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Connacht Tribune

Putting in the long hours in pursuit of Special Olympics glory

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The athletes at Tuam Headford Special Olympics Club have their sights firmly set on gold at June’s National Games in Dublin.

Five athletes, competing in either swimming or rhythmic gymnastics, have been steadily training for months now in preparation for the games – having been selected to represent Connacht at the National Sports Campus.

Head Coach at the club, Patricia Creaven, says the five athletes selected have dedicated a huge amount of time and effort – and they will be giving it their all when they compete for their club, county and province.

“All they want is a medal – they are as competitive as any athletes. They get a ribbon for fourth, fifth and sixth place, and for participation, but none of them want them,” laughs Patricia.

“In training, week to week, it is as much about the social element of it all – but when it comes to completion, they really put their game faces on.”

The group going to Dublin is made up of two swimmers and three rhythmic gymnasts. Leah Costello is the club’s youngest athlete and at just eleven years old, she will compete in the gymnastics category.

Leah’s mother, Lorraine, says that the club is a real social outlet for the Scoil Bríd pupil, adding that she loves taking part alongside her friends.

“She might be nervous about the big crowd or the big place and all of the travelling because Leah has never been away from home,” says Lorraine.

The rhythmic gymnasts are each given the same routine to learn and they have been plugging away for months now – trying to perfect it before they take to the national stage, as Patricia explains.

“The three ladies that are doing the gymnastics have to do a routine with the ribbon, the ball and the hoop – it’s a three minute dance routine that they all have to follow.

“The training is quite difficult – there are six or seven stages that they have to do and there are very strict rules,” she says.

Joe Ward from Tuam will be swimming for Connacht in June and at 28 years old, the pool has become his second home since his first dip as a toddler.

Joe’s mother, Rose, says Joe’s autism has been greatly helped by swimming, giving him a sense of “complete freedom” in the pool.

“When he was two, he was very uncomfortable and when he was diagnosed with autism, we were advised to bring him to the pool – and he has been there since.

“His brother, Charles, brings him swimming four days a week and he loves it now – he is the baby of the family with two brothers and four sisters,” says Rose.

Like Joe, Ciara Nally will be taking to the pool and as an only child, her parents are very excited about the games.

Her father, Noel Nally, says Ciara is hugely competitive but loves the socialising that comes with the games.

“She’s looking forward to the disco,” laughs Noel. “We are very proud of her – the only thing she is nervous of is being away from home but it means that she gets to meet new friends and to compete in the games.”

Kawthar Yahya is the newest member competing for the club, having recently completed her schooling at St Joseph’s Special School.

Kawthar competed at the Limerick games four years ago and has stepped it up a gear this time around, says Patricia.

“In her school, Kawthar was at Level C and at that level, you can’t compete at the world games so she was pushed forward to do Level One which involves three routines and is a big step up.

“They were selected in July and we follow the school calendar so we only started training in September and she has to learn three new routines by June,” says Patricia.

But Kawthar is taking it all in her stride and according to her sister, Hayat, she’ll be hoping to add to an already well-decorated medal wall at home in Knocknacarra.

Maria Hannon will compete in gymnastics and has been involved in Special Olympics for 16 years.

Maria is a sports fanatic and achieved a personal goal when she met one of her sporting heroes, says Patricia.

“Maria loves Connacht Rugby; we got to go to the Sportsground in Galway and Maria, as a VIP, got to meet John Muldoon.

“This will be her second time competing in the games; last time, she competed in the basketball and it was the first Connacht team – and they won a bronze medal which was unbelievable,” she says.

Keeping the club going has been a labour of love for Patricia since she was inspired by the 2003 world games in Ireland.

And while it hasn’t always been easy, the success of athletes, in sport and in their development, is very rewarding, says Patricia.

“With each generation that goes through, we learn more and our club could be a lot bigger – we’re the only rhythmic gymnastics club in Galway outside of St Joseph’s and of the three athletes going from Connacht, they are all from our club.

“My mother, Vera Creavan, will be 77 this year and she volunteers – she never misses a week. I’ve roped in my best friend too,” says Patricia.

“We have Anne Woulfe and Sarah Steed who are both going to Dublin. We also have Donna Walsh, Breda Kennedy – Adriana Pacesiene who is doing her Leaving Cert in June and is just the sweetest lady; her sister is an athlete.”

Patricia hopes to see the treatment of Special Olympic athletes improve as each one still has to raise €460 themselves.

Numbers are also restricted for the world games with those selected drawn from a bowl rather than on merit.

This means that even if they win gold at national games, they are not guaranteed a spot at the worlds.

Nonetheless, she believes it is a hugely positive experience for all involved and says that each and every one of them will be proud to represent Connacht in June.

“The games take place on June 14, 15 and 16 and there will be 150 of us from Connacht heading to Dublin on the train from Ceannt Station in Galway – so we hope to see lots of support,” says Patricia.

Connacht Tribune

Paedophile for sentencing after arrest in Ceannt Station

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A man will be sentenced in December for arranging to meet a child at Ceannt Station for the purpose of sexual assault.

In the meantime, Michael Sheridan, from Cormeelick South, Milltown, must not attempt to use the internet or any other means of communication to contact any child, as set down in conditions attached to his bail.

The 63-year-old pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last Friday week to attempting to communicate with a child by means of information and communication technology within the State, for the purposes of facilitating the sexual exploitation of the child on dates between March 20 and May 26, 2018, contrary to Common Law and Section 8 of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 2017.

He also pleaded guilty to attempting to meet the child on May 27, 2018, at Ceannt Railway Station in Eyre Square, having communicated by any means with the child, and did so on at least a previous occasion, and did so for the purpose of doing something that would constitute the sexual exploitation of the child, namely sexual assault of the child, contrary to Common Law.  The sex of the child referred to in the charges was not revealed in court.

In reply to Judge Rory McCabe, prosecuting barrister, Geri Silke said there was no need to order a victim impact statement prior to sentence taking place as there was no victim ‘in the real sense’ in the case.

By consent with Bernard Madden SC, defending, sentence was adjourned to December 15 next, when the prosecution will outline the facts in the case against Sheridan.

His free legal aid certificate was extended to cover the cost of a medical report for mitigation purposes.

Judge McCabe also directed the preparation of a probation report at Mr Madden’s request and remanded Sheridan on continuing bail with the existing conditions attached to appear back before the court in December for sentence.

Bail was initially granted in the District Court on condition Sheridan surrender his passport and not apply for a new one or any other travel documents; sign on twice a week at Tuam Garda Station; provide a mobile phone number to Gardai and answer his phone to Gardaí at all times; undertake to the court not to make any contact with any child by any means, to include social media; and not to access the internet at any stage pending completion of the case.

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Connacht Tribune

Final outing for Your County, Your Colours – to honour an old colleague

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It was a simple idea well executed – to deliver 32 GAA county jerseys to frontline workers in a hospital or care home in thanks for their dedication during Covid – but before the dust settled on Your County, Your Colours, there was one final and very special delivery to be made.

It is now nine years since a completely unprovoked attack left Tuam man Shane Grogan with life-changing injuries that mean he still requires round-the-clock medical care today.

Before that vicious assault, Shane was a popular member of staff with Merit Medical – who just happened to be the sponsors of the Your County, Your Colours project, dreamt up by Galway Bay FM commentator and former Galway footballer, Tommy Devane.

The team at Merit had one final request – to deliver a special, framed Galway jersey to Shane and the staff at Greenpark Nursing Home, where Shane has lived for some time.

Karen Smyth, Communications Leader with Merit Medical, said that the staff at Merit Medical had never forgotten Shane.

“We see Your County, Your Colours as a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work of the frontline workers in Greenpark,” she said.

“This is just a small token of appreciation of their efforts; they do an amazing job – not just during the pandemic but every day,” she added.

Shane’s dad Joe relayed his thanks to Merit Medical for this presentation – with a special word to the Accounts Department, where Shane worked prior to his accident.

“They have always kept Shane foremost in their thoughts and hopefully, the visits will start again soon!” he said.

The original idea, as envisaged by Tommy Devane, was to honour the tireless efforts of frontline workers across the country during the pandemic.

So he has asked all 32 counties to supply one county jersey accompanied by a short message of thanks. The jersey along with their message was then framed and sent to the hospital or care setting of the county’s choice.

Greenpark Nursing Home Director of Nursing Brian McNamara thanked Merit Medical and Tommy Devane for what he called this wonderful gift.

“We are honoured to have been thought of in this manner and it is our privilege to look after Merit’s colleague Shane Grogan,” he said.

“In our caring for Shane, there will always be a special bond between Merit Medical and Greenpark Nursing Home,” he added.

(Photo: Shane Grogan (centre) with his parents Joe and Joan behind him, accepting his signed Galway jersey, joined by (from left) the McNamara family – Jane, Cora, Director of Nursing Brian and Ian – of Greenpark Nursing Home; Shane’s physical therapist Johnathan Gibson, Merit Medical’s Karen Smyth and Mark Butler, and Tommy Devane, organiser of Your County, Your Colours).

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Connacht Tribune

Teacher has sights set on passing ultimate Ironman test

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It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted and it pretty much eats up all of your spare time – but for Claregalway schoolteacher, Rachel Farrell, the Ironman 70.3 world championship test in September is something she just cannot wait for.

Rachel (28) has always been bitten by the sports and fitness bug, being a competitive swimmer and badminton player from her school days, but now she is concentrating on what’s called the Ironman 70.3.

The 70.3 part of the title refers to the total distance in miles that competitors will cover between the swim, cycle and running legs of the event.

It works out at half the distance of the full Ironman Triathlon but that still adds up to one huge challenge for those brave enough to take it on.

The first part of the endurance test is a 1.9-kilometre (1.2 miles) swim followed by a 90km cycle (56 miles) and then a half-marathon run (21.1km or 13.1 miles).

“I did my first Ironman 70.3 in France in 2019 and the Utah event on September 17 next is actually the 2020 world championships which couldn’t be held last year because of the Covid situation.

“The course in Utah is by all accounts a pretty gruelling one and the conditions there will be tough too, but I’ve prepared well for it and am looking forward to the challenge,” said Rachel.

She will be competing in the 25 to 29 age category and in the France event two years ago, Rachel notched a top 49 finish – the target this time around is for a top-20 finishing slot.

The daughter of Josette and Hugh Farrell, Rachel is currently a secondary schoolteacher in Dubai who is hoping to travel to Utah about a week before the event to help her acclimatise to the heat and desert like conditions of the US state.

Even the journey to get there will be a mission itself with Dubai the starting off point followed by stop-offs at Elay and Las Vegas.

Rachel is pretty much committed to an all-year round preparation programme based on a four-week rota system – three weeks of intense training followed by one week of scaled down activity.

“When I was in Oman back in 2018 and the event was held there it just caught my interest. I put in on my bucket list and really enjoyed the one in France in 2019.

“I’m not sure whether I’ll keep doing them or not – I might just concentrate on swimming or cycling events into the future – but for the moment, Utah is the goal and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Rachel.

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