All walks of life keep the sporting flame alight

Bernard Brogan: The 28-year-old Dublin forward won his first All-Ireland last year and will add to his sporting achievements by carrying the torch.

Brian Brunton: The 48-year-old garda carried the torch in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics in Carolina 1999, Alaska 2001, Japan 2005, and China 2007. He was the lead Garda organiser of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for the Special Olympics in Ireland in 2003.

Michael Carruth: Who can forget the boxer’s gold medal performance in Barcelona in 1992? Now 44, he is a qualified fitness instructor and sports injury therapist as well as a boxing development officer with Dublin City Council.

Áine Ní Choisdealbha: A 22-year-old student at TCD, Áine was awarded a Trinity gold medal in 2011 for outstanding results in her psychology degree. Now studying for an MSc in neuroscience, she works with TCD’s voluntary tuition programme for children from disadvantaged areas of Dublin, and is assistant editor of Icarus, TCD’s creative writing journal.

John Collins: The Dubliner was nominated by the Pavee Point Travellers’ Centre. The 23-year-old has been involved in youth work with Travellers and is also a member of Éireann’s Isle GAA club. He represents Pavee Point on the GAA’s inclusion and integration committee, and for the past two years has been working in the area of Traveller men’s health.

Natalya Coyle: A native of Ashbourne in Co Meath, 20-year-old Natalya is a business, economics, and social studies student at TCD, for which she received a sports scholarship. She is bidding to become the first Irish woman to qualify for Ireland in the modern pentathlon at the London Olympics.

Ronnie Delany: One of Ireland’s greatest Olympians, the 77-year-old from Arklow, Co Wicklow stunned the world by winning the 1500m at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. A Freeman of Dublin City since 2006, he was nominated by the Olympic Council of Ireland.

Kenny Egan: The 30-year-old boxer from Clondalkin, Dublin, won silver at the Beijing Games four years ago and has won nine Irish titles and one gold and two bronze medals at European level.

Aaron Fallon: The 16-year-old from Ballymun, Dublin, co-hosted the 2011 Otherworld Festival on the main stage. He has moved through the ranks of his local youth club and sits on the Ballymun Regional Youth Resource panel.

Irial Finan: The 54-year-old native of Castlerea, Co Roscommon, has risen through the business world to become executive vice-president of Coca-Cola Company, based in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a non-executive director for Co-operation Ireland and the NUI Galway Foundation.

Karl Flood: A 17-year-old Dubliner, Karl regularly volunteers with the homeless and elderly communities in his local Simon Community branch, and also helps organise variety shows and pantomimes to raise much needed funds for various organisations.

Joan Freeman: Aged 54, Joan is founder of Pieta House, which provides services aimed at the prevention of self-harm and suicide. She was a People of the Year award winner last year.

Gillian Garrett: A hockey player, coach, and umpire, 38-year-old Gillian, from Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, has represented Ireland at club, provincial and U21 levels.

Denis Hickie: The former Leinster and Ireland wing is one of the top Irish try scorers of all time, and toured with the British and Irish Lions.

Shane Horgan: The recently retired rugby player earned 65 caps for Ireland, toured with the British and Irish Lions, and won three Triple Crowns with Ireland as well as a European Cup with Leinster.

Jedward: One nomination or two? John and Edward Grimes, 20, might not have succeeded at the Eurovision but, as keen runners with Lucan Harriers, they should have no problems carrying the torch.

Ger Killian: The 15-year-old from Co Westmeath, was named Young Person of the Year in 2007 after his father lost his arm in a farming accident. Ger saved his life while waiting for paramedics to arrive.

Mark Kenneally: The 31-year-old from Celbridge, Co Kildare, achieved the marathon qualifying time for the London Games in October. A member of Clonliffe Harriers AC, he is also studying a BSc in physiotherapy and is a PhD student in physiology in TCD. He is Ireland’s only contestant in the marathon in this year’s Games.

Lee Kinsella: The Wicklow 19-year-old is a volunteer in the Way Project, which tackles issues of young people’s involvement in criminal and antisocial behaviour.

Cillian Kirwan: The 15-year-old student at St Fintan’s, Sutton, Dublin, plays U16 Gaelic football and hurling and has represented his school in cross-country and track and field events.

Pamela Lacken: A 34-year-old from Ballina, Co Mayo, Pamela lives in Ennis and is one of 200 winners from over 1,700 nominations in the Lloyds Banking Group’s “Making a Difference” campaign in Britain. She went to Athens in 2011 as part of the Special Olympics Ireland team of volunteers.

Lauren Lawless: The Dubliner, 16, volunteers at the Localise Community Service Project and is involved with her Larkin Community College student council, helping students with a project called “Face of Homelessness”. She trains girls’ soccer and Gaelic football at primary-school level and has raised funds for the past four years for Our Lady’s Crumlin Hospital.

Robbie Lyons: Robbie, 18, is from The Swan, Co Laois. He received a kidney transplant in 2009 and joined the Irish Kidney Association’s Transplant Team Ireland in 2010. He has represented his country at the World Transplant Games in Sweden, winning two silver and one gold medal.

Wayne McCullough: The “Pocket Rocket” from Belfast won a silver medal in the Barcelona Games and won a WBC world bantamweight title in 1993. He now works as a commentator.

Paul McGrath: One of Ireland’s greatest footballers, McGrath, 53, moved from St Patrick’s Athletic to Manchester Utd and then Aston Villa while enjoying a stellar international career.

Garrett Myhal: Garrett is carrying the torch in memory of his father, Paul, who passed away in January. Paul was a dedicated athlete and a fundraiser for charities such as Focus Ireland and Barretstown.

Alva Nolan: A 20-year-old from South Dublin, Alva has been a Special Olympics volunteer since 2007 and is a qualified match official and fundraiser for Special Olympics Ireland.

Gary O’Brien: The 24-year-old from Portmarnock, Co Dublin, represented Ireland at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, winning a silver medal in the 400m.

Sonia O’Sullivan: One of Ireland’s greatest athletes, the Cobh native, now 42, won a silver medal at the Sydney Games in the 5,000m. She also won a string of medals at world, European and cross-country level.

Olivia O’Toole: A 40-year-old from Sheriff St in Dublin’s inner city, Olivia won more 130 caps with Ireland’s women international soccer team and has bagged a record 54 goals. &

Niamh Reid Burke: A 21-year-old Dubliner, Niamh is a second-year student on the sports management and coaching course at Blanchardstown Institute of Technology. She has been a member of the nearby National Aquatic Centre’s spring and platform diving team since she was 12 and has represented Ireland at international events on four occasions. Niamh also plays soccer and received her first cap for Ireland when she was 14. She has 36 underage caps and has been on the FAI ladies’ senior international panel for the last two years.

Henry Shefflin: Routinely described as one of the greatest hurlers of the modern era, the 33-year-old has been a lynchpin of the Kilkenny team that has won a string of All Ireland championships over the last decade.

Tony Sutherland: This summer’s Games could prove bittersweet for Tony, from Navan, Co Meath. He is representing his late son Darren, who won a bronze medal in boxing four years ago in Beijing but who took his own life after turning professional. Tony, a driving instructor, has long been involved in amateur boxing.

Bridget Taylor: Bridget, from Bray in Co Wicklow, will be cheering her daughter Katie on this summer as she vies to secure a boxing gold medal for Ireland. Bridget is one of Ireland’s first ever women’s boxing referees.

John Treacy: The 56-year-old from Villierstown, Co Waterford, etched his name in Irish athletics history by winning the silver medal in the marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Currently chief executive of the Irish Sports Council.

Ruby Walsh: If horse racing was ever included in the Olympics Ruby, 33, would be a serious contender for a medal. He has ridden more than 1,900 winners to date, including two Gold Cups at the Cheltenham Festival.

Adversity fails to dampen Mark’s spirit

The Olympic torch can symbolise many things but, if dealing with adversity is among them, then Mark Pollock has certainly earned the right to carry the flame.

The 36-year-old from Co Down, now a resident of Dublin, has lived an extraordinary life.

A talented rower, he moved to Dublin in the mid-90s as a student at Trinity College at least in part due to its reputation as having one of the most competitive rowing crews.

He had lost the sight in his right eye at the age of five. Then, on the brink of completing his studies and with his rowing career on an upward trajectory, he lost the sight in his left eye due to a detached retina.

“It was devastating,” he says. “I questioned who I was and if I would be able to do anything ever again.”

After some bleak months he finally began work on resuming his rowing career — a venture that proved so successful that by 2002, four years on from his blindness at the age of 22, he was winning medals at the Commonwealth rowing regatta against able bodied competitors.

“My agenda was to do interesting and exciting things,” he says.

More challenges followed: A marathon at the North Pole, marathons in the Gobi Desert,ironman events in the Dead Sea, and high altitude racing in the Everest marathon.

Then, on July 2 in 2010, came another devastating blow. Having returned to his lodgings at the Henley Royal Regatta, Mark had a fall which has left him paralysed from the waist down. Following months in hospital he has been continuing his rehabilitation in Dublin and is now exploring the possibility of using special robotic legs.

The day after he carries the flame he will visit experts in Cambridge to test out one pair of robotic legs, but for the torch event he will be in his wheelchair, guided by fiancee Simone George and other friends.

Afterwards he and Simone will look towards preparing the wedding ceremony that was postponed following the fall in 2010.

Chance for Áine, 12, to meet heroes

Áine Holden is the youngest torch carrier in the relay through central Dublin, with the 12-year-old from Rathoe in Co Carlow admitting she was “shocked” when she discovered she would be involved.

Áine, a gaelscoil student, will receive the torch from Jedward and run 300m with it from outside the GPO on O’Connell St before passing it to former Leinster winger Shane Horgan. The Grimes twins are among the celebrities she is keen on meeting during the torch relay — the others being Sonia O’Sullivan and Kilkenny hurler Henry Shefflin.

“Most of my friends love Jedward so they are pretty excited,” she said. “My mum and dad are from Kilkenny and I play camogie with Burren Rangers so I’m looking forward to meeting Henry Shefflin.”

Áine was selected for the torch run after her name was picked out of a hat by organisers of the Community Games, in which she has taken part almost every year since the age of five.

Áine will be met outside Croke Park early on Wednesday morning before being whisked away to join the band of torch-bearers as they prepare for the run through the city centre. It means no school that day and the chance to gather memories that will last a lifetime.

Eddie carries torch for his community

Eddie Byrne’s response to being told he was to carry the Olympic flame? A classic Dublin “Ah, stop!”

The 54-year-old is a machine operator at the Cadbury’s factory, but in terms of Willie Wonka-style dreams coming true, the news that he would be carrying the torch was it.

Eddie has been coaching at Baldoyle Boxing Club on the city’s northside for years, and he himself used to box at the Transport Club on Sheriff St.

Now living in East Wall, he believes some of the children in training have Olympic potential.

“I have been a sports person all my life and always been involved in sport,” he says.

“To me, I’m carrying the torch for the boxing club and the people of Baldoyle and East Wall.

“The penny only dropped two weeks ago when someone reminded me that Muhammad Ali had carried the flame [in Atlanta 1996].”

A father of four children, his youngest child is just three-and-a-half months old. Everyone appears to be as excited as Eddie about the torch relay, following his selection by Cadbury which came after an application process among the staff at the factory.

“It’s hard to believe,” he says of his selection. “I’m honoured.”

Mubarak pays tribute to adopted city

It’s a long way from Somalia to Clanbrassil St, but that is the journey made by Mubarak Habib. The latest leg of it will see him carry the Olympic flame in his adopted city.

Habib, 49, is from the southern part of Somalia but left for Ireland, via some time in Kenya, arriving here as an asylum seeker in late 1996.

His status here was secured within a year, meaning he and his wife and four children could begin a new life.

That has included working as a project officer for groups such as the Africa Centre. He was not immune to the impact of the recession, however, and in 2009 the centre said it could no longer afford to keep him on.

He eventually began work as a project officer with the Dublin Multicultural Centre, but has volunteered for Sport Against Racism Ireland (SARI) — which nominated him for the torch relay — since 1997.

He is a little bashful when it comes to his selection for the torch relay.

“Things like this do not happen every time. It is a once in a lifetime experience and it’s a great honour. I also know there are people out there doing more things than me or better things than me, but I said to myself ‘maybe this time it’s me’.”

Come Wednesday it will be him, carrying the flame on Clanbrassil St and thinking about how far he has come.

Paralympian hails change in attitudes

The oldest women taking part in the torch relay is 70-year-old Anne Ebbs, whose links to the Olympic movement go back to the 1960s.

Anne, from Drogheda, first became involved in the Paralympics in the late 1960s and says the changes in the perception of Paralympic athletes has surprised and delighted her.

“The change that has taken place since then, you wouldn’t recognise it. There is much more recognition of the movement and the abilities of the people, and a lot more respect as well.”

Anne, a wheelchair user, has competed in four Paralympic Games in table tennis. Her last was in 1984, but four years later she was chef de mission for the Paralympic team in Seoul in South Korea.

In 1987, she set up the Paralympic Council of Ireland and was also an administrator of sport with the Irish Wheelchair Association.

Her tireless work for the Paralympic movement was recognised when she was told she would be taking part in the torch relay.

“I am looking forward to it,” she says, adding that her niece, Niamh Synnott, will help her prepare.

By 10.04am she will be bracing herself to receive the torch from former Ireland winger Shane Horgan. “All I hope is that it’s not raining,” she says.


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