This past week has been an eye opener for me following visits to Castlerea and Creggs. Most of the talk in the sporting world in the last seven days has been about Irish Rugby, Conor McGregor and Irish football. Historic wins in Chicago, New York and Vienna have catapulted Irish sport back into the headlines.
My visits to the town of Castlerea and the half parish of Creggs provided me with an insight into the effort and dedication required to create a success story at grassroots level.
In Castlerea, I met the confident young kickboxer, Jordan McCarthy, who juggled schoolwork with training sessions. He’s one of many young Irish Martial Arts students inspired by global superstars like Conor McGregor and his coach, John Kavanagh.
On Monday night I visited Creggs, where the junior football champions of Roscommon are gearing up for a crack at Mayo champions Louisburgh. Lads have been regularly travelling back from the UK to tog out for the club. This type of dedication can be seen in sports clubs across Roscommon throughout the year.
These local stories come in a week when Irish Rugby has launched a campaign to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 and showcase our wonderful rugby pedigree on the international stage. This of course is happening already and the recent victory over the All Blacks was not only historic but also inspired by athletes developed in local clubs and schools.
It’s therefore vital to highlight our local athletes and encourage them in their endeavours. After all, an Athlone man smashed through the All Blacks for the pivotal try in that historic win, Castlerea’s Jordan McCarthy is a double world champion, and local cyclist, Daire Feeley, has recently signed for UC Monaco in France.
Homegrown sports stars have been providing international success stories for so long that perhaps it’s time to reconsider whether we’re ‘punching above our weight’, or just bloody good at producing talent. I believe it’s the latter.