4,000 on their marks, set for 50th Games
More than 4,000 young people will compete at the Golden Jubilee Aldi Community Games National Festival, which begins today.
The two-day event at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, Dublin, will be attended by more than 10,000 spectators.
It will be the biggest sporting event ever held at the venue.
An army of more than 1,000 volunteers will be on duty to help things run smoothly.
This year, more than 160,000 participants aged six to 16 took part in 575 Aldi Community Games events throughout Ireland.
Regional champions will be brought together today to compete across a range of individual and team sports and activities including athletics, indoor soccer, the long puck, GAA matches, chess, art projects, singing, drama and modern dance.
More than five million children have taken part in the Community Games over the past 50 years.
The first finals were held in Walkinstown, Dublin, in 1967.
"I've no doubt that future Olympians and future professional sports men and women will be among the national finalists this weekend," said John Byrne, chief executive officer of the Community Games movement.
He said that, among the national sports heroes who took part as children in past events, were Olympic silver medallist Sonia O'Sullivan, soccer stars Niall Quinn and Denis Irwin, and rugby's Paul O'Connell and Robbie Henshaw.
Another former participant was Hollywood actress Saoirse Ronan, while Rory O'Neill, better known as Panti Bliss, took part in Community Games athletics events.
More than 20,000 volunteers have helped stage local events for the organisation since it began.
Aldi is the main sponsor and the HSE is also a very supportive partner, said the organisers.