Belfast Telegraph

Clady's pride and joy Dearbhail triumphs at Special Olympics

By Laura Abernethy

A Co Armagh village is celebrating its own sporting star.

One of Team Ireland's youngest athletes, Dearbhail Savage made Clady proud as she won gold in horse riding at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles.

Yesterday local people took the 15-year-old to their hearts as a video of the moment she found out she had won and her family erupted in cheers and tears went viral.

Her brother Micheal, who stayed at home while his parents, grandparents and eight brothers and sisters flew out to LA, said: "It was great. My mum is very emotional. The rest of us are so delighted for her."

Dearbhail has Down's syndrome and struggles to speak, but Micheal says she is "always cheerful" and has become quite a character at the Games.

Caroline Brennan, Team Ireland head equestrian coach, said: "Dearbhail is thriving on all of the attention out here at the Games - everyone loves her. However, she takes her sport very seriously."

Caroline added: "Everyone we meet is asking about her; where she's from, how old she is and how long she's been competing. But when she gets on the horse, she means business. She's a very talented young lady."

Dearbhail took up horse riding a few years ago by chance. She was a gymnast until her club changed the day of her training and it didn't suit her mother.

She now trains twice a week at the Saddle and Reins Special Olympics club in Newry on her two favourite horses, Tinkerbell and Skippy.

Now, everyone in Clady is awaiting the homecoming of the golden girl when the Games finish next week. The community held fundraisers to help her family fly out with her and her local GAA club put up banners wishing her luck.

Her cousin, Clady GFC treasurer Fearghal Gorman, said: "It's really brought a sense of togetherness within the community.

"It's a very small agricultural, rural community. Nothing ever happens, so something like this is huge. We're so proud of her. It's just a fantastic thing.

"We have a meeting tomorrow night to arrange a big homecoming for her. Everyone is involved in it.

"There will be a good bit of the village going to Dublin, and we're trying to get more banners up and bunting to congratulate her on her fantastic achievement."

Micheal said: "Everyone is so proud of her. The whole community is absolutely delighted. "I'd like to thank everyone for their support on social media because everyone is just retweeting everything and posting things on Facebook and it's great."

Shaun Cassidy, regional director of Special Olympics Ulster, said: "Our congratulations go to all of the athletes and particularly Ulster's Dearbhail Savage on her gold medal, which is all the more impressive as she is one of Team Ireland's youngest athletes."

Belfast Telegraph


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