WEST Cork athletes enjoyed many golden moments at the Special Olympic Ireland Games in Dublin, with nine of the 16 player table tennis squad selected from three of the area’s service providers.
Three were from CoAction Skibbereen, three from CoAction Bantry and three from the Cope Foundation in Clonakilty. Every player on the squad managed to win a medal, with the tally including a hugely impressive six golds.
West Cork women dominated the event winning three golds in the singles events with Aoife McMahon (Clonakilty), Breda O’Donovan (Clonakilty) and Emily Meagher (Bantry). Mary Lawlor (Skibbereen) took silver in the singles with Claire O’Regan (Skibbereen) taking bronze.
Aoife McMahon went on to win a second gold medal with her partner Liam Hayes (Skibbereen) who also took a second gold in the singles event, they beat silver medal winners Breda O’Donovan and her partner Keith Whelan (Waterford) in the mixed doubles.
Liam Hayes had a remarkable event and stunned the opposition coaches and officials with his standard of play and didn’t lose a set during the whole competition.
Bantry and Skibbereen CoAction players combined in the form of Emily Meagher who partnered Claire O’Regan, to take silver in the Women’s Doubles.
Friends and Bantry Co-Action clubmates Sean Healy and Jerry McCarthy took bronze in the Men’s Doubles event; with a bronze going to Cope Clonakilty’s Leo McMahon.
The Munster Table Tennis Squad collected a total of 25 medals over the three days of competition with 15 of those being brought home by West Cork players.
Praise must also go to the West Cork Coaches who are Ivan Shorten from Cope in Clonakilty, Sheila Deasy from CoAction Skibbereen and Kathleen Lynch from CoAction Bantry.
The squad was led by Owen Kelly from Goleen who has been Munster head coach for 20 years and is a former Ireland head coach.
Owen has been chairman of West Cork Table Tennis for 30 years and coaches at both Skibbereen and Bantry CoAction on a weekly basis, as well as regular mainstream clubs in Skibbereen, Bantry and Goleen.
Apart from table tennis, glory also went to Liam Buckley, Bandon Special Olympics who won two golds in the 25m and 50m events; Tom Brady, Ballineen, took a silver in the 25m event, while a gold and silver went to Ballinhassig’s Nicholas O’Brien for badminton. CoAction Beara’s David Hefffernan got bronze in equestrian with bronze also going to Aine McCarthy for the 15m walk.
A welcome home party took place for all athletes in Bandon. Eoin O’Beara, regional director for Special Olympics Munster said: ‘Bringing home 536 medals and personal bests from a competition of this level is a huge achievement. They are also returning home with memories and new friendships that will last a lifetime.’ Selected athletes from these Games will go on to represent Team Ireland at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.