Team Ireland has at least two eyes on the prize

Date: 21st February 2024

Optimism is running high at the Team Ireland Track Squad for a standout performance from at least two of the squad, despite coach Todd’s perennial mantra that “whatever will be, will be.” 

Todd believes his squad has two good chances of making the final in the Powercor Stawell Gift this year with other team members also in the mix for victories in other distances.

Son Jake Ireland, who has attended many Stawell Gifts with this pro running pedigree family, has been having a great season and according to his father is going well. “He won the Rye Gift this year and has been competitive in the 70m races all season.”

But Hugh Hoffman is the name on everyone’s lips as one to watch to reach the final of the 2024 Mens Gift.

“Since his win at Waverley, Hugh’s the one people are speaking about,” said Todd.

“Hugh’s taken a big step up, making finals regularly. Traditionally a 400m runner, this year he’s got his body right and everything’s going well for him.”

Todd expects Hugh should go to Stawell off the limit of 10m and is poised to make waves as the frontmarker. 

However, in the unpredictable world of professional running, Todd knows only too well that anything can happen.

“You just don’t know how the cards will fall as lots can happen. Things change, people become injured and fall out along the way,” said Todd.

The squad is rounded out by standout athletes like Cam Dunbar, Josh Young, and Matt Burleigh, each primed to make their mark at Stawell.  

“Cam Dunbar has had a good year and he will be competitive.

“New runner Josh Young won the Shepparton 70m so he will be competitive in the 70m at Stawell. 

“Matt Burleigh is back this year and has been knocking on the door in recent weeks. He has consistently made 400m and 70m finals.”

And let’s not forget Darcy Ireland, recovering from a minor setback but eager to reclaim his competitive edge. He won the Stawell Family Central Park Frontmarkers Handicap 400m last year.

“Darcy has been trying to get his body right since last season so he can get competitive again, and he is seeing gradual improvement. But that’s athletics. He’s just happy to be back running.”

Main photo left to right: Jonathon Rogers, Sam Blennerhassett, Matt Burleigh, Alfie Oglethorpe, Jake Ireland, Brendan Boyle, Todd Ireland, Matt Standfield, Cam Dunbar, Hamish Adams and Jasmine Rowe.

Images show Hugh Hoffman at the Waverley Gift (left) and Jake Ireland winning at Rye.

Credit: Neil Jameson

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