From track to field: Community Games attract 4,000 competitors and 9,000 fans
WHAT do Colin Farrell, Sonia O'Sullivan, Niall Quinn, Bressie, Denis Irwin and Tommy Bowe all have in common?
At some point all of them have competed at the HSE Community Games but not necessarily in the activities you might expect.
For starters Hollywood star Farrell was a relay runner, Niall Quinn won the long puck three years in a row, Denis Irwin was a draughts champion and Sonia O'Sullivan had to settle for silver on the track.
Over the weekend nearly 4,000 children from all over the country added their names to the list of Ireland's youth who have at some stage over the past 46 years taken part in the Community Games.
More than 9,000 spectators have turned up at the Athlone Institute of Technology over the past three days to see children aged between six and 16 take part in track and field, GAA, art, drama and other more unusual sports such as skittles and spikeball.
It was a record turn out at the finals - although one noticeable absentee was the burger van.
As part of a range of initiatives aimed at fighting childhood obesity the HSE Community Games banned fast food from the event, instead serving up a menu that included salmon, bacon and beef.
"Nobody seemed to mind at all. The kids even seemed to embrace the notion of Brussels sprouts in August," PRO Peggy Connolly told independent.ie.
Among the spectators wondering the campus was Brendan Boyce who is just back from the European Championships in Zurich, where he finished 16th in the 50 kilometre walk.
"When I was coming though I loved seeing Sonia here [O'Sullivan]. I remember seeing her from a distance when Community Games was Mosney. She was phenomenal. It made me think that I could be like her.
"The first time I actually met her was at the Olympics in London when she was chef d'equipe for the team and I was representing Ireland.
"If someone from rural Donegal can make it to the Olympics anyone can," he said.
President of the HSE Community Games Gerard Davenport said that the real emphasis of the finals is not winning medals but representing their county, taking part and making new friends from all over Ireland.
"Walking around the campus and speaking with the many parents it was great to see everyone having such a positive experience over the weekend, being part of their children’s hopes and dreams while reminiscing themselves on their own memories of HSE Community Games.
"We are hoping that next year we’ll have an even bigger turnout as people start to realise it’s easy for everyone to become a part of HSE Community Games," he said.