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Triple Gold Glory for Fergal

June 15, 2010


By Brónagh Murphy

Last week’s Special Olympic Games will be forever remembered by one special young athlete from Culloville who achieved phenomenal success at the first time of asking.

Eleven-year-old Fergal Gregory participated in the Aquatics section of the Games and won a total of three gold medals – in the 25m Butterfly, the 25m Freestyle and as part of Team Ulster in the 4 x 25m Relay.

Fergal’s fantastic achievement is all the more remarkable considering that just two years ago he couldn’t swim.

A member of the Dippers and Divers Swimming Club in Newry, Fergal’s dedication to the sport has been ultimately rewarded with his haul of medals.  He attends training twice weekly and his natural affinity with the water has seen him progress rapidly.

His coach, Esther King, paid tribute to his dedication.

“Fergal was fantastic, he has just excelled himself.  He did everything I asked him to do and worked really hard. It is quite difficult at this level but Fergal just did exactly what he was told and was brilliant.

“I am just delighted and so proud of him, he is a wee gem,” she added.

Another two of Esther’s pupils, Gary Carroll and Daniel Murphy, both from Newry, took silver medals in the 25m Freestyle and the 25m Flotation respectively.

Esther says she is both amazed and delighted at the success of her pupils.

“This means so much to me.  I’ve been with Special Olympics now since 2003 and I said we would build up these teams, and we have. As head coach of Dippers and Divers, this is one of the proudest moments of my life,” she said.

“Every one of the athletes has been just amazing and they are a credit to Newry and Mourne and to their parents.”

Family pride

Fergal’s parents, Kevin and Aine, and his siblings Niamh, Shea, Molly and Finn are extremely proud of his success in the Special Olympics.  Speaking to The Examiner from Limerick, his mother, Aine, described the occasion.

“We are delighted and so proud of Fergal.  This has been an amazing experience for him.  The fact that he made it here was fantastic but winning the medals has been a wonderful bonus.  We are so proud of his achievements so far, we never thought he would achieve so much,” she said.

“The atmosphere here is fantastic.  Everyone is sharing the feeling of the Special Olympics and we want to thank everyone who helped to fundraise and who supported Fergal’s participation in these Games,” she added.

Aine described Fergal as ‘a bit overwhelmed’ by all the fuss, adding that he’d rather enjoy the craic in the evenings with all the other athletes.

Support

Fergal has received huge support and many good wishes regarding his participation in the Games.  Armagh and Killeavy star Steven McDonnell visited him ahead of the Games to wish him well and posed alongside his specially-made banner.  On Wednesday his fellow pupils and staff at Cloghogue Primary School came out in force displaying good luck banners to see him off.

Many other athletes from the Newry and Mourne area participated in the Games.  Representatives from Newry United, The City Strikers, Newry & District Gateway Club and Dippers and Divers Swimming club represented Ulster at the event.

A special train was laid on by Iarnrod Eireann to transport the athletes from Newry to Limerick and Mayor John Feehan was on hand to wave them off on Wednesday.

Organisers and those closely associated with the Special Olympics team would like to thank Big O, Newry and Mourne District Council, local businesses, Newry Lions Club and the people of Newry and Mourne for their exceptional fundraising drive which brought in £15,800 to support the athletes taking part in the games.   Tribute was also paid to all the athletes and coaches, and in particular Head Coaches Esther King and Dympna Rafferty, along with other coaches Jonnie Carroll, Colette Torley, Jim Fox, John McMillan, Terry McStravick, Ciara Lowe and Marion Quinn for their exceptional dedication and hard work.

Medal haul

Overall Newry and Mourne has achieved remarkable success with the athletes from the area bringing home a total of 22 medals from the Special Olympics Ireland Games.

The footballers from City Strikers scooped a total of 15 medals between them, Donal Lonergan (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze), Ronan Lonergan (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze), Gemma Collins (1 silver, 1 bronze), Conal McBride (1 bronze + fifth), Joyce Haughian ( 2 gold, 1 silver), Ciaran Mallon (1 gold, 1 silver, + sixth) and Darren McNamee (1 silver).

Teams representing Newry United and Newry Gateway won a gold and a silver, while the Ladies football team took silver.

Speaking on behalf of the organisers and other coaches, Esther King, extended grateful appreciation to the people of Newry and Mourne for the support given to the Special Olympic athletes in these Games.

“We are just so grateful to everyone who helped us, supported and fundraised for us.  These athletes have been a credit to their area and to their parents and we are extremely proud of their achievements.  To achieve such success at this level is just one of the best moments of everyone’s life.”

Hundreds of supporters, including Mayor John Feehan and Big O, gathered at Newry train station on Sunday evening to welcome the athletes home.


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