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Pictured at the launch of the Special Olympics Team Ireland golfing squad - Matt English, CEO, Special Olympics; Ireland; Christy O'Connor Jr; Gary Desmond, CEO. Gala and Ray Ryan, chairman of Gail Retail Council with Paul Kirrane (centre) and Patrick Rutherford. Photograph by Ray McManus / Sportsfile

Ennis golfers to tee off in Los Angeles

TWO Ennis men have been formally unveiled as Special Olympics athletes who will represent Ireland in golf at the World Summer Games is Los Angeles in July.

They are 29-year-old, Paul Kirrane and 72-year-old Patrick Rutherford. Playing golf for four years, Paul is currently training with Ennis Golf Club. Patrick has been playing golf for 25 years and he also enjoys triathlons and athletics. Patrick’s a golf coach at his local club where Paul also trains.

One of Ireland’s most successful golfers, Christy O’Connor Junior, and three-time Olympian and former 5,000m World Champion, Senator Eamonn Coghlan joined Patrick Rutherford at the launch of the Team Ireland Golfing Squad, where it was also announced that Gala, has joined Special Olympics as one of Team Ireland’s Official Sponsors.

Hailing from across Ireland, the full line-up for the Team Ireland golfing squad is: Margaret Carr from Sligo; Rosemary O’Reilly from Meath; Trudy Hyland from Cork, Paul Kirrane from Ennis, Oliver Doherty from Buncrana, Leo Brien from Rathdrum, County Wicklow and from the North, Jill Connery, Armagh.

Ennis’s Patrick Rutherford and Ursula McDonnell from Belfast will also join the team as playing partners, and they will be paired with athletes in the alternative shot team play event.

There’s high hopes for the team, not least due to the soaring interest in golf, thanks to the continuing success of Irish golfers on the world stage.

“Irish golfers are now rated as some of the best in the world, enjoying a global audience on the American and European tour. However, this July, all eyes will be on Los Angeles when our inspirational athletes from Team Ireland will be teeing off to achieve personal bests.

“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,” commented legendary European Tour player and Ryder Cup hero, Christy O’Connor Jnr Mr O’Connor is a long-time supporter and patron of Special Olympics.

Gala’s six figure sponsorship marks a considerable milestone in the fundraising efforts of Special Olympics Ireland, who require €440,000 to cover the cost of sending Team Ireland to the World Games.

Gary Desmond, CEO of Gala said, “Special Olympics is an outstanding organisation that has supported thousands of athletes in our stores’ communities over the years, and the Gala Group wanted to collectively help the athletes from Team Ireland create special moments in Los Angeles.

“Being in a position to assist the athletes in achieving their dreams and experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is something that all of our stores committed to and we’re looking forward to an exciting summer, wishing Team Ireland every success at the Games.”

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