Saturday 22 October 2016

Gold, silver... and a good burger for Team Ireland

Published 30/07/2015 | 02:30

Team Ireland’s Kirsty Devlin, who won two gold and two silver in gymnastics, and teammate Ashleigh O’Haganwho won two bronze medals at the John Wooden Center, UCLA.
Team Ireland’s Kirsty Devlin, who won two gold and two silver in gymnastics, and teammate Ashleigh O’Haganwho won two bronze medals at the John Wooden Center, UCLA.
Aoife Beston from Claremorris, Co Mayo, celebrates with sisters Lorraine and Laura after competing in the 5,000 metres
Team Ireland’s Noel Delaney, from Finglas, Dublin, in action against Bangladesh
29 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Francis Bilardi, a member of Cheeverstown Special Olympics Club, from Tallaght, Dublin, listens to Team Ireland ambassador, LA Galaxy and Republic of Ireland star Robbie Keane at the Drake Stadium where he visited and supported the Team Ireland soccer team during their game with Bangladesh

Team Ireland is celebrating a medal rush at the Special Olympics - but for some of our heroes that simply means getting a cheeseburger.

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After all the hard work of winning two bronze medals and two ribbons, Ashleigh O'Hagan, from Limerick, had just one demand.

The 21-year-old made headlines recently when she told Miriam O'Callaghan on her Saturday night chat show that her real aim in Los Angeles was to meet 'Playboy' owner, Hugh Hefner.

But when she took to the gymnastic floor it was clear that it was really medals she was after.

"I felt a little bit nervous but I got over it - it's a great achievement and I'm absolutely proud as punch," she told the Irish Independent, adding that, with the medals around her neck, her top priority was getting one of the LA cheeseburgers that actor Colin Farrell has so highly recommended.

Ashleigh's mother, Philomena, from O'Brien's Bridge, said the family owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Williams Syndrome Association. WS is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone.

"The Special Olympics logo was made for Ashleigh. She likes the taking part, whether she wins gold or silver doesn't make any difference - it's the taking part that Ashleigh loves," the proud mother said.

On a day when the team collected 11 medals, Kirsty Devlin (21), from Belfast, won our first gold in the Rope competition in Gymnastics Rhythmic Level 1.

Her uncle Lewis Nesbitt added that Kirsty "doesn't do nervous".

And he was right, because she went on to take two gold, two silver and a fourth place ribbon in various gymnastic disciplines.

The day at the gym was rounded off with Aoife O'Sullivan from Cork city winning one gold and two bronze medals, as well as two place ribbons.

Away from the gym there was more medal success with Peter Malynn (57) taking gold in a tense final of the singles bocce competition, which is a ball sport similar to bowls.

The Team Ireland bowling squad also took bronze in the doubles event, courtesy of Martina Walsh from Castlebarand and Ruth Geerah from Mullingar.

Matt English, CEO of Special Olympics Ireland, said: "Day Three has been exceptional and very exciting for Team Ireland, with our athletes continuing to put in great performances across all 12 sports."

Meanwhile, Ireland's soccer teams have attracted huge followings - with people even stopping cars on the street to get high fives - even if things haven't exactly been going according to plan on the pitch. They even featured on sports channel ESPN alongside American women's soccer hero Julie Foudy.

Buckets of ice and Robbie Keane (pictured left with Team Ireland's Francis Bilardi) were on hand to help the players - who come from Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow - get over their "devastating" 4-1 defeat to Bangladesh.

The LA Galaxy star acted as assistant coach for the game - but even his tips couldn't prevent the loss.

The team went behind after 40 seconds and were chasing the game, despite a superb headed goal from Greystones man Sean McDonald. The 28-year-old thought that the goal would inspire a comeback, but said: "We'll give it another go tomorrow - and we'll win."


Keane told the squad afterwards to "pick themselves up" quickly. "The scoreline didn't do the lads justice. They will obviously be devastated with the loss, because nobody likes to lose, but it's important that they pick themselves back up," he said.

Meanwhile in the early stages of Day Four, Team Ireland added to their medal haul and this time it was the turn of the track athletes and horse riders.

Rachel Ryan from Tipperary took gold in the 400 metres while Louth native James Meenan won a silver in the 200 metres.

In the equestrian competitions, Dearbhail Savage and Elizabeth Mair were top of their respective classes, while Thomas Connolly came second.

Irish Independent

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