Athletes come home with 43 medals
Wexford Special Olympics Club had plenty to celebrate when they returned home from the Ireland Games in Dublin with a haul of 18 gold, 15 silver, 10 bronze medals, and several merit ribbons.
The club had 23 athletes competing in six different sports - pitch and putt, athletics, Bocce, swimming, basketball and gymnastics.
The group stayed in the campus accommodation in NUI Maynooth and set off early by bus on the Thursday morning before the games started. That evening, they enjoyed the opening ceremony in Tallaght Stadium along with 1,600 athletes from all over the country. President Michael D Higgins told the gathered athletes: 'You have embraced the expectation that you can succeed, aspire to live the life of your choice, have your voice heard, your talents respected and be defined by your skills and abilities.'
Over the following three days, the Wexford athletes certainly showed their skills and abilities.
In the pitch and putt competition, two athletes from the club took part. Philip Clancy took on 18 holes while Christopher Nolan played in the nine-hole division. Unlucky on his first day, Philip clawed back on his second day of play to finish in sixth place. Christopher played excellently and won a bronze medal.
In swimming, three athletes took part in competitions at the National Aquatic Centre. Carima Murphy won gold medals in both the 50m backstroke and the relay races. She also won a silver medal for the 25m backstroke race.
Dean O'Connor won a fourth place participation ribbon for both the 25m and 50m front crawl race, while he picked up a silver medal in the relay race.
Shannon O'Farrell Molly won a silver medal in the 15m kickboard race.
All three athletes were first time competitors and greatly enjoyed the experience.
In basketball, four girls from the club competed in the Ladies Division 1 basketball finals, winning silver medals. They were Jenna Carty, Marian Flood, Sarah Herlihy and Claire Meaghar. The girls played four division games on Friday and beat Ulster on Saturday in the semi-final before losing out to the Eastern region team.
Three athletes represented the club in Athletics - Carole Ryan, Darragh Moran and Kevin Kinsella. All three performed outstandingly. Carole won a gold in the javelin and a silver in the 50m sprint. Darragh won a silver in the 50m sprint and a bronze in the standing long jump. Kevin won gold in the 25m sprint and a silver in the standing long jump. The club thanked the DMP athletic club who assisted in these athletes' training.
In Bocce, Darby Power was the club's only competitor. His calm approach to the game, which requires skill, concentration and accuracy, was key and he won two bronze medals for his singles game and team event.
In artistic gymnastics, the team had great success.
Paul Keane led the way for Wexford as he is no stranger to Gymnastics competitions having represented Ireland at the last World Games in L.A. Paul won gold for rings routine and added a second gold for his floor, a silver medal for parallel bars and a fourth place ribbon for vault.
Colleen Flood won gold on her favourite piece, the beam. She won bronze for her uneven bars and fourth for floor. Both Paul and Colleen competed at Level two against stiff competition.
Nathan Ferrick excelled for his first time at the Games. Competing at Level one, he won gold in rings and parallel bars, silver for vault and fifth on floor.
Lisa Redmond won gold for beam and vault, and silver for floor.
Katie Dixon won bronze for floor and vault, and was sixth in beam. While thrilled with her performance, the highlight for her was at the opening ceremony when her brother Thomas was a pilot for the Irish Air Corp flyover.
Lisa McKegney, competing for the third time at the games, won gold for uneven bars and floor, and seventh for beam.
In Rhythmic Gymnastics, Bridget Cowman led the way, competing at Level two and doing extremely well. She won gold for her favourite competition, Ribbon, and also took gold for hoops and silver for clubs.
Rebecca Eydt, enjoying her first time at the games, competed at the beginner level C and won the hearts of the audience getting a wonderful reception for her routines. Rebecca got gold for Ball and Rope, and a silver for Hoop. Rosie Murphy was also a first time competitor and she performed well in Level one, securing bronze for Hoop and Ribbon and fourth for Ball.
Jennie O Brien, the youngest member of the team and also a first time competitor, showed great confidence in her routines at Level 1 and claimed gold for Rope, bronze for Hoop and fourth for Ball.
The athletes travelled home tired but happy on the Sunday evening. The group had a big celebration in Murphy's Barn at the weekend and all eyes now will be on the selection process for the World Games, with the club hopeful that some of their athletes will be picked to travel to Dubai for that competition.