Kildare athletes for Athens

FIVE Kildare athletes will take part in the Special Olympic Games in Athens, starting this weekend, writes Henry Bauress.

FIVE Kildare athletes will take part in the Special Olympic Games in Athens, starting this weekend, writes Henry Bauress.

Simon Darragh from Celbridge, Ann Marie Cooney from Straffan and Conor Mac Gearailt, from Athy, will take part in the games which run from 25 June to 4 July in Greece.

They will be joined by Lorraine O’Halloran from Maynooth and Eileen O’Loughlin from Rathangan.

The group flew out to Athens along with a number of Kildare coaches, including Kenneth Kavanagh, an athletics coach from Kildare town, Cyril Marah, an equestrian coach from the Curragh and Laura Cusack, the head coach for five a side football from Naas.

The team was selected earlier this year.

Two are young adults who attend St Raphael’s in Celbridge.

Anne Marie Cooney from Straffan, a Michael Jordan fan, has joining the basketball team and Simon Darragh from Celbridge will be representing Ireland at bocce - which is a form of indoor bowls.

Both Anne Marie and Simon were gold medal winners in the All-Ireland Special Olympics held in Limerick in 2010.

Eileen O’Loughlin, who has been involved in Special Olympics for fifteen years is based at the Moore Abbey club at the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary at Monasterevin. Eileen was unlucky when she had to pull out of the 2007 Shanghai competition due to illness. The same club hosts a Laois participant, Theresa Maguire, who will be doing kayaking. Lorraine O’Halloran from Maynooth will take part in the swimming and Conor Mac Gearailt from the Abbeyleix Acorn Special Olympic will reprent Ireland for the first time.

Conor, who has taken British Horse Society examinations, said he would not be where he is without his involvement.

The team travelled out on Monday morning. Special Olympics press spokesperson, Ann Marie Butler, said the team would spend some time in Rhodes to acclimatise to the heat before going to Athens this Friday for the opening ceremony on Saturday. Apart from the 126 athletes from the Republic, coaches and at least 400 registered family members have travelled.