herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Team Ireland off to a winning start after Ambassador's party

Paul Kirrane, Ennis, Co Clare, Billy Kane, Swords, Co Dublin, and the Ambassador Kevin F. O’Malley. US Ambassador's Residence, Phoenix Park
Paul Kirrane, Ennis, Co Clare, Billy Kane, Swords, Co Dublin, and the Ambassador Kevin F. O’Malley. US Ambassador's Residence, Phoenix Park

US Ambassador Kevin O'Malley couldn't resist joining in the celebrations as the 88 athletes of Special Olympics Team Ireland chanted "Ole Ole Ole" on the lawn at his residence in the Phoenix Park.

The team and their coaches were greeted by Mr O'Malley yesterday for a thoughtful "send-off event".

The 88 Team Ireland athletes and 40 managers and coaches will leave for the World Games in Los Angeles on July 21.

They will have a supportive troop of fans accompanying them, as 155 Irish volunteers are also expected to travel to the States along with 300 family members and other supporters.

Members of the gardai and PSNI yesterday participated in a symbolic 'Law Enforcement Torch Run' and were accompanied by two of Team Ireland's athletes as they sprinted up the avenue to the Ambassador's home in the Phoenix Park.

They were greeted by a warm round of applause and chants as the excited group posed for pictures.

The athletes were then treated to music and a barbecue on the residence lawn.

Ambassador O'Malley said that he was "thrilled" to host the "interesting group of really talented athletes".

"We are just delighted to have them here on this very beautiful Dublin day and to send them off on what will be a great adventure for all of them," he told the Herald.

"Eunice Shriver was such a big part of the special Olympics. And her sister-in-law, Jean Kennedy Smith was the Ambassador here, so it is really fitting that as the Special Olympics return to LA, that we send them off from the Ambassador's residence here in Dublin."

Ireland was the first country to ever host the World Summer Games outside America when it was held here in 2003.

Irish soccer hero Robbie Keane plays with LA Galaxy in the States and was unveiled earlier this year as an ambassador for Special Olympics Ireland.

He and his wife Claudine previously said they are looking forward to cheering on the team in their new home city during the summer games.

support

Bray man Anthony Clarke plays midfield on the 11-a-side squad for Team Ireland and said the Irish striker has been a great support to them.

"He has been at three of our training sessions," Anthony said yesterday.

"I can't wait to go. I have never been in the World Games or anything to do with the Special Olympics before, this is my first time. I am extremely excited."

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