Tullamore will witness a rare family feat on Saturday.
The Ryan clan, Dillon, Jack, Anna, David and Daniel, will compete in the Irish Life Health All-Ireland Schools Track and Field Championships, all five having qualified for schools athletics big day.
They will be ferried in their people carrier from Two-Mile Borris, as always, by their parents Jim Ryan and Aisling Hoey. It will be the first and only time all five can compete together at the All-Ireland Schools with Dillon in first year and Daniel in sixth.
“Last year the wish was that we could get them all to compete in Tullamore,” explains their mother Aisling. “The chances of doing something like that are very slim what with injury and qualification from the East Munsters and Munsters.”
The boys will be representing CBS Thurles, where their father went to school, with Anna competing for Ursuline Thurles.
The family is steeped in athletics. The children started from “zero” when Aisling, who was a sprinter, rang up the local athletics club, Moycarkey Coolcroo, to take on her charges. Daniel was seven at the time with Dillon just two.
They absorbed everything from cross-country to track and field. The family soon realised they were built for speed and power and built a shot put circle and discus circle in their garden.
There has been much success with Daniel one of the leading multi-eventers in the country – he finished 11th in the decathlon at the European Youths last summer and will compete in the senior boys’ 110m hurdles and shot put in Tullamore. Dillon and Anna will compete in their respective junior pole vault competitions while David is in the intermediate boys long jump and Jack in the intermediate shot put.
It’s quite a logistical task to organise them and their travel to training and competitions. They love it though and are always together. Daniel, coached by Gary Power in England, coaches his siblings alongside training and studying for the Leaving Cert. He’s aiming to go to Brunel in London next year.
Their father Jim is based at the Garda College in Templemore where they do a lot of their training when they aren’t in the back garden.
It doesn’t stop there. Jim and Aisling also volunteer for athletics on the administration side. Jim is the Munster delegate on the board of the AAI and the County Tipperary Juvenile Indoor, Track & Field, and schools secretary. Aisling is the Munster Schools Athletics secretary, the Munster Athletics Juvenile PRO, the County Tipperary registrar and IT manager and looks after the East Munster Schools, the Munster Athletics and the Tipperary Athletics websites. They also are involved in Community Games at local level.
Aisling explains the family motto: “We try to live by this: winning is a great feeling but it doesn’t teach you a lot about yourself. Not winning is where the character building comes in, you learn something about yourself when all doesn’t go to plan.”
There will be winning and character building aplenty in Tullamore which is rightfully regarded as the best day on the athletics calendar. The 122-event programme sees athletes qualify from Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht, with events running from 9am through to 6:30pm.
Some of the stars to look out for include senior girls’ Ciara Neville (Castletroy) in the 100m, Sharlene Mawdsley (St Mary’s Newport) in the 200m and 400m, Michaela Walsh (SM&P Swinford) in the shot put and hammer, Mark Smyth (St Fintan’s Sutton) in the senior boys’ 100m and 200m, Aaron Sexton (Bangor) in the intermediate boys’ 100m and 200m, and Darragh McElhinney (Col Pobail Bantry) in the intermediate boys’ 1500m.
Later this evening Mark English (UCD) competes over 800m at the Boston Boost Games and Paul Robinson (St Coca’s) runs over 1500m in the Netherlands.
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