Triumphant Team Ulster return from Special Olympics with 250 medals
Team Ulster is making a triumphant return home from the Special Olympics Ireland Games in Limerick with a clutch of more than 250 medals.
Athletes claimed scores of gold, silver and bronze in a range of events include athletics, gymnastics and football.
Over three days, around 1,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities competed in 14 sports at venues in Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary before a closing ceremony yesterday formally ended proceedings.
Margaret McElroy from Monaghan was over the moon that her daughter Claire, who has been doing some of her training in Antrim, won two gold medals for swimming.
"Claire won the 25m breast stroke division one and the 50m breast stroke in the mixed relay," Margaret said.
"She has trained so hard. She has been up in Antrim training with the Ulster team.
"She has loved her Special Olympics experience. She has excelled this weekend. "It has been such a fantastic learning experience for her – no mammy there!
"We are so proud of her. Absolutely thrilled to bits."
Shaun Cassidy, regional director for Special Olympics Ulster, said the 2014 Games had been "amazing". "So much effort goes into crossing that finish line, so every time it happens, it is amazing," he said.
"The next World Summer Games is in Los Angeles in 2015, so the Ireland Games has definitely been a precursor for that.
"The Ireland Games will be repeated again in 2018, so we will build on that success, get more results for Ulster and show the rest of Ireland what we are made of."
Special Olympics Ireland Games could not have taken place without an army of 3,000 volunteers. Among them was Sinead Doyle from MCE Public Relations in Belfast. "It has been a fantastic experience," she said. "There is a real sense of community spirit, everyone has really grouped together.
"There are so many different types of volunteer helping athletes across the board.
"It has been a massive team effort and a very rewarding experience. It is wonderful to see the athletes who have trained so hard and their families feel that real sense of achievement.
"Thousands of spectators have been cheering on the athletes at what is one of the largest sporting events in Ireland this year.
"The organising committee should be very proud of what they have put on this week."
For more information visit www.facebook.com/ SpecialOlympicsUlster
The medals won
Aquatics: 16 gold, 15 silver, 1 bronze
Athletics: 16 gold, 10 silver, 15 bronze
Bowling: 7 gold, 5 silver, 7 bronze
Motor Activities Prog: 10 gold
Badminton: 3 gold
Basketball: 2 silver, 1 bronze
Bocce: 10 gold, 8 silver, 6 bronze
Gymnastics: 54 gold, 35 silver, 17 bronze
Golf: 4 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze
Table Tennis: 1 gold, 2 silver
Kayaking: 2 gold, 4 bronze
Equestrian: 4 gold, I silver, 3 bronze
Football (men's): 2 gold
Table Tennis: 1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze
'He won for my birthday and Father's Day'
Colette McShane, Coalisland, mother of Tiernan
"Tiernan (10) won two gold medals for 25m sprint and softball.
"He is a member of Eagles Athletics Club.
"Paul Sweeney, his coach, has been relentless training them all to within an inch of their lives.
"It is only a small club, so they have done great.
"My birthday was yesterday (Saturday), so Tiernan said to me he would try and win a medal for me and he did.
"He also won a medal for his dad for Father's Day.
"There has been no stopping him this weekend. He has enjoyed himself.
"He went down a well-relaxed boy but he got himself going and was well fit to keep running."
'He has had an absolutely fabulous time'
Margaret Corrigan, Enniskillen, mother of Conall
"Conall (10) won silver in the 25m sprint. He is a member of the Lakelands Special Olympics Club.
"He has had an absolutely fabulous time.
"We were worried about him coping with the situation, but he has been fantastic.
"All the coaches, volunteers, everyone has been brilliant.
"Conall has had a wonderful experience. We are very proud of him.
"He goes to football every Saturday, so he will keep that going, and he goes back to his regular club training from Tuesday.
"The Special Olympics has been a wonderful experience for us as a family.
"It has been fantastic also for our other son Killian to experience this with us."