Local Special Olympics coach Paul Sweeney and Matt English CEO Special Olympics Ireland
Local Special Olympics coach Paul Sweeney and Matt English CEO Special Olympics Ireland

LOCAL Special Olympics athletics coach Paul Sweeney has recently returned from the 2011 World Summer Special Olympic Games in Athens Greece.

Paul who coaches locally at the Starbreakers club in Carrickmore, joined up with the Irish team in Dublin on June 18th before flying to Rhodes for a four day acclimatisation and training camp.

Paul with other coaches Ken Kavanagh (Kildare) and Ailish Smyth (Dublin) put the athletes through their paces in extremely hot and testing conditions before making the trip to the Greek capital for the games proper.

The final ten athletes hailed from all over the country with two from Down, two from Dublin, and the others from Cavan, Kildare, Louth, Tipperary, Clare and the final one who was born in Dublin but now resides in Romania.

Paul has been coaching athletics for 7 years now and specialises in the throwing events, which was of particular interest here as there were 2 shot putters and 2 softball throwers in the group.

After a glittering opening ceremony which featured Stevie Wonder in the ancient Greek Parthenon stadium the games got under way and the Ireland athletes didn’t disappoint.

After the initial heats they had already achieved personal bests in four events and raised their respective scores and times to compete in high grade Olympic finals.

Another few fairly tense few days with the coaching staff the team returned to compete over four days of finals and came away with a total of 11 medals consisting of 2 Bronze, 8 Silver and 1 Gold going to John McKiernan from Cavan in the 100 m walk. There were 4 silvers in the 4 throwing events.

This was a very successful trip and great experience for the Starbreakers coach who said “Although sometimes it’s very tough and hard work it’s made all worth while with athlete success and smiles” when asked would he take on the role again at world level Paul replied “No question a definite yes.”

Parties are organised up and down the country and Paul will be guest of honour at a function in Boyne Valley Hotel Drogheda on Sunday for Edward Kennedy just one of the athletes he coached while in Greece.

Well done to all of Team Ireland who won a total of 107 medals over 12 sports and came home to a massive recption in Dublin airport on Tuesday last. Paul would also like to pay tribute to local golfer Patrick Donnelly who competed admirably while in Greece and won a Gold medal, a great achievement for the young man.

Paul will return to the bread and butter of training locally in Carrickmore when the season resumes in September and who knows maybe in four years time he will be in Los Angeles with some of the local athletes competing in the next Special Olympics World Summer Games.