Ulster Special Olympics team were well represented by the Newry City AFC Special Olympics Club across Bowling, Football and Aquatics at the recent National Games held in Limerick from the 12th – 15th June, writes Esther King, Manager of the Newry City AFC Special Olympics Club.
This event is one that should be witnessed by everyone – to see the dedication, hard work and participation by both athletes, coaches and volunteers. To get to an Ireland Games is a great achievement, never mind achieving a place on the podium. Some of our athletes had never been away from home before and that in itself is a great adventure and to be commended. Attendance at the games is the result of three years hard work by all, ensuring our athletes can give their best performance on the day. As the Special Olympics Ireland motto states – ‘Let me win, and if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt’.
In aquatics our swimmers were Margaret Hazley, Fraser Wells, Rebecca Devlin, Rachel Crossey, Rebecca O’Reilly and Jack Donnan. Between them they took home 2 golds, 5 silvers, a bronze and a 4th place. Our swimmers range in age from 10 to 64, and they all did an excellent job representing their club and region. They had stiff competition, but they all gave 100% and really enjoyed competing.
Footballers are awakening to the realisation, like so many other athletes, that they have achieved what is their personal goal. It has been three years in preparation and has now finally arrived. They are officially SPECIAL OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL WINNERS! We had seven female athletes – Veronica Donnelly, Siofra Doyle, Betty McGeoghegan, Orlaith McParland, Katrina Magee, Shauna Murphy and Shauna O’Reilly, competing in ladies football as part of Team Ulster. Their exhibition both on and off the field was unbelievable. Their passion to compete and the desire to succeed was truly a humbling and an entertaining experience for the numerous supporters who had turned out to watch. Sunday 15th June 2014 is a date for many that shall not be forgotten. All those hours of hard training had finally paid off, our Ladies WON GOLD in the Division 2 final.
Noel Rice and Patrick Kelly were both gold medal winners in the Men’s level 4 five-a-side football and had an unbelievable 3 days of competition in Limerick. They were up against tough opposition from Munster, Leinster and Connaught but the two lads, along with their other teammates on the Ulster squad, held out in a nail biting final on Sunday to clinch the gold. All Noel and Patrick’s families were there to witness this great victory, bursting with pride and tears of joy.
Nicola McClorey and James Moffett both competed in Ten Pin Bowling in Limerick, along with 26 other athletes from across Ulster. They both bowled to a very high standard and both achieved their own personal goal by winning Gold medals in their respective singles games, and a team Silver in a very hard fought doubles game against seven other teams from all over Ireland.
We had three Head Coaches who traveled with the Newry City AFC Special Olympic Club – Anne Magill (Ladies Football), Jim Fox (Men’s Football) and Esther King (Aquatics). Whilst none of the Newry AFC athletes were on Jim’s football team, he coached his team to a gold medal and the standard of his team in the final could have rivalled some of the current World Cup squads! Other club coaches that were part of Team Ulster were Helen McKee (Bowling), Darren Mcllherron (Aquatics), Marie Magee (Aquatics) and Teresa Devlin (Ladies Football). I have to say that everyone of the team was complimented on their behaviour and how they conducted themselves. Many people also commented on how organised we were as a group. We are so proud not only of representing Team Ulster at National Games but also that we, as Newry City AFC went to National Games representing our club, a club that has celebrated victorious wins in both it’s male and female teams. We can now stand proudly beside our entire club, without whose support, this dream for both our athletes and coaches may not have been realised.
A special thanks must go to BIG O – without him at our helm, then this achievement would not have been realised. If there were more Big O’s in this world, what a wonderful world it would be.
Yours in Sport,
A very proud club manager of Newry City AFC Special Olympics Club