Unity of community spirit was a prevalent feature during the recent Athlone Croi na hÉireann Festival awards presentation ceremony which took place in the Sheraton Hotel.
Despite seating arrangements being made for 230 and an additional 40 chairs it was still standing room only when the ceremony commenced with an official welcome from Cathaoirleach, Westmeath County Council and committee treasurer, Cllr Frankie Keena.
Cllr Keena welcomed the Jadotville Tigers who were honoured as Grand Marshalls for the St Patrick’s Day parade, local clubs and organisations, their coaches and mentors and the various communities including Polish, Indian, African and Ukrainian natives now living in Athlone.
The Cathaoirleach afforded his appreciation to the judges, sponsors and fellow committee members for the support and hard work shown which enabled a very successful event to occur and one which was enthusiastically received by the local community.
Croi na hÉireann Festival chairman, John Henson, acted as MC for the night and committee members, Cllr Frankie Keena, Deirdre Berry, Marie Leahy, William Leahy, Pat Fitzpatrick and Dermot Mc Elwaine ensured the smooth running of the presentation ceremony.
“I would like to sincerely thank the hardworking committee who put in many hours to ensure that this event was successfully hosted.
“There has been a great ‘buy in’ from the entire community, immense support received from all the sporting bodies and our sponsors and very positive feedback from the general public. The various media platforms have played a major role in promoting the five day event and the spin-off has been very beneficial to some of the groups in particular.
“The Westmeath Minotaurs and the Philladelphia ‘Blue Flame’ game received great coverage and they raised in excess of €6,000 for a Cancer Hospice charity in Mullingar. They have acknowledged that the publicity provided by the festival played a big role in this.
“The Lough Ree ‘Access for All’ boat received a sum of money raised by the Lough Ree Angling Federation competition and this should prove beneficial to all going forward, while Athlone Boat Club, Athlone Sub Aquq, RNLI and the Athlone River Safety Awareness group also availed of the opportunity to showcase their talents to a receptive local public.
“Pioneers Football Club hosted a very successful underage soccer blitz which involved over 90 children from various clubs competing.
“Michael Ganly very kindly sponsored a great fishing competition which featured all the angling clubs on Lough Ree. This was in memory of his friend and fellow angler Gerry ‘Doc’ O’ Doherty and it was lovely to have Gerry’s widow Marie present the trophy to the winning club.
“I would like to pay tribute to those who travelled the extra mile with us - Kenny O Brien of Athlone Extrusions, Mike Ganly, Athlone Boat Club, Athlone and Garrycastle GAA clubs, and Caoimhe O Connell who hosted the very popular treasure hunt.
“The various communities united during our showpiece event, the St Patrick’s Day parade, to provide a colourful backdrop to the very diverse population within Athlone, a true representation of the unique spirit which embodies our town.
“Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to the Sheraton Hotel who provided such a magnificent venue and major sponsorship of our awards presentation ceremony and also to Aidan Higgins who provided the music, photo and video projections during the event,” Mr Henson commented.
• Parade Groups Individual Award Winners
1st - Athlone Karate Club
2nd - Attitude Dance Academy
3rd - Southern Gaels Hurling Club
• Parade Groups Community Award Winners
Joint Winners - Polish and Indian communities
Environmental - The Pollinator
Social Inclusion Award - The African Community
• Festival Special Community Awards
Athlone GAA Club
Garrycastle GAA Club
Athlone Basketball Club
Jadotville Tigers - Paddy Hogan , John Gorman and Joe O Keane.
Judges - Jean Coyle, Fr Declan and Kate Whooley