Minister of State with special responsibility for equality, immigration and integration, David Stanton TD, was highly impressed with the wealth of young talent taking part in Ireland’s first indoor diversity games on Tuesday last.
The games were organised by the Offaly Sports Partnership with support from the Department of Justice and Equality’s Communities Integration Fund.
Offaly athletes excelled at the games with schools from Edenderry, Tullamore and Portarlington sending competitors to the Athlone venue.
Speaking on a special visit to Athlone for the Games, Minister Stanton said, “The important contribution that sport can make to integration is acknowledged in the Government’s Migrant Integration Strategy. The Strategy which was published last Spring contains a commitment to explore the potential of sport in the integration of all migrants through encouraging active
participation, volunteering and involvement for all."
"It is for this very reason I established the Communities Integration Fund which has helped Offaly Sports Partnership deliver this wonderful event and supported other local sports initiatives which seek to bring diverse communities together.”
“Projects like this are very important”, said Eamonn Henry of the Offaly Sports Partnership. They allow us to introduce the sport in schools with large numbers of children of migrant parents – after that we try and get some into athletic clubs," he added.
He said that the support of the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration was invaluable to the work being undertaken.
From 10:00 am the Minister was treated to a display of high intensity competitive races in the Athlone International indoor arena by primary and secondary school students. The majority of schools taking part were from Co. Offaly but there were also entrants from Galway, Meath, Laois and Sligo.
Performance of the day went to Nadia Udo-Obong, a sixth class student from Turbbercurry in Sligo. 11 year old Nadia ran the 60m sprint in an impressive 8.34 seconds. Nadia’s father (Enefiok Udo-Obong) holds two Olympic medals from when he competed for Nigeria at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games and her grandmother was also an Olympian.
“It’s in her genes”, said her coach Dermot McDermott. “It would be great to have someone like Nadia run for Ireland when she’s older."
Evan Farrelly representing Oaklands College in Edenderry put in the strongest performance of all Offaly athletes. Bursting out of the blocks the young Tullamore Harriers athlete powered down the track to win the First Year boys 60m sprint in exactly 8 seconds.
Others to make their presence felt were siblings Helen, John and Naomi Ikpotokin from Portarlington in the long sprints. Their parents came to Ireland as asylum seekers where the children were born. All three siblings finished second in the 60m sprints before turning in very fast runs in the long sprints. 10 year old Naomi finished second to Nadia Udo-Obong in the 60m with a time of 8.85 before winning the 300m in 49.63 seconds. 12 year old John was one hundredth of a second behind Evan Farrelly in the 60m. He then won the 200m in 25.8 seconds. 14 year old Helen ran the 60m in 8.17, (two hundredths of a second behind All Ireland sprint champion Erin Taheny) before winning the 200m in 26.64.
Another athlete with a bright future is Laura Bolster from Ashbourne. In 2017 she won national titles in sprinting, hurdling and long jump. Bolster had comfortable wins in both First Year Girls 60m (8.43 seconds) and 200m (28.07 seconds. But it wasn’t just established athletes taking part. Over 200 pupils were showcasing their talent and ability, some for the first time. In the process they were all picking up points for their schools in the team competitions.
Eight overall team trophies were awarded as follows:
3rd/ 4th class girls – St. Philomena’s National School, Tullamore
3rd/ 4th class boys – Scoil Muire Banrion, Edenderry
5th/ 6th class girls – Briarhill National School, Galway
5th/ 6th class boys – Scoil Muire Banrion, Edenderry
1st year girls – Mercy College Sligo
1st year boys – Tullamore College
2nd/ 3rd year girls – Colaiste Iosagain, Portarlington
2nd/ 3rd year boys – St. Mary’s Secondary School, Edenderry
Offaly Sports Partnership is one of 131 organisations supported by the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration in the Department of Justice and Equality through the Communities Integration Fund launched by Minister Stanton last year.
In the past 12 months local communities across Ireland received support through the Communities Integration Fund to play a greater role in promoting integration by providing practical support at a local level to facilitate social inclusion among the migrant population. to deliver locally based projects that contribute to inclusion, diversity and integration.
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