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Late-starter Downey making her mark in international racquetball



Moycullen's Olivia Downey who is an Irish racquetball champions and has won doubles gold at European level,

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

MOYCULLEN’S Olivia Downey has some story to tell. For years, Downey was just a ‘social’ racquetball player who loved nothing more than a good old-fashioned chin-wag when the weekly Wednesday session came around.   Jump forward to 2017 and the 39-year-old has undergone a radical sporting transformation. In addition to being crowned the All-Ireland intermediate singles and doubles champion earlier this year, she also claimed three medals at the 19th European Senior Racquetball Championships last month.

Given where she has come from, Downey’s journey is a remarkable one. “Yeah, it was only in the last year – this year in fact – that I really began to take it seriously and I actually went down to train and not just to talk,” she laughs.

While she had been attending competitions in Connacht over the last three seasons, she had never ventured any further or, indeed, maybe, applied herself to the extent required to challenge and progress.

“Then, in January, I went to a tournament – the first time I went outside Connacht – in Tralee. When we were there, one of the girls from Castlebar – who was actually on the Ireland team – asked ‘do you ever do drills?’ And I said, what is a drill?

“She (Katie Kenny) said this is what you are supposed to be doing on your own. So, she came to Moycullen and showed all the girls. From then on, I said I will try this out and I ended up doing them.”

As the improvements began to be made in her game, Downey decided to aim for the All-Ireland championships, which, this year, were to be held in Ballinrobe in April. Downey excelled beyond her wildest expectations, not only winning the intermediate singles but also claiming the honours in the doubles with her sister, Rosie.

“Then, one of the lads, Johnny (O’Keeney), asked me would I be interested in going for the Europeans. I said I didn’t know if I would be good enough but I went for it. Only for Johnny asking me, I wouldn’t have thought of it.”

From then on, Downey dedicated herself to finding another level to her game, with preparations for the Europeans intensifying over the Summer, in particular the eight weeks before the championships in The Hague.

Along with Downey, the women’s Irish team included Mayo trio Donna Ryder (Newport), Kenny (Castlebar) and Ailbhe Gill (Ballinrobe) while the men’s outfit consisted of Joe Devenney (Ballinrobe), Padraic Ryder (Newport) and Cork duo Darragh O’Donoghue and O’Keeney.

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


Swimmer James clocks up one million metres in year



From the Galway City Tribune – A keen swimmer in Galway has clocked up an astonishing one million metres in a year as part of his gruelling exercise schedule.

James Brennan reached the impressive milestone over 400 swims last years,  which were split between the sea in Salthill and across the road early-morning sessions at Leisureland pool.

He would count the lengths in his head or on his watch, regularly swimming up to 240 lengths over 90 minutes in the pool and up to 2km off the beach for a half-hour. On a regular week he would swim the equivalent of 20km.

When James realised he was at 800,000 metres last November, he decided to go all-out to pass the one-million mark by the end of 2022.

So he concentrated on swimming for at least ten hours a week leading up to Christmas and celebrated passing his goal before breaking up for the festivities.

“I’ve always done a lot of swimming. I’ve competed for my local swimming club in Claremorris, County Mayo, and was involved in the Corrib Polo Water Club races. I won the Heskin League, which is a combination of the 14 different open water races in Salthill. I also won the league in Claremorris,” he reveals.

The software engineer has been living in Galway for  13 years and has been a member of Leisureland for four years.

“It’s a really great pool, it has nice facilities, the staff are all very nice,” he reflects.

Facilities Manager of the Council-owned premises, Ian Brennan, said the phenomenal distance was the equivalent of swimming from Galway to Amsterdam.

He heard about James’s achievement from Green Party Councillor and Leisureland board member Niall Murphy, who happened to be swimming in the lane beside James when the Mayo man reached the goal.

“I felt that this is a hugely worthy event and fills me with amazement that we have a superhero in our midst. The future is bright.”

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Ó Tuathail not interested in Galway City Council co-option



From the Galway City Tribune – A two-time general election candidate for the Social Democrats in Galway West has ruled out filling the party’s vacant seat on Galway City Council.

Niall Ó Tuathail, a health reform advisor, has confirmed to the Galway City Tribune that he will not be co-opted to the City Council seat vacated by the shock resignation of Councillor Owen Hanley in January.

“I’m not going to be put forward for co-option,” said Mr Ó Tuathail.

The father-of-two has lived abroad for a time since taking a step back from electoral politics in the wake of his 2020 General Election defeat.

He confirmed this week he has not reconsidered his decision to take a long break from frontline politics.

“I’m still a Soc Dem member and we’re in a process looking for someone strong to represent the values of the people who voted for us in 2019,” Mr Ó Tuathail said.

He polled 3,653 first preference votes in 2020 in Galway West and was only eliminated after the 12th count in the five-seat constituency.

That was an increase on the 3,455 number ones he received in his first Dáil election in 2016, when he also bowed out on the 12th count.

Mr Ó Tuathail was synonymous with the Social Democrats’ brand in Galway, and was heavily involved with the local referenda campaigns for marriage equality and to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

It surprised many political observers when he opted not to fight a local election for the party in 2019.

That was a breakthrough election for the Soc Dems, when Owen Hanley became the party’s first ever Galway City councillor by winning a seat in Galway City East. Sharon Nolan narrowly missed out on a seat in City Central during the same election.

Mr Hanley cited allegations made against him when he announced in January that he was resigning his position.

He said that the matters were “very serious” and would take a considerable amount of time for the authorities to investigate.

The resignation of Mr Hanley left a vacancy on the City Council.

It is the prerogative of the Social Democrats to nominate a person who will be co-opted to replace him as a councillor at City Hall.

A spokesperson for the party told the Tribune last week that it has not yet chosen a successor.

“We don’t have any update in relation to the co-option. I will let you know when we have a candidate,” the spokesperson said.

One problem faced by the party is that a number of possible replacements for Mr Hanley have left the Soc Dems over policy and other issues.

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Cigarettes, drugs and cash seized in Galway



Officers from the Divisional Drugs Unit seized more than €73,000 worth of cigarettes, cash and drugs after a car and residence were searched in Galway today.
As part of Operation Tara – which is targeting the sale and supply of drugs and related criminal activity in the Galway area – Gardaí  searched a car in the Knocknacarra area. Cash and cannabis were seized.

A follow up search was carried out at a residence in Salthill, where cigarettes worth €70,000, along with €3,100 in cash and a small quantity of suspected amphetamine were recovered.

No arrests were made, but Gardaí say they are following a definite line of inquiry.

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