It’s been a very good year for the Tipperary Special Olympics Club who attended the 2014 Ireland Games at Limerick and the European Games in Belgium.
All the hard work and dedication of the athletes and coaches were rewarded with the Tipperary team bringing home many medals.
Badminton star Shauna Bloom from Dundrum won silver in both the European and the Ireland national games. Richard Kerr and William Naughton won 3 silver and 1 bronze between them in athletics and Christine Minogue achieved 1 gold and 1 silver in table tennis. Basketball players Mike Minogue brought home gold and teammate Edel Pollard won silver with footballer Sallyann Conway winning a bronze medal in 5-a-side soccer. More accolades for the club included Carina Houlihan from Glengoule in Thurles bringing home two medals in swimming and Mary Ryan from Tipperary Town being selected for the world games ten-pin bowling team.
“All these young athletes train like any other club in Tipperary,” explained Club manager Phyllis Naughton. They attend the club training each week and many train daily leading up to competitive events. In the Special Olympics games, the athlete has to win to continue onto the next level. In other sports athletes get selected for the team but with the Special Olympics you have to win at each level to get to the next. So it’s like a knockout competition with a four-year cycle starting with local, regional, Ireland, World games. Our athletes who won medals at the Ireland and European games have been in training for the four-year cycle and have to be at the top of their game to get through to compete at National and International level.
Each Tuesday the club meets at the Canon Hayes Sports Complex, where the athletes train in their chosen sports and polish up their individual skills under the guidance of dedicated volunteers:
Mike Ryan, Allan Pickwick, Lionel Mannering, Eddie Kennedy, Morris and Hanna Croke all under the watchful eye of Club Manager Phyllis Naughton. The swimming athletes use the Sean Tracey Swimming Pool in Tipperary town and swimming coach Josephine Ray, trained medal winner Carina throughout the summer.
Earlier this year the club mourned the loss of volunteer coach Marie O’Donnell from Ballymasock, Tipperary. Marie was a very special volunteer and was with us for 19 years. Marie came in every Monday morning with a big wide smile on her face and prepared our swimming athletes to perfection whether for regional, national or world competitions. She was a great loss to the club, both as a volunteer and as a friend and is sadly missed by the athletes and the volunteer team. Swimming hasn’t been the same without her,” said Phyllis.
On Thursdays the bowling club meets in Tipperary and travels to Limerick for Ten Pin bowling practice at Fun World.
”This requires less solid training and is a great social outlet for the athletes,” explained Coach Allan Pickwick. “Afterwards we go to Supermacs who are so good to us. When we arrive they have two members of staff that drop everything and come and serve us and we’re the only people who get fish and chips on a plate. Thank you to bowling volunteers Joyce Pickwick, Colin Samworth, Nuala O’Mara, Aileen Browne, and Louise Lynch for giving up such a lot of your time.”
The Tipperary Special Olympics club is planning to get a junior club up and running for athletes from 6-years old up to 15-years old.
“It’s important to bring in new blood and it’s important for children going to special schools to get involved in sport to develop social skills,” explained Club Manager Phyllis. “We’ll be looking for transition year students to help out with this project as it may help with those who haven’t made up their mind what they want to do. They may go on to study disability nursing or something in a similar filed and this training will give an insight into people with disability. We are the foundation of the Special Olympics Ireland – if you don’t have the Tipperary Special Olympics club where we train athletes from the ground up then you wouldn’t have the standard at the National and World Special Olympics.”
The club wishes to thank all the people of Tipperary for their continued support at church gate collections and other fundraising activities. Also to the Canon Hayes Sports Complex, Sean Tracey Swimming Pool, the Bowling Alley Ennis Road Limerick and Supermacs.