Hail to our SUDS heroes!
Team Ireland making their mark on the European stage
15 Irish athletes travelled to Padua, Italy, in early September to participate in the Sport Union for Athletes with Down Syndrome (SUDS) European Championships, including Ireland’s first national Down Syndrome Futsal team.
Bringing back medals was always on the agenda for the athletes, and they did not disappoint!
Liam Foley, member of the Down Syndrome Ireland Louth Meath branch and Trim AC, set a new European record in the 800m, T21, Men’s race with a time of 2:55.63. A phenomenal achievement for his first-ever international track event. The seasoned road runner also won another Gold in the 1500m, T21, Men race by beating the Italian Athlete at the line, making him a double European Champion.
Fergus Cosgrove joined the podium as a Bronze medal winner for Triathlon, which consists of 100m, long jump and shot-put.
Elisha Gallagher, from Dublin, ran a fantastic 200m T21 Women in a time of 43.23sec, landing her 5th place.
Having been exposed to an international competition was one of the most valuable experiences we had in sport Lucy Harrington, mom of sprinter Elisha Gallagher explained: “For myself, one very positive outcome is that Elisha’s participation in the European Championships has helped friends, family, school, local community, local athletics club to see the real achievements and possibilities for people with Down syndrome.
Lots of people watched Elisha’s race online and some of the other sports too and it showed everyone what is possible.”
Ireland’s first-ever Down Syndrome Futsal team had a jam-packed week, playing 5 games in 4 days. Turkey, Italy and Portugal have been playing for at least 4 years in different international tournaments and had to stand their ground against the newcomers.
As always, the Irish supporters did not disappoint, and the lads and coaches were cheered on by the fans in green.
Ireland, unfortunately, did not reach the finals but had a significant 0-0 draw with silver medal winners Portugal in the play-offs.
Down Syndrome Ireland’s Louth Meath Artistic swimming team won Gold in their Combo event with a score of 39.700
Artistic team member Fintan Bray from Westmeath had the following to say:
“What I thought of the European championships was one of the greatest achievements of my life.
I have competed in the European and World stages before, but this was different. I went with my friends to compete in a new sport, artistic swimming. For me, it was not about winning it was representing Ireland and wearing green with my teammates.
The highlight was getting my first gold medal and hearing the National Anthem being played and the Irish flag being raised for us.
Our coach Aoife Drumm was fantastic throughout the games, we are so lucky to have her. I know I am not going anywhere I am staying with artistic swimming, and I want to make her proud.”
The 15 Irish athletes who competed were:
- Fergal Cosgrove – Co. Meath
- Liam Foley – Co. Meath
- Elisha Gallagher – Co. Dublin
- Fintan Bray – Co. Westmeath
- Dúalta Callan – Co. Meath
- Katie Gaynor – Co. Meath
- Eleanor Murray – Co. Meath
- David Crawford – Co. Donegal
- Josh Hennessy – Co. Dublin
- Cian Kelleher – Co. Cork
- Jamie Linden – Co. Louth
- Micheál McCloy – Co. Armagh
- Daniel O’Reilly – Co. Donegal
- Hughie Sweeney – Co. Donegal
- Sean Toolin – Co. Waterford
Being first-time competitors did not leave the Irish team at a disadvantage reckoned Máire Hourigan mom of Futsal player Cian Kelleher from Cork: “Our athletes demonstrated belief and strong heart and operated in a fun-loving way throughout the week. I am so proud of all of them and loved the cohesive way the teams bonded, dressed in their similar attire. Each group supported the other (Artistic swim/Athletics/Futsal). Memories were created, experiences were made, and our athletes led the way in style in how they handled themselves, one another, and their opponents. Truly phenomenal ambassadors. Onwards and upwards. There are no limits!”.
Team Coordinators, Sanet Jordaan and Tessa van Heerden are delighted by Team Ireland’s participation and are proud of their performances. Wishing them all well-deserved celebrations on their ground-breaking achievements.
Thank you to the Down Syndrome Ireland Louth Meath branch, the FAI, sponsors, communities, and parents for all the support they have shown the team.