Rio Olympic Boxing Hopefuls Meet ‘Inspirational’ Team Ireland Medal Winners

 Special Olympics and Ireland’s Rio Olympic hopeful boxers

IRELAND’S Olympics boxers have come out in support of Special Olympics Ireland ahead of the charity’s annual Collection Day next month (Fri April 22nd). The boxers – who rank as some of Ireland’s most promising medal hopes at this summer’s Rio Olympics – welcomed athletes from Team Ireland to the Irish Athletic Boxing Association’s (IABA) High Performance Boxing Unit in Dublin yesterday (Thurs 23th). They also called on members of the public to dig deep on Collection Day – which is proudly supported by eir – as the charity seeks to raise €650,000 in 24 hours to support athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics and Ireland’s Rio Olympic hopeful boxers

Team Ireland football athlete Mark Duffy (31) from Tallaght, Dublin, and aquatics athlete Keith Butler (24) from Walkinstown, Dublin were thrilled to meet with members of Ireland’s boxing team, including double Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes, London 2012 boxing captain Darren O’Neill, current European Champion and World Light-Heavyweight silver Medallist Joe Ward, Adam Nolan and David Oliver Joyce. The athletes exchanged training tips with the boxers, some of whom are preparing for crunch Olympic qualifiers next month and took to to the ring for a quick skills demonstration.

Both Special Olympics athletes represented their country with distinction at the World Summer Games, which was held in Los Angeles last summer. Footballer Mark Duffy won a bronze alongside his teammates on the 11-a-side football team, while Keith won a gold medal in the pool. The athletes brought their medals to show to the boxers who are preparing for their own moment of glory at the forthcoming Rio Olympics, which are taking place in Brazil in August.  So far, Joe Ward, Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Steven Donnelly have booked their places in Rio, with more slots available for male and female boxers at April’s European qualifier in Samsum, Turkey.

Special Olympics and Ireland’s Rio Olympic hopeful boxers

Every cent counts for Special Olympics this April 22nd as it seeks to raise €650,000 in just 24 hours to support the programme of sports and training it offers to 9,100 athletes in 360 clubs around the country. 3,000 volunteers will be out in force in 250 locations all over Ireland shaking buckets over the course of the day (Fri April 22nd).       

Kilkenny native Darren O’Neill, who is aiming to secure his slot at the Rio Games at next month’s qualifier in Turkey, is a big advocate of Special Olympics and a supporter of the opportunities it offers to athletes with intellectual disabilities. He said he found it ‘inspirational’ to have the two members of Special Olympics’ Team Ireland visit their training facility.

“For anyone to represent their country on the world’s stage, it is a major achievement. For Special Olympics athletes the achievement really is all the greater as so often these athletes have to overcome other challenges that mainstream athletes do not. I, for one, find that really inspiring and I will certainly focus on this when I step into the ring in Turkey next month.”

Special Olympics and Ireland’s Rio Olympic hopeful boxers

O’Neill’s sentiments were backed up by double Olympic medal winning teammate Paddy Barnes. “Having Mark and Keith visit us here today, showing us their medals, and telling us their World Games’ story has been really motivational and I will certainly draw on it as Rio gets closer,” said Barnes.

Both boxers also called on the general public to show their support for Special Olympics by signing up to volunteer on Collection Day. “There are collection points all over the country, even if you had a spare hour over your lunch, or after work, you can sign up on and it will make a huge difference to thousands of athletes with intellectual disabilities,” said O’Neill.

Special Olympics and Ireland’s Rio Olympic hopeful boxers

Fergal Carruth, CEO of the IABA who was present to greet the Special Olympics team at the home of Irish Boxing said: “We are delighted to be able to get involved with such a worthwhile iniative. Mark and Keith along with the entire Special Olympics Team are a real source of inspiration to to all us here in IABA and we are fully behind this fundraising day for Special Olympics Ireland.  We would encourage all our members throughout the country to lend their support if possible on the day”.

Special Olympics long-time corporate sponsor eir, will also be supporting the charity as the premier sponsor of the Collection Day once again this year. Carolan Lennon, Wholesale Managing Director open eir said: “Collection Day is the main fundraising initiative for Special Olympics Ireland. This day will bring in vital funds for the charity, ensuring they can continue to offer their sports and training services in cities, towns and villages all across Ireland. On April 22nd eir employees, from Belfast to Cork, will be on the streets in their local communities raising much needed funds for Special Olympics Ireland. Please join us. The more volunteers we have on Collection Day, the more funding we will raise. That money will ensure that Special Olympics Ireland continues to meet their central objective. That every person in Ireland, with an intellectual disability, has the opportunity to participate in sport, to develop new skills, make new friends, and become the best they can be.”

Special Olympics and Ireland’s Rio Olympic hopeful boxers

Matt English, CEO with Special Olympics Ireland, added: “To be warmly welcomed to the home of Irish boxing is fantastic. The support of some of this country’s best known boxing athletes is also a fantastic endorsement of our athletes, their achievements and the ongoing work of Special Olympics. Supported by air, Collection Day is a vitally important milestone in our annual fundraising calendar. I am hoping the general public comes out to support us in whatever way they can this Collection Day. Every single euro really will make a difference.”