Sunday 28 December 2014

Special Olympians juggle national games with Junior Cert exams

Published 13/06/2014 | 20:43

Amy Cassidy, Eamonn Bennett, Martina Duffy and Chelsea Passco from St Michael's College in Castlrea who sat their Junior Cert home economics exam in Crescent Community College in Dooradoyle after competing in the Special Olympics
Eastern Region 1's Michelle Stynes in action against Leinster 2's Jenna Carty. Picture: Alan Place/Fusionshooters.
Kayaker Lisa Murray, Team Connaught celebrates winning the 100m Division Heat 3, with her mother Michelle McDermot. Picture: Alan Place/Fusionshooters.

JUGGLING taking part in the national games with sitting a Junior Certificate exams - it’s not always easy for a Special Olympian.

For four competitors in the Special Olympics, tomorrow will be a piece of cake compared to today.

After competing in their competitions this morning, Eamonn Bennett (19) from Tarmonbarry, Co Roscommon and team mates, Amy Cassidy (18) from Dunmore, Co Galway, Chelsea Passco (16) from Castlerea, and Martina Duffy (15) from Carracastle, Co Mayo, had to make their way to the Crescent Comprehensive College in Limerick to sit their home economics Junior Certificate exam.

All four are students at St Michael’s in Castlerea are part of Team Connaught but because the national Special Olympics clashed with their exams, they were accommodated at the Dooradoyle College.

They were all exhausted afterwards but looking forward to today and another day of competitions.

“I’m exhausted and I need a cup of tea,” said Martina, who declared her exam was “easy” because she loves cooking.

She and Amy are part of the table tennis team, while Chelsea’s is an athlete and Eamonn is taking part in the equestrian competition and said he really wants to win a medal.

They will be welcomed home to Castlerea on Sunday night but it will be an early start the following morning as well for their woodwork exam.

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Meanwhile, Patrick Egan is walking on air after he became the first person to win a gold medal on the first day of the competition.

Now he has his sights set firmly on the World Games next year.

The 21-year- old Leaving Certificate student from Dundrum got off to an excellent start in Limerick winning the coveted top prize in the 1,500-metre free-style.

And with his first medal under his belt, he’s hoping to repeat his success tomorrow in the 800m free-style and the 200m broadstroke.

“It feels great and I hope to win again tomorrow,” Patrick said.

He said he was cheered on by the five athletes who have travelled from his club, D6 Special Olympics, who are all part of the Eastern Region delegation.

His mum and dad, Mary and Aidan, his grandad Kevin and other family and friends are also in Limerick cheering him on.

But the swimming champion will have to come back to earth quickly next week to face his next challenge.

“I’m doing my Leaving Cert exam in Design and Communication Graphics on Wednesday,” revealed the Ballinteer Community College student, who hopes to study computing in DIT next year.

He said taking part in Special Olympics was a “brilliant experience” but he couldn’t have done it without his swimming coach Aoife Drumm and his dad, who also helps out at the club.

The University of Limerick campus was a hive of activity for the first day of the competitions where most of the 1,500 athletes from the four corners of Ireland took part in the preliminary divisioning competitions on the first day of the games.

Sports ambassadors including rugby legends, Keith Wood, David Wallace and Alan Quinlan, as well as Dublin Hurling manger, Anthony Daly and former football player, Jason Sherlock are just some of the famous faces that turned out to cheer on the athletes.

The excitement will be even more tangible tomorrow when they will complete for those elusive gold, silver and bronze medals and a place on Team Ireland at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles next year.

The athletes are competing in 14 sports, including athletics, aquatics, badminton, basketball, bocce, Bowling, equestrian, football, golf, gymnastics, kayaking, pitch & putt and table tennis.

The 2014 Games, which run until Sunday, are supported by 3,000 volunteers and 600 coaches, with thousands of spectators expected to turn out to cheer on the athletes in venues at the University of Limerick and other venues across the city and in Clare and Tipperary.

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