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Competing in Games is 'life-changing' for football-mad Patrick

OVER the past six years, Patrick Moore's life has changed dramatically -- and for the better.

He used to spend a lot of time watching TV or simply staring out of a window, growing increasingly isolated from his community.

This morning, however, the 31-year-old from Cloghan in Offaly is among 124 athletes who will board a plane for Athens to represent Ireland at the Special Olympics World Summer Games.

Mr Moore joined the five-aside football team attached to Tullamore Special Olympics Club six years ago in a bid to counter his growing isolation while living at home on the family farm.

Now he is football mad and gets to training sessions three evenings a week.

"Since joining up Patrick is more outgoing and confident," his mother Lily told the Irish Independent. "Special Olympics has changed him for the better, it has made his life. He is so excited to represent Ireland and we could not be more proud of him."

Mr Moore competed in the 2010 Special Olympics Ireland Games in Limerick where he won gold, and in the 2010 Special Olympics European Games in Warsaw, Poland, where he was part of a team which won silver.

A total of 15 family members and friends will travel to Athens today to help cheer him on, including his six-month-old godson Patrick Og.

The Special Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world this summer and will see 7,500 athletes from 185 nations compete.

Team Ireland is comprised of 124 athletes and 49 coaches and is the 10th largest delegation at the Games.

One of the coaches, Paul Martyn, has been heading up the men's 11-aside football team since 2006. He also works for the Football Association of Ireland. Mr Martyn travelled with Team Ireland to the 2007 World Summer Games in Shanghai, China.

"The 11-aside team play about 14 games throughout the season with their own clubs, and then meet up as a group every second weekend," he said.

"A huge amount of preparation goes in to preparing for the Games and getting involved in them really changes people's lives. Back in 2007 when we went to Shanghai and won gold, I saw first hand just how much it changed people.

"The team members were treated like heroes when they returned home to their communities, and they still talk about it to this day."

The Irish athletes taking part in this year's games will compete in 12 sports, from aquatics and athletics to gymnastics, kayaking and table tennis.

A total of 400 family members from Ireland also made the trip to Athens today to support the team, along with a group of 200 volunteers.

Irish Independent