Jill meets golf legend Padraig Harrington

Irish golf legend captain Padraig Harrington meets Team Ireland's Jill Connery, from Scarva at the Portmarnock Links Hotel in Portmarnock, Co Dublin.
Irish golf legend captain Padraig Harrington meets Team Ireland's Jill Connery, from Scarva at the Portmarnock Links Hotel in Portmarnock, Co Dublin.

Local golfer, Jill Connery from Scarva, received the opportunity of a lifetime to meet with Irish golf champion, Padraig Harrington as she prepares to tee off in Abu Dhabi for the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games this March.

In a moment that every golfer would wish for, Irish golfing legend Padraig Harrington offered some words of wisdom to the team, who are in the final stages of preparation for their unforgettable trip to Abu Dhabi. Wishing the golfers luck, he also took the time to sign the golf balls that Team Ireland will use in the World Games.

Irish golf legend captain Padraig Harrington meets Team Ireland golfers at the Portmarnock Links Hotel in Portmarnock, Co Dublin.

Irish golf legend captain Padraig Harrington meets Team Ireland golfers at the Portmarnock Links Hotel in Portmarnock, Co Dublin.

Travelling to Dublin for the opportunity, Jill joined fellow Team Ireland golf athletes Mark Claffey (29), Andrew Simmington (30) and Mairead Moroney (69) from Co Clare; John Keating (26) from Dublin; and Simon Lowry (27) from Co Galway, in addition to Dublin’s Phyl Kelleher (79) and Jean Molony (73) from Clare, who join the team as playing partners and will be paired with athletes in the alternative shot team play event.

There are high hopes for the team, not least due to the soaring interest in golf as a result of the continuing success of Irish golfers on the world stage. Irish golfer Shane Lowry recently won the championship in Abu Dhabi, setting the bar for success for Team Ireland.

Jill and her fellow golf athletes are part of a 91-strong Team Ireland squad that will compete on the world stage at the Games. Taking place between 14-21 March 2019, Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the largest sporting and humanitarian event in the world this year. Supported by a volunteer management team of almost 40, Team Ireland will join 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from 170 countries at the Games.

Padraig Harrington, a long-time supporter and worldwide ambassador of Special Olympics commented: “Irish golfers are now rated as some of the best in the world. This March, all eyes will be on Abu Dhabi when our inspirational Team Ireland athletes will be teeing off to achieve personal bests on a world class golf course.

“To represent Ireland is a phenomenal achievement and I would like to wish all of the athletes the very best of luck at the World Games.”

Special Olympics Ireland is first and foremost a sports organisation and charity that supports children and adults with intellectual disabilities. As the World Games gets closer, Special Olympics Ireland is calling on the business community and individuals to help them raise much-needed funds to send

the athletes to Abu Dhabi. To cover the cost of sending Team Ireland to the Games, Special Olympics needs to raise just over £4,445 per athlete.

Matt English, CEO Special Olympics Ireland, said: “2019 is shaping up to be a huge year for our athletes having worked so hard over the past three years to qualify for these Games. Meeting Padraic Harrington and hearing his words of support was a huge boost to our athletes as they prepare to compete on the world stage.

“As the build up to the Games continues, we still have a funding gap to bridge. The support we receive from our partners at eir and Gala Retail Services is invaluable and I urge companies large and small to come forward to show their support for Team Ireland by visiting www.specialolympics.ie and getting involved in our Support an Athlete campaign. The business community has been so generous towards us and we are calling on you again to play your part and help make the dreams of our athletes come true.”

The public can follow further news and updates in the build-up to the Games on Twitter, @SO_Ulster and @SOIreland using the hashtag, #TeamIreland. Further updates on Ulster Team Ireland athletes’ preparations for the Games will be posted on the Special Olympics Ulster Facebook page, Facebook.com/SpecialOlympicsUlster

For further information about Team Ireland and the Support an Athlete programme, visit Special www.specialolympics.ie