It seems fairly certain that when Brian Smyth was approached in relation to attaining a wheelchair pass to attend a Meath game for yours truly 25 years ago that it had been a long time since such a request went in before – if it ever had. The impact which the beginning of that journey has had on my life has been incalculable.
Nowadays, however, there tends to be two requests for such tickets as these wheels usually end up in proximity to another local youngster, Sean Hughes, and his parents Fran and Cathy. Recent years haven’t seen Meath supporters with much opportunity to be cheerful but in the athletics sphere there have been bountiful displays of brilliance lately.
Many will of course know this already but, aside from an inability to be more actively involved in the farming side of things, the biggest cause of angst pertaining to my own circumstances has always been the preclusion from participation in sport. Yes, writing has offered an invaluable avenue to involvement, but there will – no matter how it’s dressed up – be that sense of so near and yet so far.
Though this might for some reason surprise some, it tends to be a source of profound solace to see sportspeople in similar situations to oneself achieve in sport. Double Paralympian and multi talented sportsman James McCarthy has long filled the role of inspirational comrade. A billing he shared, it has to be said, in more recent times, with the equally multi talented Bill Byrne.
And then there were three. In just his first year competing in athletics – spanning several disciplines – Sean Hughes has enjoyed tremendous success, representing Dunboyne AC and indeed Ireland with distinction. Gut feeling is, however, that the best may be still to come for this ambitious, driven young man.
“During this year, my first full season competing, I won three major honours, including winning the National Championships in both discus and shot putt”. These successes enabled the teenager take his talents further afield. Specifically, to Coventry, for the equivalent of the national championships and then onto Stoke Mandeville in August for what were “Basically the World Junior Championships for wheelchair users and amputees”.
Success flowed on all fronts, as Sean happily recalls “In Coventry, I won the shot putt and came second in the discus, and set a new Irish record at the Stoke Mandeville meet. Then, in the last event of the year I broke my own record in Cork”. All of that success in a maiden season of competing takes a bit of digesting but the bar has been set even higher.
Rio 2016 is the ultimate goal. To get there, Sean will need all manner of support and backing – financial and otherwise – to ensure that goal is attained. One place he surely won’t lack for any of same is in Dunboyne AC. The club has had an outstanding year on many fronts, garnering success around the globe.
From Paul Gannon turning in an outstanding effort in the Berlin marathon to Sarah Treacy being part of the Irish team which ended up with bronze medals at the European Cross Country Championships before – in the days leading up to Christmas – the club took the team event at the Meath Cross Country Championships – staged in Enfield – for the first time since 1993.
At this juncture, special must also be afforded to the evergreen Seamus Dunne who has successfully completed every staging of the Dublin City Marathon. His seemingly never ending preparations are regularly encountered when these wheels are out on farming expeditions.
Mind you, such has been the apparent growth of popularity in athletics locally in recent times that people of all ages and levels of ability and interest are also regularly encountered on the local landscape whilst they are out getting their kicks.
The successes enjoyed by the club throughout the past season didn’t go unnoticed either, with the famed blue and white recently being announced as Development Club of the Year. With membership numbering 800 or more, the development of further future success – at home and abroad – is surely an ongoing process.