Author:Created:07/01/2011 14:30RssIcon
Blog following the progress of Team Ireland in the run-up to the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens
By Athens on 15/08/2011 16:55
Team Ireland Football athletes competing in Athens   Lining up before our final game vs GB

Our 1st Group match was against Turkey on Tuesday morning. We were all happy with who we were drawn against and we surely knew we could win this group and bring the gold home to Ireland. That Tuesday morning was hot and sunny. I didn’t sleep well and this was a really big match for us as we needed to get off to a great start to win the gold.

So this was it - the big one. We got our names checked off and from the stand we could see the Ireland flags waving. It was special to have so many friends and families to cheer on the boys in green. 

The match kicked off and in under 2 minutes we took the lead with a super shot that their keeper didn’t really hold on to and it went into the net. It was a fantastic goal from Ken that got us off to a good start. But then we were put under pressure and I moved too far out off my box as the ball came in. I should have gone down to save it but was too late as Turkey got in and knocked it right past me to make it 1-1 before half time. As we went in Paul said a few words and told us to try and get out there and win this match
 
When we went back out, Turkey started diving all over the place - even if you just touched them, they fell down so easily. Then we gave away a free kick from inside our own half. The ball was kicked right up over our wall. I came out but I should have done better with the ball and it just bounced right past me and went right into the goal. I was gutted at what had happened and let myself down as I should have done better.  

Then 5 minutes later I made another mistake and went out to catch the ball. It hit off my thumb and then my left shoulder and went right past me into the net so that made it 3-1 to Turkey. I made two bad errors and I just wanted the earth to open up and eat me. I let myself down and most of all let the team and coaches down. I should have done better and focused on what I was doing in goals.

Then we had a player injured and were to get the ball back under fair play rules. That’s when everything really went down the pan. Gareth stepped to one side for me to get the ball but then a Turkey player came in, took the ball around me and scored. Then one of our players got sent off when he pushed the referee for giving them the goal and when the final whistle went, I just walked away and didn’t want to chat to no one.

I just felt sick that I handed Turkey that game from two really dumb goals that I gave them. I went off and cried to myself. Everyone was coming up trying get the best out of the players but for me that was the gold medal gone for sure. When I got back to the hotel, I just spent the whole evening there and didn’t even speak to anyone. A few people came up and said not to worry about it, no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes every day in our lives. I was really hurting inside after what had happened but every keeper in the world has one of them days when things go wrong and you just have to bounce back.

Then Wednesday came and our next match was against India. We had to win this one as yesterday was a bit of luck in that the Aussies and GB drew 2-2 in their game so a win today would put us into 2nd place. We got off to a bad start. In the first few minutes, India scored a cracking goal. However we scored 4 goals before half time to lead 4-1. We were playing without an important player who was suspended for this match after his red card and we even gave a penalty away which they missed - blasting it over the bar.
 
Then we got a corner and from that we scored. Greg got onto the ball with his head to put it into the top corner of the goal and we went onto win 5-1 against India while Turkey beat the Aussies 3-0.

Thursday came and this was a make or break match for us. A win would surely put us in for a medal but lose, and we’d get a ribbon to take home. There was a very big crowd of people there with lots of Aussie and Irish fans. We were doing really well but then the Aussies took the lead. A few minutes later, we scored from a free kick - Ken again who ended up being top goal scorer in our team. We went in at half time 1-1. Then in the 2nd half I came on and I really don’t know what to say about the next Aussie goal but it was a fluke that just went in and I should have done better.  

However after 7 minutes we scored to tie it up at 2-2 and still I came off my line a few times to clear the ball away and was just kicking it anywhere. We were into the last few minutes when Ken got on the ball, took it beyond one player and then passed it into Michael who took one touch and smacked it right low into the bottom corner off the goal to put us into the lead 3-2!! I ran off down the field to celebrate but Paul shouted at me to get back and stay in goals
 
We didn’t know how much time was left and talk about waiting to hear that whistle. To my ears it was the sound of music! We were overjoyed and it was one of the best matches I have ever played in my life. When Paul came up to me and said you got the Man of the Match for that game as you came off your line so many times to clear the ball away, I was shocked. I was happy to get it but to me, 16 players and 4 coaches all got man of the match. We believe in each other and achieved something that we can talk about in years to come. It was TEAM - Together Everybody Achieves More. That’s why we worked so hard to be in with a chance to get any kind of medal. We went out there with nothing and now were coming back with a medal. I was really proud of myself and all the lads as after losing in our 1st match, we had bounced back to hopefully now bring back a silver medal.
 
We chilled out on Friday and spent most of the day with families and friends. Then we had an early night and I knew in myself that no matter what, we would bring the silver medal home. I knew that all we had to do was go out there and draw or win as Bangladesh had drawn 2-2 with Turkey draw so we were on 6 points with GB on 5 pts and Turkey on 7pts. We were hoping that India would do us a favour and win but they were a weak team. I felt sorry for them as they shouldn’t have been in our group in the 1st place. Denmark should have been in our group but that’s football for you.

On Saturday morning I was buzzing away to myself and I knew that today we would be silver medal winners no matter what. We got the bus up to the pitch, got ready in the dressing room and then the coaches had a few words with us.

We did some warm-ups, got a few photos taken and then made our way over to the pitch to get our names checked for the final time. This was like one big Champions League Group Stage match where the winner takes all. It was us or them for the silver and then the game was on.

I was down where the Irish fans were shouting and cheering us on and I really did super well in the 1st half, pulling 2 saves off and coming off my line again. At half time it was 0-0. So just under 25 minutes to go and we would win the silver if we just drew with them.

In the 2nd half we stepped it up a bit and GB didn’t know what hit them. They just struggled to get into the match. Then Adrian Clarke came onto the pitch and within 5 minutes, ran down the wing, and hit the ball nicely from outside the box. It dipped right over the keeper’s head and into the back of the net - Ole, Ole eat your heart out Ray ……. The man from Donegal scores a wonder goal out of the blue! The Irish fans were jumping up and down and going mad! We were in the lead now and all we had to do was hold them off and we would win.

With 8 minutes to go, we gave a penalty away and I went to my right side but couldn’t save it so GB scored to make it 1-1. All I wanted now was for the referee to blow his whistle and end the game 1-1. It felt so long. I was going nuts and kept coming off my line but also I didn’t want to make any mistake that could cost us the game.
Finally I heard the sound of the final whistle and it was music to my ears. We were jumping all around, going mad. Now I had a new silver medal in my hands and no-one was going to take that away from me or the rest of the 15 lads that came from the five parts of Ireland to be here

 
With the lads from Donegal after our final match   All the lads with our coaches after winning our silver medals

You can’t win every thing in your life time, all you can do is your best and there has to be winners and runners-up. For me being in my 3rd World Games I am proud to be going home for the 2nd time with a medal that I can hang up on my wall with my Ireland jersey. The funny thing is I am going backwards as I already had a gold medal, now have a silver medal so maybe in 4 years time I might bring back a bronze medal!!? That Sunday we met up with the other nations and we got our 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games silver medals.

I would like to say a special thanks to our Irish fans, families, Matt English who was a great support, friends and everyone else on Team Ireland who believed in us and helped us to bring the silver medal home.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart

Oliver Michael Boyle,
11 A side football team

By Athens on 15/08/2011 16:46

On Sunday morning we got the bus to this place called Apilion Panionios Training Centre which was up in the mountains. It had two grass pitches and 1 astro pitch. We got our gear on but unfortunately I forgot my shin pads - luckily one of the other guys had a spare pair with him. We had a big team talk where Paul, our head coach, said a few words and Gareth was named captain of the team. I was really proud of him and Greg was named 2nd captain.
So everyone of us was proud of the two guys and no matter what or how tired I was, all I had to do was focus on this 15 minute match. After doing our warm-up, we walked out onto the pitch against Denmark who looked like a pretty alright team. Then this was it - here I was in the goals as the Ireland goalkeeper and I had to do my best. 

Oliver Boyle at Special Olympics World Summer Games 2011   The whistle blew and the game was on. We were doing ok in the first 5 minutes but then we were making silly passes, gave the ball away and next thing, Denmark were on the ball and from outside our own box one of  their players hit a rocket at me. This one was going into the top corner of the goal and out of the blue I made a one handed save. I came crashing down on the ground and I didn’t really know where the ball was. Lucky enough my teammate put the ball out for a corner. From there on I pulled off another good save and was lucky I didn’t get my head kicked off in the middle of it when I was coming down for the ball.

Then we made a mistake in the back line and the ball got into our box. I went down and it passed right across from me. For me and the guys, it was off-side but it didn’t matter as Denmark went onto score and we lost the match 1-0.
 
There wasn’t much we could do in that 15 minutes. We could maybe have walked out with a draw but that’s football - anything can happen and all it takes is just 1 chance and the ball is in the back of the net. So we all had a team meeting to sort out a few things and then the next game was against the Greece B team. I was dropped off the team for this one as Paul had to give everyone a chance to play. I didn’t come on till the last 5 minutes but we won that game 1-0 with a goal by Hughie Sweeney. Finally after so many years, he got his 1st goal! So that was our last match of the day and then we were taken back to our hotel. We had some lunch and then we slept for a few hours before heading down for dinner. I was knackered after a very long day with just a few hours sleep the night before.
 
On Monday morning I was feeling much better after a good night’s sleep and everyone was in good form and ready to do whatever they had to do. Before we came out of the dressing room at the football pitch, some players were picked to be captain for these wee divisioning matches, before Gareth and Greg would take over for the big games in our group. So that day it was me being named as captain and I was shocked as to me I wasn’t there for the captain’s armband! I just wanted to play football. I’m not much of a leader but I stepped up and did my bit like any other Irish player would do and lead the team out onto the pitch where we were playing an Indian team called Bangladesh.

They were not a bad team but in no time we took the lead and scored. Then I came running off my line but stupidly didn’t shout “keeper’s ball” and I ended up hurting me, Adrian and one of their players. I was taken off but I was fine. After that my hand was a bit sore and I had to stay in with a nurse for an hour so they could keep an eye on me as I had hit my head as well
 
We then played the Greek C team (they had 3 teams in this football tournament) and I got on for the last few minutes. We won 1-0 in that game so we now had two wins with two goals and none let in - a great day all round. We headed back to the hotel and Hughie’s family and Mario’s mum were there to meet us all. It was a nice surprise and great to see friends from home.
 
We all then headed up to our rooms and chilled out for an hour before coming down for dinner that evening. Afterwards we found out who we would be up against in the Group stages where the winner takes all. We were in group B with Great Britain, Turkey, Australia and India

By Athens on 15/08/2011 16:42

We all got ready in our green Ireland tops and shorts and made our way up to the gate to wait for our bus - this was it, the start of the Opening Ceremony of the Games. We were dropped off by our bus near to the government building and walked from there to the area where we would have to wait before the ceremony.

We all jumped into get a team photo and it was kind of funny as everyone was pulling cameras out and a few people from other countries came up to take a photo of our team - pretty cool!! I helped our Head Coach Paul to bring some water up for the lads and then we got some food after 6pm. We were the 1st group there and when the rest of Team Ireland landed it was great to see every one.
 
I then went with one of our coaches John into this wonderful yellow and white building. We just went for a wander about and it was amazing inside it. There were so many other nations there too and as we were coming back, a girl from Colombia came up and gave me a wrist band of her colours. Luckily I had two Ireland pin badges left and I got a photo taken with her. It was really great as there were so many people walking about trying to get whatever badges they could from other nations
 
I then got back to our team and a few lads asked me to help them with getting their badges changed for different ones. I even helped one of our own medics to get a USA medic badge! I got one before when I was at our host town in Rhodes and gave that one away as I wasn’t really into badges but didn’t mind swapping them to help out others. So I went for a walk down to where the whole USA team was and along the way so many other countries came up asking for Irish badges. I only had the one left and was keeping it to swap it for a USA medic one. I had to pop from one USA person to the next one until finally I found my medic friend from Rhodes and got the badge I wanted. I was over the moon and so was our Irish medic when she saw me sticking it on her dog tag! My day was turning out to be a pretty good one.
 
After a while, the singing started and we had so much fun with Team Ireland singing all kinds of Irish songs. The Ecuador Special Olympics Team was next door in area 51 and they started singing too - we even got some video of it. After 2 hrs being there, we got into our group and started to move along with the other nations. We had to stop a few times as there were so many nations. Then a few famous people came down to see us and I got a few photos including one with Irish Rugby legend Keith Wood and Mary Davis from Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia who is running to be the next president of Ireland and I really hope she does get it!

Finally we got moving again and then we were standing right behind the big stage and this big blue pole going right up into the sky. This was it - the big one! We started walking slowly into the stadium at the Opening of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked in. It was hard to take photos as we were just waving to so many people who waved back as we walked down this big long black foot path that was part of the stage. It had volunteers to the right and left the whole way along who were shaking our hands and giving High 5’s.
 
It was so amazing and there was a great buzz in the air. I was glad to be here and be a part of the amazing team that had traveled from Ireland. The new guys who had never been at a World Games before were shocked and over the moon to be at a World Games for the 1st time in their lives. We were then taken around to our right and got seated on some stone benches that the Greeks built so many years ago. The stadium was like a big horseshoe and we could see all other nations from where we were sitting. Some of our coaches were trying to get a Mexican wave going. We tried about 7 times, just us and 3 other nations, but it was too hard to get everyone to do it. When the final nations came in, it was coming up to at least 11pm and it was going to be one late night for sure.
 
Then there were a few guest speakers, including that woman from Desperate Housewives, Vanessa Williams who looked wonderful up on stage. There were so many things happening that night at the Opening Ceremony but the most amazing thing of all was the lights with so many different colours from blue, red, green, and white - it was like being at home on Christmas Day and was wonderful to see. They also did this big boat thing and there were 100s of people out on stage being the sea and people flying through the air. Then Stevie Wonder came on stage and sang for us! It was truly amazing to see him sing and he got all the people to sing along with one of his songs.
 
I was looking forward to seeing the Flame of Hope being lit and it started with these guys who came out holding wee small flame torches that looked amazing when the whole stadium went black for a few minutes. Then all I could see was a Greek athlete running up the steps and around to his left where he passed the torch onto the next athlete, and then onward to the next one. Finally it came onto the stage that we had walked in on and another Greek athlete ran down through the middle of the stage and came to a stop about 15 yards or less from where we were sitting. All I could see was the athlete bringing the torch down onto this white line, and from there it shot right up the line and with a bang, the flames started to come out of the big torch that was on top of the stadium. For me it was totally amazing to be there with Team Ireland and my friends and the rest of the world.  There were a few fireworks and that was it. The Opening of the 2011 World Summer Games in Athens had been a great evening that I will never forget.
 

By Athens on 18/07/2011 16:00

That day after getting our bags and checking into our room, we all headed down to get dinner. The restaurant was as big as a basketball court and there were so many people there. It was like Charlie and the chocolate factory - there was so much food, you could eat as much as you wanted, and pick anything that you wanted to eat. The best part was the table that had so many nice wonderful cakes on it and jelly squares that you can eat. It was a great dinner.

Tuesday morning was a very sunny morning and this was the start of us training in this kind of hot weather that you never see back in Ireland. We all met up and went for our breakfast and then after a bit of a wait, a bus took us to the sports stadium. The stadium had every thing from track and field to an all astro weather pitch where we were going to do our training. When we got there, two other countries, Jamaica and Africa were doing there training.

We all get our boots and sun cream on and then as the Africa team came off, we went on. We got into doing our warm-up and when we went to sit down, most of us jumped back up as the ground was so really hot that you could cook your breakfast off it!! We trained for an hour and it was really hot - the sweat was coming off us all in buckets. We were drinking so much water, it was unreal and we knew this was going to be tough on us all. But we kept the heads up and we pushed each other on. After the training, we got back and had lunch and then we spent the afternoon at the back of the hotel at the swimming pool. The water in this pool was from the sea and was really salty. We got into a water polo match which we lost 19-18.

We were playing other people from other countries that were just on holidays there and it was a great buzz getting high-5's from everyone. Even wee Hughie bagged a few goals!! After dinner we all got on the bus with Team Ireland and made our way down to the port of Rhodes to a place called Old Town Castle. It was a place where you can just go and do your shopping - a bit like Stephen's Green in Dublin with so many shops everywhere. 

All the rest of the other countries were there too walking about shopping - it was totally amazing to see other Special Olympics people everywhere. After an hour, we were all taken to this big open nightclub and we just danced the night away there. It was amazing. The music was fantastic and everyone had a wonderful time.

Wednesday morning wasn’t a great day for me. I didn’t sleep well and my sinuses were kicking in. We all had breakfast and off to do our training. It was really hot and everyone still wasn’t used to the heat. We were dipping our heads in under a water tap that was at the astro pitch. As training went on, we started to get used to the hot sun. We made a trip that afternoon on a bus for an hour to a place called Lindos. It was a totally amazing place in the north east of Rhodes. It was really hot when we got off the bus and the shops there were packed out with so many people getting ice cream and water. We all walked about taking photos and video clips of the beautiful place that we were at in Lindos with its big Greek castle on top of a mountain.

After dinner that night there was entertainment in the hotel which we were all invited up to. It was pretty amazing - they did everything from Michael Jackson, Mask, and Flashdance to Chicago. Everyone had a fab night.

We were up early on Thursday morning to do our last training and it was great. Everyone was cheering each other on and we pushed each other through the training. The craic was great and after 3 days we were finally used to the hot weather and heat. After lunch in the hotel we had a big meeting in one of the hotel rooms where the Irish ambassador came to see us all off and wish us well. Then the whole of Team Ireland made our way down to the Old Castle Town. There was Team Ireland, Team USA, Aussies, Canada, and Jamaica, in this big courtyard. We were right in the middle and next thing the singing started from ole,ole to usa and Canada started singing. It was totally amazing - I'd say we would all get a part on the X-Factor.

There was a big crowd of people and here was the last Flame of Hope to be lit by the torch runners before moving onto Athens. Even the Kennedy family was there and special guest speakers too. I got mixed in with USA Team and Canada and got a few photos taken and was swapping badges too. We went from there to the Port where we waited for the Blue Star Ferry to come in and we finally said goodbye to Rhodes.

So the Aussie and Jamaica teams boarded and then it was Team Ireland. We were lucky to get settled into one of the main rooms. Then I went outside and walked about on the top deck of the ferry. After about an hour on the ferry it took off from Rhodes and headed for Athens with 7 stops on the way. We pulled out after 8.30pm and as we were leaving just could see the sun starting to come down and day was starting to turn into night. For sure this was going to be a very long night and one hell of a boat trip, but I just kept the head up and got chatting to other people from USA and Canada. The USA team were buzzing as they had never been on a boat in their lives! After dinner, we got some of our own players to sleep as this was going to be a very long trip. A few of us stayed up and we all watched out for each other. I just wandered about in my own wee world and listened to my music, and chatted away to other Team Ireland athletes. The big Greek adventure went long into the night. 

After our final stop at one of the Greek islands, it was just plain sailing onward to Athens . I was getting a bit tired but didn’t wanted to go to sleep as I wanted to stay up and see the sun come up. At 6am, the sun started to come up. It was really beautiful, totally amazing to be there. The sky was pure red and yellow and not a cloud to be seen anywhere for miles. I took a few photos and even got friends in a few of them. There was great craic on the top deck and the other countries came out and started snapping away as well. After half an hour there was just blue sky and deep blue sea all around us with a bit of a strong cold wind. It was fantastic just to feel the coldness hitting you and it was a nice way to get cooled down. I walked about chatting to everyone from players to coaches. We were all buzzing as there was just an other 7 hours to go before we landed into Athens.

I slept for just under 2 hours and woke up after 9am to get some breakfast. After breakfast, I spent most of the morning up on deck and walked about listening to my music. Then I met more team members from USA and we really got on well with them, chatting about the sports that we were in. It was hard to explain to them that I was doing 11-a-side soccer as some didn’t know much about soccer!! 

Finally after 17 and a half hours on the ferry we touched down in Athens Port! It was weird being there and all you could see was about 20 big purple buses waiting to take us away. I was really looking forward to the next stage of our Athens trip as the ferry pulled in.

We were taken to our accommodation and early on Saturday morning, we did some training for an hour, and got into playing a match with the Spanish team. Then we watched the Brazil team playing on the next court and they were so great, that some of them could be playing in the Irish League.
We all then got ready and got our Team Ireland gear on and just tried to enjoy the Opening Ceremony of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens.    

By Athens on 18/07/2011 15:58

Here it was - the final day had come for me before heading off to Athens. It was a nice wet Sunday morning here in letterkenny and had been a crazy weekend as the Donegal rally was on and there had been so many people up for it. Hughie & I met up with some other families at St Conal's Church, got a few photos taken and said our goodbyes. 

Emma & Francis drove us to Dublin on their big white bus (we're really grateful to them for doing this) and we picked up the rest of the Donegal lads in Lifford. We got into the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel in Dublin some time after 5.30pm. There was a huge crowd of families and friends there to say goodbye to each other as tomorrow was the start of our big Greek adventure. We checked into our rooms and me and Hughie were sharing. I knew from this day that for the next 2 weeks he and I would be bunking together and I really must get some earplugs before we left home as he can really snore badly
 
The team football team met up and got our dog tags and other stuff off Paul, our FAI coach, to put on our bags and our ID cards too. After that a great friend of mine, Henry, came in to see me. He wanted to wish me the best of luck and told me to bring home the gold. It was really nice to see him. Then we headed down for our last supper in Ireland and after our dinner we got our bags shorted out and weighed. I didn’t really sleep that much as the room was warm and was like being in an oven being cooked like a turkey. I just listened to some music and watched a movie and then after 4am got myself ready and then got Hughie sorted. 
 
There was a great buzz that morning in the hotel and most of us were really looking forward to this big trip and to see what Rhodes was going to be like.
We made are way on buses to Dublin airport and once there, we were all put into our teams. Next thing, all I can see was the telly guys who showed up from RTE News & TV3 and a guy taking photos. It was weird been recorded but some others loved it (It didn’t stop me giving a big wave to everyone that knows me back in Donegal!) Then it was our turn to check in and all 7 Donegal lads got pulled to one side to get our photo taken!! 
 
Once through security, we got a few things from the shop and then waited on boarding the plane for Rhodes. This was it now, the start of the Greek adventure and we all made our way on to the plane and after 10am we took flight on the 4 hour trip to Rhodes. This is where the adventure of our 2 weeks out in Greece begins……
We touched down in Rhodes some time after 2.30pm and I never felt so hot as when I came off the plane. The sun was beating off the ground!! 
We got onto buses and all Team Ireland were taken to three different hotels around Rhodes. We were taken to a hotel called Sofitel Capsis - what a hotel!! 
By Athens on 07/07/2011 17:55

 

I won a silver medal in the 100m front crawl race. This isn’t my best stroke so I was very surprised to get a medal. There was lots of people cheering for me which was great. I have 2 silver medals now.

My roommate Ciara came first in one of her races which was brilliant. I celebrated with her.

The relay race was very tough and we came 6th in it. I was disappointed but I didn’t really mind too much as I was very tired and I know that I can’t win everything. The other people on the team were Caitriona, Rowan and Joe.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep in Athens but we had a great time. The hotel was lovely and the food was ok.

The Closing Ceremony was good. It was very late when we got home. I almost got trampled on leaving the stadium but my coaches helped me.

We had to get up very early for the flight home. I slept a little bit on the flight.

There was a huge crowd waiting at the airport for us.

I went through the crowds and met my swimming coach Ann McClean and my job coach Yvonne Buckler. They were both delighted for me.

My parents and my uncles were at the airport to welcome me home. It was brilliant to see them. I was crying cos I didn’t want to go home.

I was very tired getting home and have slept lots since then. My medals are around my neck.

I am going to be on TV3 tomorrow morning with Jonathon from the Badminton Team and Claire who’s one of the basketball coaches. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been on TV3 before.

I should have been in work today but they gave me the week off. They’re going to have a party for me next week. I can’t wait!

By Athens on 07/07/2011 17:53

The airport was very exciting when we were flying out to our host town of Rhodes. I was very tired as we had such an early start. The flight was very long. I listened to music during the flight. My ears were sore at the end of the flight. I had trouble hearing and couldn’t talk.

I shared a room with Denise from the golf team and Jackie and Bernie from the Badminton team in Rhodes. I had shared with Denise on our training weekends in Dublin but never with the girls from the badminton team. It worked out ok.

We went to the pool and the beach but I’m afraid of water so I didn’t go in.

We practised golf in Rhodes – it was boiling. The food was different but nice.

The ferry journey to Athens was grand cos me and Denise had beds.

The accommodation in Athens is lovely. I’m sharing a room with Denise and Jackie.

The Opening Ceremony was great. The music was good but it was very long. We didn’t get to bed until after 3am. We heard all of the Irish people including my family shouting for us when we entered the stadium. Stevie Wonder was great.

I had to play golf the next day and I was wrecked. We had our divisioning on Monday and I did great. I had a great score. I am in second place after the first 2 days.

I went shopping with family yesterday. We had a lovely day out. It was very warm. We went for food across from the hotel at the end of the day. The food here is only ok.

Today was our first day of competition and I was a little bit nervous this morning but I’m ok now. My coach Roisin stays with me when I’m golfing. I’m very happy with how I played today. It’s the last day of competition tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.

By Athens on 07/07/2011 17:52

We headed to our host town of Rhodes on Monday 20th June. I travelled to Dublin on the train the evening before, and we all stayed in a hotel in Dublin. The hotel was very busy.

We had a very early start the following morning. The airport was very busy but it all went smoothly. It was my first time flying. I was a bit nervous about it but was fine once we got in the air.

We stayed in a lovely hotel in Rhodes. I was sharing with Jonathon who is also on the badminton team and 2 of the golfers. I stayed with Jonathon before on our training weekends in Dublin but had never shared with the golfers. I got to know them and they were very nice.

The food was fantastic. It was very different from home and took a little bit of getting used to. We did some training in Rhodes and went swimming in the pool. There was lots of entertainment for us. The Greek music was great.

We got a ferry from Rhodes to Athens. It was a long journey.

The Opening Ceremony was fantastic. It was my first time seeing a big stadium like that. We could see lots of Irish people when we came out onto the stage. I really like Stevie Wonder. All the music was great. It finished very late.

We had divisioning the next day. It was an early start and I was very tired but my divisioning went well.

I am sharing a room with Jonathon in Athens. It’s great cos I know him. The food is fantastic.

We had a day off today so I have been chilling out and walking around with my coach Willie. I’m going for a swim soon and looking out over the city from the top of the hotel. It’s a very nice city.

By Athens on 29/06/2011 21:44

Team Ireland’s journey to World Games began when we met up in a Dublin hotel on the eve of our flight to our host town on Rhodes. Everyone was very excited.
We had a very early start on Monday but everyone was up and ready to leave the hotel with 15 minutes to spare! Our flight to Rhodes was a very long flight but no-one minded. Rhodes is a beautiful island and we were staying in a fabulous hotel where we were very well looked-after

During 4 day stay on Rhodes, I took the lads out for 3 training sessions. We pushed the lads very hard during these sessions as their fitness wasn’t as good as I would have like it to be, but we made sure they took on plenty of water with 5 water breaks during each 90 minute training session. The first training session was very poor and the lads really struggled with the heat. The second session was  big improvement and by the third session, the heat was no longer such an issue for the team.

After the torch run ceremony in Rhodes, we made our way to the port for our dreaded 17 hour ferry journey to Athens. We got on the ferry early, found 20 seats together near a café, and the journey turned out to be much less worse than we had feared.
There were several other Special Olympics delegations on board including the several hundred members of Team USA. We had great craic during the journey with some of the other delegations, particularly the Team USA powerlifters.
The lads all had a v early start and we went out on deck to watch the sunrise and admire the beautiful Greek islands that we passed. For many of our football lads, it was their first time being awake at 6.15 in the morning and many had never seen a sunrise before.

We were taken from the ship to our accommodation in Special Olympics Village. Unfortunately the accommodation that had been provided for us here was below standard and unsuitable for our group, with the lack of sports facilities being a particular worry. We brought this to the attention of the Team Ireland Management team who did their best to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

The Opening Ceremony was amazing – although it was a bit too long. We got home at just before 4am and had to get up again at 6.30am for our divisioning games. Everyone was a bit cranky but the thought of moving to the Best Western Hotel where we were assured of a good kip got us all through the day.

Our first divisioning game was against Denmark. We had met these lads in the Special Olympics Village. They were big strong lads but our Irish team could still have beaten them. I guess the result was understandable in the circumstances.

Our second game was against the Greek B Team. We won this game 1-0 and were a far superior team to them. Hughie Sweeney scored the goal which was his first goal in an Irish jersey. He had possession of the ball again when his name was announced as the goal scorer and he actually stopped to celebrate and lost possession!!!
 

Our new hotel that evening was far superior and we were delighted with it. The food there is great. The lads all went for a 3 hour nap that afternoon and then after dinner we went for a walk on the beach.
We were all much fresher heading to the venue on Day 2 of divisioning. Our next game was against Bangladesh who were a much trickier team that we had expected. Kenneth Irvine scored the match winner with a 35 yard free kick that went straight into the top right hand corner. We should have won by more but were still happy with the win.

Our final divisioning game was against the Greek A Team. This was a much tougher game but our lads gave a great performance and the game was won with a Michael Neville goal. The highlight of the game was Michael’s goal celebration where he screamed so loudly, I think they must have heard him back in Limerick.

At the end of divisioning we were handed our competition group which includes Turkey, GB, Australia and India. I had predicted that all of these teams bar India would be in our group. Lots of these teams are friends who we’ve played previously but all friendships will be left behind once we take to the pitch.

Our first game was against Turkey. The whole team went out for a walk on the evening before the game, and we popped into a church where a lot of candles were lit for us!

I’ll tell you more about that game next time.

Paul
 

By Athens on 29/06/2011 20:03
Mary with her silver medal for the 100m Backstroke   Here I am with my silver medal for the 100m Backstroke

 

I was very excited when we all gathered in Dublin the night before flying out to Athens. We had to get up very early on the Monday morning but I didn’t mind as I was so excited.
We flew to Rhodes which was our host town. It was lovely there. The food was great and I went swimming in the sea for the very first time. There were events organised for us every evening. We saw Greek dancing one evening. The Greek dancers were very good. Some people joined in but I didn’t.

On Thursday we had a very long ferry journey to Athens. Athens is a fabulous city and we have great support here.
Our accommodation in Athens is fabulous. I am sharing a room with Ciara and Caitriona. I am used to sharing with Ciara since we shared a room at our training sessions. Caitriona is very nice as well and we have a great laugh.
The Opening Ceremony was great. The whole evening was brilliant and I was very emotional. Everything was perfect. We got a huge cheer when we entered the stadium from all the Irish supporters that were there. It went on very late and it was after 2 when we got home. Unfortunately I had to swim the next day in my divisioning.
I was very tired at divisioning and it was very tough to swim but I still managed to do well.
I was very nervous before I swam in the final of the 100m backstroke. But Jenny took me outside, and we did some breathing exercises which helped me to relax.
There was loads of people cheering me on when I got into the pool. I was very happy with how the race went. I was thrilled and surprised to win a silver medal
After the award ceremony, I was interviewed by RTE News and I met Ian Dempsey. I was delighted to meet Ian and have my photo taken with him. I’ll have to tell my friend Mary who’s a big fan of his all about it.
 
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Blog following the progress of Team Ireland in the run-up to the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens
By Athens on 15/08/2011 16:55
Team Ireland Football athletes competing in Athens   Lining up before our final game vs GB

Our 1st Group match was against Turkey on Tuesday morning. We were all happy with who we were drawn against and we surely knew we could win this group and bring the gold home to Ireland. That Tuesday morning was hot and sunny. I didn’t sleep well and this was a really big match for us as we needed to get off to a great start to win the gold.

So this was it - the big one. We got our names checked off and from the stand we could see the Ireland flags waving. It was special to have so many friends and families to cheer on the boys in green. 

The match kicked off and in under 2 minutes we took the lead with a super shot that their keeper didn’t really hold on to and it went into the net. It was a fantastic goal from Ken that got us off to a good start. But then we were put under pressure and I moved too far out off my box as the ball came in. I should have gone down to save it but was too late as Turkey got in and knocked it right past me to make it 1-1 before half time. As we went in Paul said a few words and told us to try and get out there and win this match
 
When we went back out, Turkey started diving all over the place - even if you just touched them, they fell down so easily. Then we gave away a free kick from inside our own half. The ball was kicked right up over our wall. I came out but I should have done better with the ball and it just bounced right past me and went right into the goal. I was gutted at what had happened and let myself down as I should have done better.  

Then 5 minutes later I made another mistake and went out to catch the ball. It hit off my thumb and then my left shoulder and went right past me into the net so that made it 3-1 to Turkey. I made two bad errors and I just wanted the earth to open up and eat me. I let myself down and most of all let the team and coaches down. I should have done better and focused on what I was doing in goals.

Then we had a player injured and were to get the ball back under fair play rules. That’s when everything really went down the pan. Gareth stepped to one side for me to get the ball but then a Turkey player came in, took the ball around me and scored. Then one of our players got sent off when he pushed the referee for giving them the goal and when the final whistle went, I just walked away and didn’t want to chat to no one.

I just felt sick that I handed Turkey that game from two really dumb goals that I gave them. I went off and cried to myself. Everyone was coming up trying get the best out of the players but for me that was the gold medal gone for sure. When I got back to the hotel, I just spent the whole evening there and didn’t even speak to anyone. A few people came up and said not to worry about it, no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes every day in our lives. I was really hurting inside after what had happened but every keeper in the world has one of them days when things go wrong and you just have to bounce back.

Then Wednesday came and our next match was against India. We had to win this one as yesterday was a bit of luck in that the Aussies and GB drew 2-2 in their game so a win today would put us into 2nd place. We got off to a bad start. In the first few minutes, India scored a cracking goal. However we scored 4 goals before half time to lead 4-1. We were playing without an important player who was suspended for this match after his red card and we even gave a penalty away which they missed - blasting it over the bar.
 
Then we got a corner and from that we scored. Greg got onto the ball with his head to put it into the top corner of the goal and we went onto win 5-1 against India while Turkey beat the Aussies 3-0.

Thursday came and this was a make or break match for us. A win would surely put us in for a medal but lose, and we’d get a ribbon to take home. There was a very big crowd of people there with lots of Aussie and Irish fans. We were doing really well but then the Aussies took the lead. A few minutes later, we scored from a free kick - Ken again who ended up being top goal scorer in our team. We went in at half time 1-1. Then in the 2nd half I came on and I really don’t know what to say about the next Aussie goal but it was a fluke that just went in and I should have done better.  

However after 7 minutes we scored to tie it up at 2-2 and still I came off my line a few times to clear the ball away and was just kicking it anywhere. We were into the last few minutes when Ken got on the ball, took it beyond one player and then passed it into Michael who took one touch and smacked it right low into the bottom corner off the goal to put us into the lead 3-2!! I ran off down the field to celebrate but Paul shouted at me to get back and stay in goals
 
We didn’t know how much time was left and talk about waiting to hear that whistle. To my ears it was the sound of music! We were overjoyed and it was one of the best matches I have ever played in my life. When Paul came up to me and said you got the Man of the Match for that game as you came off your line so many times to clear the ball away, I was shocked. I was happy to get it but to me, 16 players and 4 coaches all got man of the match. We believe in each other and achieved something that we can talk about in years to come. It was TEAM - Together Everybody Achieves More. That’s why we worked so hard to be in with a chance to get any kind of medal. We went out there with nothing and now were coming back with a medal. I was really proud of myself and all the lads as after losing in our 1st match, we had bounced back to hopefully now bring back a silver medal.
 
We chilled out on Friday and spent most of the day with families and friends. Then we had an early night and I knew in myself that no matter what, we would bring the silver medal home. I knew that all we had to do was go out there and draw or win as Bangladesh had drawn 2-2 with Turkey draw so we were on 6 points with GB on 5 pts and Turkey on 7pts. We were hoping that India would do us a favour and win but they were a weak team. I felt sorry for them as they shouldn’t have been in our group in the 1st place. Denmark should have been in our group but that’s football for you.

On Saturday morning I was buzzing away to myself and I knew that today we would be silver medal winners no matter what. We got the bus up to the pitch, got ready in the dressing room and then the coaches had a few words with us.

We did some warm-ups, got a few photos taken and then made our way over to the pitch to get our names checked for the final time. This was like one big Champions League Group Stage match where the winner takes all. It was us or them for the silver and then the game was on.

I was down where the Irish fans were shouting and cheering us on and I really did super well in the 1st half, pulling 2 saves off and coming off my line again. At half time it was 0-0. So just under 25 minutes to go and we would win the silver if we just drew with them.

In the 2nd half we stepped it up a bit and GB didn’t know what hit them. They just struggled to get into the match. Then Adrian Clarke came onto the pitch and within 5 minutes, ran down the wing, and hit the ball nicely from outside the box. It dipped right over the keeper’s head and into the back of the net - Ole, Ole eat your heart out Ray ……. The man from Donegal scores a wonder goal out of the blue! The Irish fans were jumping up and down and going mad! We were in the lead now and all we had to do was hold them off and we would win.

With 8 minutes to go, we gave a penalty away and I went to my right side but couldn’t save it so GB scored to make it 1-1. All I wanted now was for the referee to blow his whistle and end the game 1-1. It felt so long. I was going nuts and kept coming off my line but also I didn’t want to make any mistake that could cost us the game.
Finally I heard the sound of the final whistle and it was music to my ears. We were jumping all around, going mad. Now I had a new silver medal in my hands and no-one was going to take that away from me or the rest of the 15 lads that came from the five parts of Ireland to be here

 
With the lads from Donegal after our final match   All the lads with our coaches after winning our silver medals

You can’t win every thing in your life time, all you can do is your best and there has to be winners and runners-up. For me being in my 3rd World Games I am proud to be going home for the 2nd time with a medal that I can hang up on my wall with my Ireland jersey. The funny thing is I am going backwards as I already had a gold medal, now have a silver medal so maybe in 4 years time I might bring back a bronze medal!!? That Sunday we met up with the other nations and we got our 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games silver medals.

I would like to say a special thanks to our Irish fans, families, Matt English who was a great support, friends and everyone else on Team Ireland who believed in us and helped us to bring the silver medal home.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart

Oliver Michael Boyle,
11 A side football team

By Athens on 15/08/2011 16:46

On Sunday morning we got the bus to this place called Apilion Panionios Training Centre which was up in the mountains. It had two grass pitches and 1 astro pitch. We got our gear on but unfortunately I forgot my shin pads - luckily one of the other guys had a spare pair with him. We had a big team talk where Paul, our head coach, said a few words and Gareth was named captain of the team. I was really proud of him and Greg was named 2nd captain.
So everyone of us was proud of the two guys and no matter what or how tired I was, all I had to do was focus on this 15 minute match. After doing our warm-up, we walked out onto the pitch against Denmark who looked like a pretty alright team. Then this was it - here I was in the goals as the Ireland goalkeeper and I had to do my best. 

Oliver Boyle at Special Olympics World Summer Games 2011   The whistle blew and the game was on. We were doing ok in the first 5 minutes but then we were making silly passes, gave the ball away and next thing, Denmark were on the ball and from outside our own box one of  their players hit a rocket at me. This one was going into the top corner of the goal and out of the blue I made a one handed save. I came crashing down on the ground and I didn’t really know where the ball was. Lucky enough my teammate put the ball out for a corner. From there on I pulled off another good save and was lucky I didn’t get my head kicked off in the middle of it when I was coming down for the ball.

Then we made a mistake in the back line and the ball got into our box. I went down and it passed right across from me. For me and the guys, it was off-side but it didn’t matter as Denmark went onto score and we lost the match 1-0.
 
There wasn’t much we could do in that 15 minutes. We could maybe have walked out with a draw but that’s football - anything can happen and all it takes is just 1 chance and the ball is in the back of the net. So we all had a team meeting to sort out a few things and then the next game was against the Greece B team. I was dropped off the team for this one as Paul had to give everyone a chance to play. I didn’t come on till the last 5 minutes but we won that game 1-0 with a goal by Hughie Sweeney. Finally after so many years, he got his 1st goal! So that was our last match of the day and then we were taken back to our hotel. We had some lunch and then we slept for a few hours before heading down for dinner. I was knackered after a very long day with just a few hours sleep the night before.
 
On Monday morning I was feeling much better after a good night’s sleep and everyone was in good form and ready to do whatever they had to do. Before we came out of the dressing room at the football pitch, some players were picked to be captain for these wee divisioning matches, before Gareth and Greg would take over for the big games in our group. So that day it was me being named as captain and I was shocked as to me I wasn’t there for the captain’s armband! I just wanted to play football. I’m not much of a leader but I stepped up and did my bit like any other Irish player would do and lead the team out onto the pitch where we were playing an Indian team called Bangladesh.

They were not a bad team but in no time we took the lead and scored. Then I came running off my line but stupidly didn’t shout “keeper’s ball” and I ended up hurting me, Adrian and one of their players. I was taken off but I was fine. After that my hand was a bit sore and I had to stay in with a nurse for an hour so they could keep an eye on me as I had hit my head as well
 
We then played the Greek C team (they had 3 teams in this football tournament) and I got on for the last few minutes. We won 1-0 in that game so we now had two wins with two goals and none let in - a great day all round. We headed back to the hotel and Hughie’s family and Mario’s mum were there to meet us all. It was a nice surprise and great to see friends from home.
 
We all then headed up to our rooms and chilled out for an hour before coming down for dinner that evening. Afterwards we found out who we would be up against in the Group stages where the winner takes all. We were in group B with Great Britain, Turkey, Australia and India

By Athens on 15/08/2011 16:42

We all got ready in our green Ireland tops and shorts and made our way up to the gate to wait for our bus - this was it, the start of the Opening Ceremony of the Games. We were dropped off by our bus near to the government building and walked from there to the area where we would have to wait before the ceremony.

We all jumped into get a team photo and it was kind of funny as everyone was pulling cameras out and a few people from other countries came up to take a photo of our team - pretty cool!! I helped our Head Coach Paul to bring some water up for the lads and then we got some food after 6pm. We were the 1st group there and when the rest of Team Ireland landed it was great to see every one.
 
I then went with one of our coaches John into this wonderful yellow and white building. We just went for a wander about and it was amazing inside it. There were so many other nations there too and as we were coming back, a girl from Colombia came up and gave me a wrist band of her colours. Luckily I had two Ireland pin badges left and I got a photo taken with her. It was really great as there were so many people walking about trying to get whatever badges they could from other nations
 
I then got back to our team and a few lads asked me to help them with getting their badges changed for different ones. I even helped one of our own medics to get a USA medic badge! I got one before when I was at our host town in Rhodes and gave that one away as I wasn’t really into badges but didn’t mind swapping them to help out others. So I went for a walk down to where the whole USA team was and along the way so many other countries came up asking for Irish badges. I only had the one left and was keeping it to swap it for a USA medic one. I had to pop from one USA person to the next one until finally I found my medic friend from Rhodes and got the badge I wanted. I was over the moon and so was our Irish medic when she saw me sticking it on her dog tag! My day was turning out to be a pretty good one.
 
After a while, the singing started and we had so much fun with Team Ireland singing all kinds of Irish songs. The Ecuador Special Olympics Team was next door in area 51 and they started singing too - we even got some video of it. After 2 hrs being there, we got into our group and started to move along with the other nations. We had to stop a few times as there were so many nations. Then a few famous people came down to see us and I got a few photos including one with Irish Rugby legend Keith Wood and Mary Davis from Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia who is running to be the next president of Ireland and I really hope she does get it!

Finally we got moving again and then we were standing right behind the big stage and this big blue pole going right up into the sky. This was it - the big one! We started walking slowly into the stadium at the Opening of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked in. It was hard to take photos as we were just waving to so many people who waved back as we walked down this big long black foot path that was part of the stage. It had volunteers to the right and left the whole way along who were shaking our hands and giving High 5’s.
 
It was so amazing and there was a great buzz in the air. I was glad to be here and be a part of the amazing team that had traveled from Ireland. The new guys who had never been at a World Games before were shocked and over the moon to be at a World Games for the 1st time in their lives. We were then taken around to our right and got seated on some stone benches that the Greeks built so many years ago. The stadium was like a big horseshoe and we could see all other nations from where we were sitting. Some of our coaches were trying to get a Mexican wave going. We tried about 7 times, just us and 3 other nations, but it was too hard to get everyone to do it. When the final nations came in, it was coming up to at least 11pm and it was going to be one late night for sure.
 
Then there were a few guest speakers, including that woman from Desperate Housewives, Vanessa Williams who looked wonderful up on stage. There were so many things happening that night at the Opening Ceremony but the most amazing thing of all was the lights with so many different colours from blue, red, green, and white - it was like being at home on Christmas Day and was wonderful to see. They also did this big boat thing and there were 100s of people out on stage being the sea and people flying through the air. Then Stevie Wonder came on stage and sang for us! It was truly amazing to see him sing and he got all the people to sing along with one of his songs.
 
I was looking forward to seeing the Flame of Hope being lit and it started with these guys who came out holding wee small flame torches that looked amazing when the whole stadium went black for a few minutes. Then all I could see was a Greek athlete running up the steps and around to his left where he passed the torch onto the next athlete, and then onward to the next one. Finally it came onto the stage that we had walked in on and another Greek athlete ran down through the middle of the stage and came to a stop about 15 yards or less from where we were sitting. All I could see was the athlete bringing the torch down onto this white line, and from there it shot right up the line and with a bang, the flames started to come out of the big torch that was on top of the stadium. For me it was totally amazing to be there with Team Ireland and my friends and the rest of the world.  There were a few fireworks and that was it. The Opening of the 2011 World Summer Games in Athens had been a great evening that I will never forget.
 

By Athens on 18/07/2011 16:00

That day after getting our bags and checking into our room, we all headed down to get dinner. The restaurant was as big as a basketball court and there were so many people there. It was like Charlie and the chocolate factory - there was so much food, you could eat as much as you wanted, and pick anything that you wanted to eat. The best part was the table that had so many nice wonderful cakes on it and jelly squares that you can eat. It was a great dinner.

Tuesday morning was a very sunny morning and this was the start of us training in this kind of hot weather that you never see back in Ireland. We all met up and went for our breakfast and then after a bit of a wait, a bus took us to the sports stadium. The stadium had every thing from track and field to an all astro weather pitch where we were going to do our training. When we got there, two other countries, Jamaica and Africa were doing there training.

We all get our boots and sun cream on and then as the Africa team came off, we went on. We got into doing our warm-up and when we went to sit down, most of us jumped back up as the ground was so really hot that you could cook your breakfast off it!! We trained for an hour and it was really hot - the sweat was coming off us all in buckets. We were drinking so much water, it was unreal and we knew this was going to be tough on us all. But we kept the heads up and we pushed each other on. After the training, we got back and had lunch and then we spent the afternoon at the back of the hotel at the swimming pool. The water in this pool was from the sea and was really salty. We got into a water polo match which we lost 19-18.

We were playing other people from other countries that were just on holidays there and it was a great buzz getting high-5's from everyone. Even wee Hughie bagged a few goals!! After dinner we all got on the bus with Team Ireland and made our way down to the port of Rhodes to a place called Old Town Castle. It was a place where you can just go and do your shopping - a bit like Stephen's Green in Dublin with so many shops everywhere. 

All the rest of the other countries were there too walking about shopping - it was totally amazing to see other Special Olympics people everywhere. After an hour, we were all taken to this big open nightclub and we just danced the night away there. It was amazing. The music was fantastic and everyone had a wonderful time.

Wednesday morning wasn’t a great day for me. I didn’t sleep well and my sinuses were kicking in. We all had breakfast and off to do our training. It was really hot and everyone still wasn’t used to the heat. We were dipping our heads in under a water tap that was at the astro pitch. As training went on, we started to get used to the hot sun. We made a trip that afternoon on a bus for an hour to a place called Lindos. It was a totally amazing place in the north east of Rhodes. It was really hot when we got off the bus and the shops there were packed out with so many people getting ice cream and water. We all walked about taking photos and video clips of the beautiful place that we were at in Lindos with its big Greek castle on top of a mountain.

After dinner that night there was entertainment in the hotel which we were all invited up to. It was pretty amazing - they did everything from Michael Jackson, Mask, and Flashdance to Chicago. Everyone had a fab night.

We were up early on Thursday morning to do our last training and it was great. Everyone was cheering each other on and we pushed each other through the training. The craic was great and after 3 days we were finally used to the hot weather and heat. After lunch in the hotel we had a big meeting in one of the hotel rooms where the Irish ambassador came to see us all off and wish us well. Then the whole of Team Ireland made our way down to the Old Castle Town. There was Team Ireland, Team USA, Aussies, Canada, and Jamaica, in this big courtyard. We were right in the middle and next thing the singing started from ole,ole to usa and Canada started singing. It was totally amazing - I'd say we would all get a part on the X-Factor.

There was a big crowd of people and here was the last Flame of Hope to be lit by the torch runners before moving onto Athens. Even the Kennedy family was there and special guest speakers too. I got mixed in with USA Team and Canada and got a few photos taken and was swapping badges too. We went from there to the Port where we waited for the Blue Star Ferry to come in and we finally said goodbye to Rhodes.

So the Aussie and Jamaica teams boarded and then it was Team Ireland. We were lucky to get settled into one of the main rooms. Then I went outside and walked about on the top deck of the ferry. After about an hour on the ferry it took off from Rhodes and headed for Athens with 7 stops on the way. We pulled out after 8.30pm and as we were leaving just could see the sun starting to come down and day was starting to turn into night. For sure this was going to be a very long night and one hell of a boat trip, but I just kept the head up and got chatting to other people from USA and Canada. The USA team were buzzing as they had never been on a boat in their lives! After dinner, we got some of our own players to sleep as this was going to be a very long trip. A few of us stayed up and we all watched out for each other. I just wandered about in my own wee world and listened to my music, and chatted away to other Team Ireland athletes. The big Greek adventure went long into the night. 

After our final stop at one of the Greek islands, it was just plain sailing onward to Athens . I was getting a bit tired but didn’t wanted to go to sleep as I wanted to stay up and see the sun come up. At 6am, the sun started to come up. It was really beautiful, totally amazing to be there. The sky was pure red and yellow and not a cloud to be seen anywhere for miles. I took a few photos and even got friends in a few of them. There was great craic on the top deck and the other countries came out and started snapping away as well. After half an hour there was just blue sky and deep blue sea all around us with a bit of a strong cold wind. It was fantastic just to feel the coldness hitting you and it was a nice way to get cooled down. I walked about chatting to everyone from players to coaches. We were all buzzing as there was just an other 7 hours to go before we landed into Athens.

I slept for just under 2 hours and woke up after 9am to get some breakfast. After breakfast, I spent most of the morning up on deck and walked about listening to my music. Then I met more team members from USA and we really got on well with them, chatting about the sports that we were in. It was hard to explain to them that I was doing 11-a-side soccer as some didn’t know much about soccer!! 

Finally after 17 and a half hours on the ferry we touched down in Athens Port! It was weird being there and all you could see was about 20 big purple buses waiting to take us away. I was really looking forward to the next stage of our Athens trip as the ferry pulled in.

We were taken to our accommodation and early on Saturday morning, we did some training for an hour, and got into playing a match with the Spanish team. Then we watched the Brazil team playing on the next court and they were so great, that some of them could be playing in the Irish League.
We all then got ready and got our Team Ireland gear on and just tried to enjoy the Opening Ceremony of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens.    

By Athens on 18/07/2011 15:58

Here it was - the final day had come for me before heading off to Athens. It was a nice wet Sunday morning here in letterkenny and had been a crazy weekend as the Donegal rally was on and there had been so many people up for it. Hughie & I met up with some other families at St Conal's Church, got a few photos taken and said our goodbyes. 

Emma & Francis drove us to Dublin on their big white bus (we're really grateful to them for doing this) and we picked up the rest of the Donegal lads in Lifford. We got into the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel in Dublin some time after 5.30pm. There was a huge crowd of families and friends there to say goodbye to each other as tomorrow was the start of our big Greek adventure. We checked into our rooms and me and Hughie were sharing. I knew from this day that for the next 2 weeks he and I would be bunking together and I really must get some earplugs before we left home as he can really snore badly
 
The team football team met up and got our dog tags and other stuff off Paul, our FAI coach, to put on our bags and our ID cards too. After that a great friend of mine, Henry, came in to see me. He wanted to wish me the best of luck and told me to bring home the gold. It was really nice to see him. Then we headed down for our last supper in Ireland and after our dinner we got our bags shorted out and weighed. I didn’t really sleep that much as the room was warm and was like being in an oven being cooked like a turkey. I just listened to some music and watched a movie and then after 4am got myself ready and then got Hughie sorted. 
 
There was a great buzz that morning in the hotel and most of us were really looking forward to this big trip and to see what Rhodes was going to be like.
We made are way on buses to Dublin airport and once there, we were all put into our teams. Next thing, all I can see was the telly guys who showed up from RTE News & TV3 and a guy taking photos. It was weird been recorded but some others loved it (It didn’t stop me giving a big wave to everyone that knows me back in Donegal!) Then it was our turn to check in and all 7 Donegal lads got pulled to one side to get our photo taken!! 
 
Once through security, we got a few things from the shop and then waited on boarding the plane for Rhodes. This was it now, the start of the Greek adventure and we all made our way on to the plane and after 10am we took flight on the 4 hour trip to Rhodes. This is where the adventure of our 2 weeks out in Greece begins……
We touched down in Rhodes some time after 2.30pm and I never felt so hot as when I came off the plane. The sun was beating off the ground!! 
We got onto buses and all Team Ireland were taken to three different hotels around Rhodes. We were taken to a hotel called Sofitel Capsis - what a hotel!! 
By Athens on 07/07/2011 17:55

 

I won a silver medal in the 100m front crawl race. This isn’t my best stroke so I was very surprised to get a medal. There was lots of people cheering for me which was great. I have 2 silver medals now.

My roommate Ciara came first in one of her races which was brilliant. I celebrated with her.

The relay race was very tough and we came 6th in it. I was disappointed but I didn’t really mind too much as I was very tired and I know that I can’t win everything. The other people on the team were Caitriona, Rowan and Joe.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep in Athens but we had a great time. The hotel was lovely and the food was ok.

The Closing Ceremony was good. It was very late when we got home. I almost got trampled on leaving the stadium but my coaches helped me.

We had to get up very early for the flight home. I slept a little bit on the flight.

There was a huge crowd waiting at the airport for us.

I went through the crowds and met my swimming coach Ann McClean and my job coach Yvonne Buckler. They were both delighted for me.

My parents and my uncles were at the airport to welcome me home. It was brilliant to see them. I was crying cos I didn’t want to go home.

I was very tired getting home and have slept lots since then. My medals are around my neck.

I am going to be on TV3 tomorrow morning with Jonathon from the Badminton Team and Claire who’s one of the basketball coaches. I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been on TV3 before.

I should have been in work today but they gave me the week off. They’re going to have a party for me next week. I can’t wait!

By Athens on 07/07/2011 17:53

The airport was very exciting when we were flying out to our host town of Rhodes. I was very tired as we had such an early start. The flight was very long. I listened to music during the flight. My ears were sore at the end of the flight. I had trouble hearing and couldn’t talk.

I shared a room with Denise from the golf team and Jackie and Bernie from the Badminton team in Rhodes. I had shared with Denise on our training weekends in Dublin but never with the girls from the badminton team. It worked out ok.

We went to the pool and the beach but I’m afraid of water so I didn’t go in.

We practised golf in Rhodes – it was boiling. The food was different but nice.

The ferry journey to Athens was grand cos me and Denise had beds.

The accommodation in Athens is lovely. I’m sharing a room with Denise and Jackie.

The Opening Ceremony was great. The music was good but it was very long. We didn’t get to bed until after 3am. We heard all of the Irish people including my family shouting for us when we entered the stadium. Stevie Wonder was great.

I had to play golf the next day and I was wrecked. We had our divisioning on Monday and I did great. I had a great score. I am in second place after the first 2 days.

I went shopping with family yesterday. We had a lovely day out. It was very warm. We went for food across from the hotel at the end of the day. The food here is only ok.

Today was our first day of competition and I was a little bit nervous this morning but I’m ok now. My coach Roisin stays with me when I’m golfing. I’m very happy with how I played today. It’s the last day of competition tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.

By Athens on 07/07/2011 17:52

We headed to our host town of Rhodes on Monday 20th June. I travelled to Dublin on the train the evening before, and we all stayed in a hotel in Dublin. The hotel was very busy.

We had a very early start the following morning. The airport was very busy but it all went smoothly. It was my first time flying. I was a bit nervous about it but was fine once we got in the air.

We stayed in a lovely hotel in Rhodes. I was sharing with Jonathon who is also on the badminton team and 2 of the golfers. I stayed with Jonathon before on our training weekends in Dublin but had never shared with the golfers. I got to know them and they were very nice.

The food was fantastic. It was very different from home and took a little bit of getting used to. We did some training in Rhodes and went swimming in the pool. There was lots of entertainment for us. The Greek music was great.

We got a ferry from Rhodes to Athens. It was a long journey.

The Opening Ceremony was fantastic. It was my first time seeing a big stadium like that. We could see lots of Irish people when we came out onto the stage. I really like Stevie Wonder. All the music was great. It finished very late.

We had divisioning the next day. It was an early start and I was very tired but my divisioning went well.

I am sharing a room with Jonathon in Athens. It’s great cos I know him. The food is fantastic.

We had a day off today so I have been chilling out and walking around with my coach Willie. I’m going for a swim soon and looking out over the city from the top of the hotel. It’s a very nice city.

By Athens on 29/06/2011 21:44

Team Ireland’s journey to World Games began when we met up in a Dublin hotel on the eve of our flight to our host town on Rhodes. Everyone was very excited.
We had a very early start on Monday but everyone was up and ready to leave the hotel with 15 minutes to spare! Our flight to Rhodes was a very long flight but no-one minded. Rhodes is a beautiful island and we were staying in a fabulous hotel where we were very well looked-after

During 4 day stay on Rhodes, I took the lads out for 3 training sessions. We pushed the lads very hard during these sessions as their fitness wasn’t as good as I would have like it to be, but we made sure they took on plenty of water with 5 water breaks during each 90 minute training session. The first training session was very poor and the lads really struggled with the heat. The second session was  big improvement and by the third session, the heat was no longer such an issue for the team.

After the torch run ceremony in Rhodes, we made our way to the port for our dreaded 17 hour ferry journey to Athens. We got on the ferry early, found 20 seats together near a café, and the journey turned out to be much less worse than we had feared.
There were several other Special Olympics delegations on board including the several hundred members of Team USA. We had great craic during the journey with some of the other delegations, particularly the Team USA powerlifters.
The lads all had a v early start and we went out on deck to watch the sunrise and admire the beautiful Greek islands that we passed. For many of our football lads, it was their first time being awake at 6.15 in the morning and many had never seen a sunrise before.

We were taken from the ship to our accommodation in Special Olympics Village. Unfortunately the accommodation that had been provided for us here was below standard and unsuitable for our group, with the lack of sports facilities being a particular worry. We brought this to the attention of the Team Ireland Management team who did their best to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

The Opening Ceremony was amazing – although it was a bit too long. We got home at just before 4am and had to get up again at 6.30am for our divisioning games. Everyone was a bit cranky but the thought of moving to the Best Western Hotel where we were assured of a good kip got us all through the day.

Our first divisioning game was against Denmark. We had met these lads in the Special Olympics Village. They were big strong lads but our Irish team could still have beaten them. I guess the result was understandable in the circumstances.

Our second game was against the Greek B Team. We won this game 1-0 and were a far superior team to them. Hughie Sweeney scored the goal which was his first goal in an Irish jersey. He had possession of the ball again when his name was announced as the goal scorer and he actually stopped to celebrate and lost possession!!!
 

Our new hotel that evening was far superior and we were delighted with it. The food there is great. The lads all went for a 3 hour nap that afternoon and then after dinner we went for a walk on the beach.
We were all much fresher heading to the venue on Day 2 of divisioning. Our next game was against Bangladesh who were a much trickier team that we had expected. Kenneth Irvine scored the match winner with a 35 yard free kick that went straight into the top right hand corner. We should have won by more but were still happy with the win.

Our final divisioning game was against the Greek A Team. This was a much tougher game but our lads gave a great performance and the game was won with a Michael Neville goal. The highlight of the game was Michael’s goal celebration where he screamed so loudly, I think they must have heard him back in Limerick.

At the end of divisioning we were handed our competition group which includes Turkey, GB, Australia and India. I had predicted that all of these teams bar India would be in our group. Lots of these teams are friends who we’ve played previously but all friendships will be left behind once we take to the pitch.

Our first game was against Turkey. The whole team went out for a walk on the evening before the game, and we popped into a church where a lot of candles were lit for us!

I’ll tell you more about that game next time.

Paul
 

By Athens on 29/06/2011 20:03
Mary with her silver medal for the 100m Backstroke   Here I am with my silver medal for the 100m Backstroke

 

I was very excited when we all gathered in Dublin the night before flying out to Athens. We had to get up very early on the Monday morning but I didn’t mind as I was so excited.
We flew to Rhodes which was our host town. It was lovely there. The food was great and I went swimming in the sea for the very first time. There were events organised for us every evening. We saw Greek dancing one evening. The Greek dancers were very good. Some people joined in but I didn’t.

On Thursday we had a very long ferry journey to Athens. Athens is a fabulous city and we have great support here.
Our accommodation in Athens is fabulous. I am sharing a room with Ciara and Caitriona. I am used to sharing with Ciara since we shared a room at our training sessions. Caitriona is very nice as well and we have a great laugh.
The Opening Ceremony was great. The whole evening was brilliant and I was very emotional. Everything was perfect. We got a huge cheer when we entered the stadium from all the Irish supporters that were there. It went on very late and it was after 2 when we got home. Unfortunately I had to swim the next day in my divisioning.
I was very tired at divisioning and it was very tough to swim but I still managed to do well.
I was very nervous before I swam in the final of the 100m backstroke. But Jenny took me outside, and we did some breathing exercises which helped me to relax.
There was loads of people cheering me on when I got into the pool. I was very happy with how the race went. I was thrilled and surprised to win a silver medal
After the award ceremony, I was interviewed by RTE News and I met Ian Dempsey. I was delighted to meet Ian and have my photo taken with him. I’ll have to tell my friend Mary who’s a big fan of his all about it.
 
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Splashin' Penguins Special Olympics Club Celebrate's 20th Anniversary 
  
   
The Splasin' Penguins Special Olympics Club celebrated their 20th anniversary at Lola Montez. The event was marked with the presentation of the Tony Rennick Cup for the Most Improved Swimmer, which was awarded to athlete John Gordon by Cathaoirleach Cllr Seamus Kilgannon. In recognition of the clubs mile stone achievement, presentations were also made to the club by Myra Merrick, the Regional Director for Special Olympics Connaught and Pat O'Malley for her work with the club. In it's two decade history, Splashin' Penguins have gone from strength to strength and have confirmed that four of their athletes have been selected to represent Connaught at the National Games being held in Dublin next year. Among the clubs talented athletes is Strandhill native Joseph Cullen who won a gold medal at the World Summer Games in Athens in 2011 for the 100 Individual Medley. 

  

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 Connaught

Special Olympics Connaught provides year round sports training and competition for over 1,300 adults and children with intellectual disabilities in Galway, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath.

Over 30 sports competitions and development days are held annually in 13 Olympic type sports.

There are 73 Special Olympics clubs in the Connaught region.

 The mission of Special Olympics is “to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with an intellectual disability, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community”.
                                                   

                                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


    

 

 



 

                                                                              

 

 

 

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Splashin' Penguins 20th Anniversary

Pat O'Malley, Cathairrleach Cllr Seamus Kilgannon Joseph Cullen and Philipp Huel


Fergal Quinn, Cathairrleach Cllr Seamus Kilgannon, Philipp Huel and Joan Milmoe