Three from one west Donegal club for Special Olympics

ERRIGAL Sports and Social Club has expressed delight after three of its athletes successfully qualified to represent Team Ulster at the National Special Olympic Games taking place in Dublin next summer.
Official confirmation arrived in the post earlier this week to Rónán Ó Coirbín, Gaoth Dobhair, Peter Doogan, Gortahork and Patrick Gallagher, Annagry.
All three won gold medals in bocce at the Ulster Games held in Magherafelt back in April and they’ll now join their new team-mates at regular training sessions over the coming weeks and months to hone their skills as they prepare for the National Special Olympic Games.
Noel Flynn is head coach at the Errigal Sports and Social Club.
“Two years ago we took twenty four athletes to Magherafelt to compete in the first stage of the Special Olympic qualifiers. From that, seven qualified to go back to Magherafelt to compete in bocce.
Medal haul
“There were nine clubs from within Ulster and 120 athletes taking part in bocce that weekend and we came home with three gold, three silver and one bronze medals.
“Now we’ve just got word this week that three of those athletes have now qualified to represent Team Ulster at the Special Olympic Games in Dublin next June. The three who won gold back in April have made the team. They’re ecstatic and we’re delighted for them too.
“Whilst observing all the athletes competing in the bocce I was delighted with the performance of those three athletes. It was obvious that the work which had been ongoing throughout the year was paying off,” he said.
Peter Doogan from Upper Keeldrum works in Molloy’s Supermarket in Derrybeg. Patrick Gallagher is a client in Tobar Training Centre in Gaoth Dobhair and Ronan O Coirbin (Corbett) works in RAP Teo.
Errigal Sports and Social Club was established in west Donegal in 2006.
“The main reason for setting the club up was to give people the chance to take part in social activities and to develop their skills and independence from their families. We’re located in a rural part of the county where social activities were limited,” Mr Flynn said.
Each month the club organises a disco in the Caisleain Oir, Annagry, while there’s also bocce practise in Burtonport Hall which is attended by up to thirty people with special needs.
“We have two bocce teams – each consists of ten players – who take part in the Ulster team. We travel to various parts of Ulster like Omagh and Lisburn to play games and we’re doing very well in the league,” he said.
A proud Dub, Noel followed his wife Mary (nee McGinley) to Donegal. He works as a driver with Dungloe Day Centre for Learning Disabilities at The Angle in Dungloe.

Discovered bocce

“I used to collect clients and bring them to the club when it first started and I got involved from there. We used to play bowls in Burtonport but we soon realised that it wasn’t suitable for a lot of clients and that’s when we discovered bocce,” he said.
Bocce is an Italian Game which is very similar to lawn bowls. Opposing players and teams play with either red or green balls, competing in singles, doubles and team events. The objective of the sport is to roll a bocce ball closest to the target ball, which is called a pallina.
“I can’t wait to get back at it after the holidays in September. The three lads will be away with the Ulster squad a fair bit but I’m delighted for them and their families,” he said.
Noel’s wife Mary and her sister Brid McCole also work as volunteers at Errigal Sports and Social Club while the work of Margaret Bonner, who runs the Burtonport Community Centre, and Moya Collum in Dunlewey is also invaluable.
The National Special Olympic Games take place in Dublin next summer with the winners going on to represent Team Ireland in the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games which will be held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in March 2019.

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