Friday 19 July 2019

Darragh is the toast of treble-winning Rebel Wheelers team

Lombardstown teenager's ability, not his disability, shines through on the court

Bill Browne

A determined teenager from Lombardstown has proven that disability need not be a barrier to success after he played a pivotal role in bringing a trio of trophies, including a national basketball title, back to Cork.

Despite being born with Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus, a condition that has left him a wheelchair user, Darragh O'Regan's proud dad, Jerry, said his son has never "let the condition define who he is". 

"With the support of family and friends, Darragh has pushed through any barrier placed in his way, continually exploring new avenues and creating his own pathways," said Jerry. 

"Sport in particular has been a huge influence on Darragh's life and from the age of five he was lucky enough to discover in the Rebel Wheelers a club that could cater for his needs and ambitions," he added.

Based in Cork City and also covering the entire county, the Rebel Wheelers encompass a wide variety of activities exposing young people like Darragh to new sports and finding the right one for them. 

Darragh has developed a particular passion for wheelchair basketball, over the years progressing through the junior ranks. In fact, Darragh was awarded the Junior Club All-Star of the Year at his final junior level blitz held in Dublin's Irish Wheelchair Association sports complex. 

"The sport has allowed Darragh not just to develop new skills, but also to set himself new goals. As his coacheswould say 'sport is more that just sports', its a whole raft of experiences including developing social skills and having a support structure in place when things do not go as planned," said Jerry. 

Turning 15 last February meant that Darragh was eligible to move up the ranks to the senior Rebel Wheelers basketball team, a move that to many may have been a daunting prospect. True to form, Darragh was unfazed at the prospect, shining during training and earning a place on the starting team that was flying high in the national league. 

In early January, Darragh and the team won their first piece of silverware The Hula Hula Cup and in May they secured the national league title, with Darragh playing the final eight games of the season. At the end of last month he went on to pick up his third medal of the year, when the Rebel Wheelers lifted the end of season league cup final at UCD. 

"The fact that the team were doing so well in the league helped Darragh settle in at senior level. Training with such a strong senior squad helped Darragh considerably and the ongoing support of the committee has meant that so many other players are also able to play at the highest level," said Jerry. 

In fact, the Rebel Wheelers will have four members travelling to an upcoming under-23 international tournament in Finland and five members travelling to Bulgaria for another senior tournament in July.  "A lot of credit has to go to the coaches and players for their unwavering dedication over the years," said Jerry. 

"On a very personal level, it has been an amazing season for Darragh and hopefully just the beginning for a player with so much potential."