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.
Gardaí in Galway operating with fewer patrol cars
Five large Garda stations in County Galway are operating with fewer Garda vehicles now than two years ago – leading to a call for the local fleet to be restored to 2020 levels.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has confirmed to Galway West TD Noel Grealish that the Garda fleet in the Galway Garda Division stands at 116 as of October of this year.
That’s greater than any of the years from 2012 to 2019, but it represents a reduction on the Garda fleet when compared with 2020 and 2021 figures.
Galway Gardaí had a dozen fewer vehicles this year, compared with 2020. There are 13 fewer patrol cars, down from 96 to 83; there was no change in the number of vans and motorcycles, and the division acquired one extra 4×4.
Garda stations in Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Tuam, Clifden and Salthill have all lost patrol cars in the past 24 months, according to the official figures.
Independent Deputy Grealish has demanded a restoration of the Garda fleet in Galway to 2020 levels.
“Gardaí have a demanding enough job to do, but it makes that important work even more difficult if they are not allocated the proper resources,” Deputy Grealish said.
“A reduction of twelve vehicles in less than two years across the Galway Division, down from 128 at the end of 2020 to 116 in October this year, is concerning.
“I have asked the Minister for Justice to explain why this has happened, that the number of vehicles in the Galway Division has fallen by ten per cent, when nationally the total fleet actually increased by 6%. I am demanding that they at the very least be restored to their 2020 levels,” he said.
Deputy Grealish pointed out that almost all areas of the county had suffered a reduction in Garda vehicles since the beginning of last year. Ballinasloe currently has six vehicles, a reduction of two since the end of 2020; Clifden also has six, down one; Loughrea was down three to eleven; Salthill was down three to ten; the biggest reduction in Garda vehicles was in the Tuam area down five to twelve.
Galway City’s fleet increased by two vehicles, for a total of 71.
Minister McEntee said that the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was responsible for the administration and management of An Garda Síochána, including the purchase, allocation, and effective and efficient use of Garda vehicles.
“As Minister, I have no direct role in these matters. I am assured, however, that Garda management keeps the distribution of resources under continual review to ensure their optimum use in light of identified operational needs and emerging crime trends,” she added.
Galway City Councillor Donal Lyons (Ind) last month complained that the number of vehicles available to Gardaí in Salthill and Knocknacarra was insufficient.
Progress stalls on setting up Eating Disorder Community Health Team
Despite an increasing number of young people experiencing eating disorders, a new specialist community team has yet to be set up in Galway well over a year after it was announced.
The delay is mainly due to a difficulty recruiting a consultant psychiatrist to lead the team, this week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum meeting was told.
Councillor John Connolly (FF) queried the progress on the new Eating Disorder Community Health Team within the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) after the HSE revealed in September 2021 that it would be set up in response to the hike in youths presenting for treatment.
Chief Officer of HSE Community Healthcare West, Breda Crehan-Roche, said interviews had been conducted to recruit a clinical lead, but so far none had been appointed. Six other staff had been appointed and these had been assigned to existing teams within CAMHS while a psychiatrist could come on board to manage the team.
“We have difficulty getting locum cover. Interviews were held. It’s a priority. We are doing a running recruitment process,” she told this month’s meeting.
It took between six and nine months to appoint a person to such a senior post.
“There is a lot of work in specialist intervention in the eating disorders team.”
She admitted that there were no records of how much of an increase there had been in referrals to CAMHS Galway for youths troubled by an eating disorder as all records were on paper rather than on computer.
“I can’t ask clinicians and therapists to pull together manual figures,” she stated. But the indication from staff on the ground was that there had been a downward trend in referrals post-Covid.
There was a move to keeping digital records by the middle of next year.
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan dies aged 78
Retired Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan has passed away at the age of 78.
Born in Kilkenny in 1944, Bishop Drennan studied for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth from where he was ordained in 1968
As a priest, the then Fr Drennan served as curate in both St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish in Kilkenny and then in Ballycallan.
From 1975 he taught Sacred Scripture at St. Kieran’s College, returning to Rome in 1980 to become Spiritual Director at the Irish College there for the next five years.
When Fr. Martin again returned home he became a Lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he continued to teach until his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1997.
Following the retirement of Bishop James McLoughlin, Bishop Drennan was chosen as Bishop of Galway and Kilmacduagh and Apostolic Administrator of Kilfenora and was installed on 3rd July 2005 in Galway Cathedral serving to his retirement in 2016.
A brief statement released by the Diocese of Galway this afternoon confirmed his passing and offered their sympathies to Bishop Drennan’s family and all those who mourn his loss.
Funeral arrangements for the late Bishop Drennan will be announced later