Tuesday 15 October 2019

Golden start to games for Irish team as Drogba watches dramatic late win

Irish action: Richard Currie in a 10-7 bocce win over China. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Irish action: Richard Currie in a 10-7 bocce win over China. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

Leaping like a salmon at the backpost, football captain Willie McGrath sent the Irish team and support into ecstasy. And this cheering came on top of an impressive haul of eight gold medals and a bronze on day one of the Special Olympics World Games across swimming and bocce alone.

Bocce star Richard Currie (23), from Tyrone, predicted last week that he'd be winning the biggest prize.

"I'm so happy, I could jump up and down all day," he said.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Sports Minister Shane Ross praised the values on show.

"When sport becomes political, it becomes diluted in its value. There's none of that here, just a unity of purpose to have a good time," he said.

"Unfortunately, sport elsewhere has become politicised to an extent which is a great pity, it shouldn't happen.

Sarah Kilmartin in a 20-6 basketball win over Kazakhstan. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Sarah Kilmartin in a 20-6 basketball win over Kazakhstan. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

"What we have here is something completely different, free of all that controversy, not contaminated, it's just so good, so refreshing, so joyous, it's a celebration," he added.

Participation is key out here, but the competition is still fierce, evident by the celebrations of McGrath and the footballers who sprinted over to a stand full of Irish support after a late, late dramatic goal sealed victory over Estonia.

Asked how it felt to score the winning goal for his country in their opening Special Olympics match, McGrath said simply that it was "grand" as he set his sights on a gold medal.

"I feel good, we needed to get three points today," he said.

Just a stone's throw away from where all this was going on, Chelsea great Didier Drogba was meeting some of the teams. Asked about what these games meant to him, the Ivorian said he was delighted to be supporting the athletes, but went on to say "we are not supporting them, they are hosting us".

"It's amazing for us to be here, I'm really proud of them," said Drogba, who also has his own foundation.

"I'm really proud because everything we do is to help people and to improve and promote inclusion, so it's important for them to be here.

"Sport is an amazing ambassador for peace, for health, and when you see people coming from different countries, celebrating the game, it's amazing."

Irish Independent

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