Winning Westmeath athletes honoured in civic reception by council

Westmeath County Council hosted a civic reception on Monday to mark the recent sporting achievements of four Westmeath athletes.

At the ceremony, held in the County Buildings, Mullingar on Monday evening, cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Dollard paid tribute to the sporting achievements of Ballinahown’s Mark Rohan, who won Ireland’s first ever Paracycling World Championship gold medal; Ruth Geerah from Ballinalack, who won a silver medal for Ireland at the 2010 Special Olympics European Games; and Mullingar men Gerry Duffy and Ken Whitelaw, who ran 32 marathons in just 32 days for charity.

A presentation was made to each of the athletes to mark the appreciation of the council and the people of Westmeath.

Speaking at the reception, Cllr Dollard said it was with great honour that he was able to “formally mark our appreciation for the huge sporting success of our four honourees”.

“Ballinahown and Athlone athlete Mark Rohan secured Ireland’s first ever Paracycling World Championship gold medal when he won the H1 Handcycling Road Race in Baie-Comeau Canada in August. Mark won his medal in style by breaking away in the final kilometre.

“Mark was an under-21 footballer with Westmeath but suffered serious injuries in a road accident in 2001. He took up handcycling less than two years ago, having also represented Ireland in wheelchair basketball. We wish to share the pride and joy of his family: Denis, father; Carmel, mother; Robert, brother; and sisters Laura and Nicola in his achievements,” said Cllr Dollard.

Gerry Duffy and Ken Whitelaw, both natives of Mullingar, ran 32 marathons, one in each county on the island of Ireland, in just 32 days.

Speaking of the achievements of the marathon runners, Cllr Dollard explained: “This massive feat was taken on to raise funding for three charities - Irish Autism Action, Autism Northern Ireland, and the Irish Cancer Society. An impressive array of celebrities were persuaded to participate which also further raised the profile of their achievement. Some of these included Eamonn Coughlan, Michael O’Leary, Keith Duffy, Mick Galwey, Henry Shefflin, Bernard Flynn, and Kathryn Thomas.

“The ordinary man or woman salutes the huge preparation and training that you both put into your sport and the special efforts you have made to raise considerable funds for these charities. I understand that one can still make a donation on your website so I urge all, if you haven’t done so, to log on and make a contribution to these worthwhile causes.”

Ruth Geerah from Ballinalack is a member of the Shoot ‘n Stars Special Olympics Club in Mullingar and has been involved in the Special Olympics for the last 12 years, winning several medals at regional and national level.

“This was her first time to represent Ireland and she made us all proud when she won silver at her favourite sport, badminton. The Special Olympics, and Para Olympics, aim to unite the world in celebration of the true power of sport and the belief that sport can help build a world full of joy, respect, and acceptance; a world without false preconceptions, bias, or prejudice,” said Cllr Dollard.

“In winning a silver medal Ruth provided an opportunity for all of us to share in her marvellous achievement and the pride and joy she has brought to her family and friends.”


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