medicine specialising in the men’s 800m event. He has achieved a great level of success in his career so far with four European Championship medals and appearances at the last two Olympics. 

At the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021, English narrowly missed out on the bronze medal placing fourth while Sarah Lavin made her first appearance at the games, representing Ireland in the 100m Hurdles. Lavin holds the current national record for the 100m hurdles and 100m flat with times of 12.62 seconds and 11.27 seconds respectively. 


In the last number of years, Irish rowing has performed excellently at the Olympics and the one-man key to this success is Paul O’Donovan. A recipient of the UCD Ad Astra Elite Athlete Scholarship in 2012, O’Donovan has gone on to win two Olympic medals and four gold medals at the World Rowing Championships. 

In 2016 he secured silver with his brother Gary in the Olympic men’s lightweight double sculls and then gold in the same event at the Tokyo games with rowing partner Fintan McCarthy. While securing the gold O’Donovan and McCarthy also set a new Olympic record for the doubles event. 

In Tokyo, Irish rowing tasted more success with UCD graduate Eimear Lambe and her teammates winning bronze in the women’s coxless four event. With O’Donovan’s current form, the nation’s recent pedigree and six boats qualified so far, Ireland will be hopeful for more medal success this summer in Paris. 

Rugby Sevens

Rugby sevens is a recent addition to the Olympic events rota having first been introduced at the 2016 games in Rio. Having failed to qualify in 2016, Ireland’s first sevens appearance came with the men’s team in 2021 at the Tokyo games where they exited at the group stage. This year both the men’s and women’s teams have already qualified for Paris 2024 with 2017 UCD graduate Harry McNulty being named as the men’s captain. Both teams have named a number of UCD graduates in their 2024 squads including Billy Dardis, Gavin Mullen, Claire Boyles, Megan Burns, Eve Higgins, Anna McGrann, Beibhinn Parsons, and Aoibheann Reilly. Irish rugby sevens has experienced recent success with the women’s team winning the Australia Sevens tournament in January 2024. The men’s team have also been on top form having collected gold in the rugby sevens event at the 2023 European Games as well as winning the Rugby Europe Sevens tournament in July 2023. 

With so many UCD alumni at this year’s games, there’s an added reason for us all in Belfield to keep an eye on how Ireland performs. Estimates as of March 2024 expect that Ireland could be bringing as many as 120 athletes to this year’s Olympics, a record number. 

The 2024 Paris Olympics kick off on Friday 26th of July and run until Sunday 11th of August with around 10,500 athletes from 206 National Olympic Committees expected to compete. Estimates as of March 2024 expect that Ireland could be bringing as many as 120 athletes to this year’s Olympics, a record number.

Manus Daly – Sports Writer