THE COUNTDOWN to one of the most prestigious sporting events to be held in Limerick is well and truly on following the launch of the Munster team who will participate in next month’s Special Olympics Ireland Games.
There was great excitement in the Castletroy Park Hotel where the athletes and their families and friends gathered last Thursday evening for the official launch.
The team was formally launched by the Mayor of Limerick Cllr Kathleen Leddin who wished the athletes well and said that the Games would be the highlight of the Limerick sporting calendar for 2014.
The Special Olympics Ireland Games, which will be held in Limerick from June 12 to June 15 next.
A number of sports personalities including Limerick hurling great Ollie Moran and Irish rugby player Niamh Briggs, a Limerick-based garda, were present to support the team.
“It’s a fantastic occasion,” said Niamh at the launch.
“You just have to look at these athletes and you draw inspiration from them. I’m delighted to be here - there was no way I was going to miss it. The Games are fantastic for Limerick. It is a fantastic city and to be able to bring Special Olympics here again is brilliant. It was an unbelievable success the last time it was here.”
Speaking on behalf of her fellow athletes, Athlete Face of the Games, Christine Delaney from Limerick, said that it was “a huge honour to have the opportunity to represent her club, county and Munster at these Games and that all her fellow athletes were looking forward to doing their best.”
A total of 43 athletes and 10 coaches from clubs throughout Limerick will be part of the 443-strong Munster team competing at the Games.
Team Munster, which will be one of five regions participating in the Games, will have athletes competing in 12 sports including aquatics, athletics, basketball, badminton, bocce, equestrian, golf, gymnastics, soccer, table tennis, tenpin bowling and the motor activities programme.
Speaking at the launch, Elaine Sheehan, head of delegation with Team Munster, said: “The Games will be one of the most prestigious sporting events to take place in Ireland this year and getting to participate at such a level is the result of a huge amount of hard work and dedication on the part of our athletes, coaches and their clubs and families.”
One of the most special aspects of last Thursday’s launch was the parade of the counties.
Two athletes from each county in Munster were accompanied by some very well-known faces including Clare star forward Shane O’Donnell, Tipperary hurling legend John Leahy, Cork hurling hero Ben O’Connor and Limerick hurling great Ollie Moran.
While Kerry football star Colm Cooper was en route, the Kerry representatives were led into the hotel’s function room by Dave ‘The Gooch’ Mahedy, and Niamh Briggs.
The guests at the Castletroy Park Hotel rose to their feet when the Special Olympic torch was carried into the function room by Garda Michelle Fahy and Garda Donal Meade.
Next month’s Games will take place at a range of venues throughout Limerick, Clare and Tipperary.
A total of 1500 athletes from throughout Ireland will participate and it is anticipated that over 6000 family members and supporters will attend the Games which will be organised by a team of 3000 volunteers.