Athletics - Family ties bound by Festival tradition
Across the country, bags are being packed and re-packed, gear inspected and parents striving to keep in check the excitement, nerves and anticipation generated by the Community Games National Festival which takes place in Athlone over the next two weekends.
In one Tipperary household, mother-of-five Aisling Hoey is busily making the preparations as her brood count down the days to the start of the athletics events but Aisling has little time to pause for breath as every one of her children will represent Moycarkey Borris and Tipperary in athletics.
“We are big into athletics, and basketball too, they would be our main sports,” she says of her, and husband Jim Ryan’s, four sons and daughter.
Oldest son Daniel will be competing in the National Festival for the last time as he has reached the age limit. He recently won a bronze medal for the long jump in the SIAB Schools’ International in Cardiff and will contest the 100m final. David, 14, has bounced back from time out earlier to book a place in the triple jump final.
Third son Jack, who will join his older brothers in Thurles CBS next month, will compete in the under 14 shot putt, while 12-year-old Anna, and Dylan, 11, will represent Tipperary in the mixed relay.
It is a source of immense pride for Aisling, Jim and the entire family that all of their children are involved in Community Games events. They are the third generation of the Hoey family to participate as Aisling herself won bronze medals in under 12 and under 14 100m in the early 1980s for her native Monaghan, while Jim, a firearms sergeant at the Garda College in Templemore, represented Moycarkey Borris at county level.
Daniel’s first year to compete in the finals was the last year they were held at Mosney and driving up the avenue a flood of memories came rushing back for Aisling, and goosebumps prickled her skin at the sight of the chalets and the track.
For Aisling’s mother, it is a very special time of year as she was involved in bringing the community games to Kilkinny in Co Monaghan and is thrilled that her grandchildren are continuing a family tradition.
“Every year she comes to the national festival with us. She was involved in organising the Community Games in our parish at home. My mother lives and dies for it. She puts that at the top of her list to see the children competing, above the All-Irelands and all the other competitions,” Aisling says.
A solicitor, Aisling took a break from practising law after Jack’s birth but now her life is consumed by athletics. She is the PRO for Munster Athletics and her local athletics club. She also takes care of the family’s five children and finds the time to maintain the websites for both those organisations as well as the local community games organisation.
Jim, too, is very involved in local athletics since the family moved back to his homeplace, and is the juvenile track and field secretary for Tipperary and the Munster representative to Athletics Ireland.
The inclusiveness of the Community Games and the lessons inherent in taking part of children are where much of the movement’s appeal lies for Aisling and her family.
“It gives every child a chance to participate in the competition. Even if they are not good at sport or athletics there is art, draughts and other activities they can become involved in,” she explains of the games. “Children learn how to be part of a team and the Community Games teaches them how to win but, more importantly, how to lose gracefully.
“It is harder to lose and deal with disappointment but through taking part in the competitions, they learn to deal with that and they also learn how important preparation is too.”
As every mother will tell you, and Ireland’s assistant football manager too, preparation is key to success, not only in sport but in life.
In Athlone over the next couple of weekends, there will be much success and lots of life lessons learned.
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