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Windsor Park event ‘snub' a ‘sad scenario', Irish Paralympian Michael McKillop says

Michael McKillop of Team Ireland celebrates with his gold medal after winning the Men's 1500m T37 Final at the Olympic Stadium during the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Picture by Paul Mohan, Sportsfile

A SECOND Irish Paralympic gold medallist has said he was not invited to the 'Lap of Legends' event to mark the reopening of Windsor Park stadium in Belfast.

Michael McKillop, who has won four Paralympic golds, said he was not contacted about Saturday's event after five-time Paralympic gold medallist Jason Smyth questioned why he was not asked to take part.

Smyth, from Eglinton in Co Derry, and McKillop, from Glengormley, Co Antrim, who have both represented Team Ireland, were not included at the 'Lap of Legends' event to mark the completion of development works at the stadium.

The event, featuring celebrities including actor James Nesbitt, Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody and boxer Carl Frampton, was held before Northern Ireland's match with San Marino.

Gold-medal winning Paralympians including skier Kelly Gallagher and swimmer Bethany Firth, who both represented Team GB, were among those who attended.

However McKillop said neither he nor his agent had been contacted.

He told Radio Ulster's Talkback: "It's really unfortunate. It's very disappointing on my part because I represent the island of Ireland and I always state that whenever I compete.

"I would have loved to have attended. I'm a massive sports fan and I've been to many Northern Ireland matches in the past.

"You could say it's coming down to politics and who you compete for and that's really unfortunate because I've always represented the island. Politics should never come into sport. It's a sad scenario people have found themselves in."

The Irish Football Association (IFA) suggested that he had been invited via his agent.

However, McKillop said that his agent had actually contacted the IFA on Friday to ask them why he had not received an invitation.

In a statement, the IFA said it did not mean to cause offence.

"The idea of the Lap of Legends was to bring some famous fans from the world of sport, TV and music together in one place along with other supporters and the football family to celebrate the opening of the new National Football Stadium at Windsor Park," it said.

"There was a short 20-minute window in which to stage the event, so we were limited in terms of the number of people that we could invite.

"We did not intend to cause any offence to Jason or anyone else who was not part of the pre-match event."

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