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CITY TRIBUNE

Ironman Higgins shows no sign of slowing down at the age of 70

Stephen Glennon

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Corofin's John Joe Higgins, who at 70 years of age, is still tearing it up on the triathlon scene both at home and abroad.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

TRI Lakes triathlete John Joe Higgins – who just last month won his age category in the half-ironman event at Dun Laoghaire 70.3, completing the combined 1.9km swim, 90.1km cycle and 21.1km run in just over seven hours – may have turned 70 earlier this year but he is showing no signs of slowing down.

In fact, the Corofin man is already gearing up for a full Ironman in Cork next year – his first as a septuagenarian – before he tackles the half-Ironman again at the World Championships in Nice, France next September. Already he is in training, having recently begun a gym programme under Michael Comer in Velocity Fitness in Tuam.

An evening spent in the company of Higgins at his beautiful home is, to say the least, enjoyable. While it is his feats on the triathlon circuit over the past 10 years that is supposed to be the driving force behind the interview, Higgins lead the conversation on a merry dance over the ensuing hours.

He chats about his family – his wife Mary, who makes one hell of a cup of tea, his five children and nine grandchildren – his passion for bee-keeping, his love of local history and a number of other sporting endeavours he has pursued over the years, including handball, Gaelic football and badminton.

The latter, no more than triathlon, he also enjoyed much success at, with one of his proudest achievements being part of the Corofin team that won the club’s sole county badminton championship in the 1970s. “I spent half my life playing badminton when I was younger,” he notes.

“To be honest, I don’t really like talking at all about triathlon. Everyone wants to talk about it but my life is totally different. My life has nothing at all to do with it, really. My life is about other things altogether.”

Yet, Higgins, a postman who served North Galway for 47 years before retiring, recognises there is something fascinating about a man turned 70 taking on one of the toughest endurance sports – a sport he only took up a decade ago – and, once he warms up to the subject, he is in his element.

His triathlon story arc began 10 years ago, by which time he had already run a number of marathons, including the Dublin City Marathon on several occasions and the New York City marathon, which he undertook for Croí.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

€3bn plan for new hospitals at Merlin Park

Denise McNamara

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How the 200-bed elective hospital may 'fit' into the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A 1,150-bed acute hospital and a separate 200-bed elective hospital at Merlin Park – costing in the region of €3 billion and taking up to 15 years to deliver – are included in a new report on health infrastructure needs for Galway.

A review of hospital requirements has produced ambitious proposals for the elective hospital – costing around €1.2bn and taking a decade to build – and acute hospital to replace UHG which would take 15 years to deliver.

The so-called ‘options appraisal’ conducted on behalf of the Saolta University Health Care Group concluded that separating acute and planned services – through the development of a purpose-built elective facility – will greatly improve efficiency and patient access by reducing waiting times and cancellations.

It will allow the Saolta Hospital Group to significantly increase the level of day surgery and reduce length of stay for patients.

Currently there are 46,000 people on a waiting list between the two hospitals with a further 14,000 patients travelling to Dublin from the Saolta region every year for treatment.

“The demand capacity gap will grow to a shortfall of 276 beds at Galway University Hospitals [UHG and Merlin combined] alone. Do nothing is not an option,” consultants KPMG wrote.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Minister gives go-ahead to army accommodation plan

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The USAC complex in Renmore, which is set to be redeveloped.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A 50-year-old building at Dún Uí Mhaoilíosa in Renmore is to be renovated to provide additional accommodation for members of the Defence Forces, the Minister for Defence has confirmed.

Minister Paul Kehoe (FG) told the Dáil that the former University Students Administrative Complement (USAC) complex would be redesigned to accommodate 120 persons living in single rooms.

“The rooms are fitted out to a basic standard and ablution facilities are provided communally. The building is nearly 50 years old and does not meet current standards with respect to building constriction methodology, fire prevention measures and energy efficiency,” said Minister Kehoe.

While currently in its early design stages, it is expected that construction work would commence late next year, he added.

USAC is a purpose-built facility constructed in the 1970s to accommodate Officers of the Defence Forces undertaking courses at third level institutes in Galway.

While located adjacent to the barracks in Renmore, it is outside the confines of the barracks and is self-contained with its own access and parking.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Taskforce gets down to work in Ballybane

Enda Cunningham

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Aoife Tully having fun in Ballybane Playground.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Ballybane Task Force is on a mission.

Since the cooperative made up of all major stakeholders set up two years ago, they have set themselves the goal of highlighting the positive work in train in the eastern suburb while providing support for community, voluntary and residents’ groups that currently operate.

They also want to encourage the participation of all locals – new and long-term – in activities while giving support to developing projects and initiatives.

Already the Task Force has spearheaded some tangible results. Last week, a homework club for secondary school students opened and an afterschool service for primary students will begin in January following the recruitment of staff.

There was further good news earlier this year with the redevelopment of the derelict Ballybane Neighbourhood Centre. It is set to be transformed into a revitalised enterprise centre, scheduled to be open in January.

One of the first tasks the group pursued was to identify gaps in resources and services across Ballybane and lay out a blueprint for action.

They secured funding to appoint a consultant to review this in depth and make recommendations.

The results of that needs analysis have just been published. Its overview of the area’s deprivation makes for stark reading.

Ballybane is described as the area where the older housing estates are bordered by Ballybane Road, Monivea Road and the Dublin Road, but excluding the Doughiska development.

It has a male unemployment rate of 25% or over – compared to a 15% average in the city – a lone parent rate of 35% or higher (24% in the city) and a 35% rate of children leaving school in the early years of secondary school (17%). Just one fifth go onto third level, compared to half elsewhere in the city.

This is a preview only. To read the rest of this feature on the regeneration of ballybane, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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