Sunday 24 March 2019

Special Olympians given a rousing send off as they head off to World Games

Bill Browne

Athletes from across Munster gathered at the Arches Bar in Mallow last Friday evening for a farewell celebration ahead of their departure today (Thursday) for the Special Olympics Summer Games in Abu Dhabi. 

They will be part of a 91-strong team, nine of whom are from Cork, who will compete for Team Ireland at the games, which will officially get underway with the opening ceremony on Thursday, March 14. 

Supported by a 39 strong volunteer team of managers and support staff, Team Ireland will join 7,000 Special Olympians from more than 170 countries at the games, which will run for a week until March 21. 

Last Friday's event in Mallow saw athletes, coaches and volunteers from Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Limerick come together for a celebratory bash before their departure.  Among them were James Hunter from Mallow, who along with Steven O'Leary from Fermoy, will represent Ireland in the seven-a-side soccer tournament at the games. 

The North Cork area was also represented at the event by Julie Dwyer, a member of the management support team; Tadhg Buckley, a volunteer who  will travelling with the Kerry contingent and head golf coach Michael Forde. 

Geraldine Buckley, co-ordinator with North Cork Special Olympics said it was a fantastic achievement for the athletes to get to the World Games. 

"We wanted to give them a great send off and let them know how proud we are that they will be representing their county at what will be the largest humanitarian and sporting event in the world this year," said Geraldine. 

It was a particularly eventful special weekend for James Buckley, who earlier in the day had enjoyed a kick-around and coaching session in Dublin with his teammates in the company of former Irish international soccer player Niall Quinn. 

On Saturday night James, a member of the Mallow United Special Olympics Club, was then honoured with an award in the adult section of the Mallow and District Sports & Leisure Council Awards.