WEXFORD TEENAGE SENSATION DARRAGH MCDONALD WINS PARALYMPIC SILVER FOR IRELAND IN THE POOL
Irish teenage swimming sensation fourteen year old Darragh Mc Donald won Paralympic silver tonight for Ireland in the 400m freestyle (S6 class) in the Water Cube in Beijing. The Wexford swimmer qualified second fastest for the final from this morning’s two heats of the event, when he swam a massive PB and new Irish record of 5:13.68 to win heat one.
In front of his parents Caroline and Derek, many Irish team mates, and a packed Water Cube, to thunderous cheering the Gorey native showed tremendous nerve and focus for his tender years in tonight’s final. He destroyed this morning’s PB by just under four seconds hitting the wall in second place in 5:09.75; breaking his Irish record for the second time inside the space of a few hours.
The final was won in world record time by the reigning world champion Anders Olsson of Sweden in 4:48.31. With Olsson always going to be in command McDonald went out like lightening and by the second turn had edged the rest of the field. McDonald, who lines out for Asgard Swim Club in Arklow and is coached by John Keely continued to stretch his lead over the next 300metres and had a whopping 10.7 seconds to spare over the bronze medalist Matt Whorwood of Great Britain at the finish.
Afterwards Ireland’s latest medalist at these Games said of his medal winning performance: “Coming here my objective was to make a final. I thought that is as close as I thought I would get to anything. I never thought I’d get this near this fast. It’s great; I never thought anything like this could happen.”
There was no doubting the effort McDonald put in to secure his podium finish: “I’m wrecked after that race I have to say, I thought I’d have to be dragged out of it!”, he quipped.
McDonald’s unexpected medal brings the Irish tally to four at these Games after Jason Smyth’s sensational 100m (T13) win on the track last night, Micheal McKillop’s 800m (T37) victory on Wednesday, and the leader of the pack bronze medalist Gay Shelly in the Individual Boccia competition on Tuesday last.
A beaming Geraldine Conway Irish swim team manager said of McDonald: “I was quietly confident all along. When I saw him this morning what he did; a massive PB and then this evening he was very centred, and very quietly confident in his own ability. That’s what the training has done, being with the group and the team. For me it is all about self esteem and I knew that was going to come to the fore tonight. To get in too the final is massive, to get a medal is truly unbelievable.”
In those morning heats of the 400m (S6) Johnny Cummings also swam for Ireland and was actually pitted in the same heat as McDonald. Cummings finished in fifth behind his Irish team mate and impressively swam a PB record in 5:50.54, shaving nearly three seconds off his previous mark.
Also today the 7-a-side football team emphatically beat the home team China 4-1 in their classification match at the Olympic Green Hockey field to set up a 5th/6th place play off with Holland on Tuesday morning after the Dutch defeated Great Britain 4-2 in their classification game today.
The Irish started brightly applying the pressure early and got their reward on ten minutes when Gary Messett slotted the ball into the back of the net to get the Irish off the mark. Two minutes later Messett charged forward again and laid it off to team mate Luke Evans out left who whipped it back across the edge of the box to the feet of Alan O’Hara who cooly slotted it home for two.
Evans and Messett teamed up well for the remainder of the half to torment the Chinese defence with Finbarr O’Riordan featuring strongly as well as Alan O’Hara with a host of chances that just went either side of the posts for Paul Cassin’s men.
After the half time break the Irish came out in determined mood and two minutes in O’Hara made it three with Messett getting his second another couple of minutes later. Mindful of the intense heat manager Cassin utilised his bench and Mark Jones, Darren Kavanagh and Kieran Devlin all came on and played their part. With a little over ten minutes to go the Irish switched off momentarily in defence and the Chinese snuck in for a goal to make the final scoreline of 4-1 to Ireland a little more respectable.
Afterwards Irish manager Cassin said: “It was good performance, it gave me an opportunity to look at the substitutes and gave them an opportunity to try and impress me for the Dutch game.”
He added: “I can’t wait to play Holland now. I am sure Holland were up there in the stands and would look at the second half and saying we can beat these. They won’t find it easy though. Fifth or sixth place now, our performance here is an improvement on Athens, we achieved what we set out to do and considering the week we’ve had, it’s brilliant.”
Cassin’s Irish team finished eighth at the Athens Games four years ago.
This morning Irish flag bearer Patrice Dockery was on the track in the last event of her 6th and final Paralympic Games campaign. Finishing sixth in heat two of the 200m (T53 Class) in a time of 35.38secs, Dockery bowed out of the Games for one last time as the result was not enough to progress to tomorrow’s final. Dockery is one of Ireland’s most distinguished and well loved Paralympians and amid scene’s of emotion after the race said: “I gave it everything, I have no regrets”. A former European and World championship medalist, Dubliner Dockery retires after 23 years of representing Ireland with distinction on the international stage.
In the spectacular Ming’s Tomb road cycling venue, the last of Ireland’s bikes were in action today. Catherine Walsh with sighted pilot rider Joanna Hickey and Michael Delaney with sighted pilot rider David Peelo, both took part in the Road Race (B&VI Class). Delaney and Peelo covered the 96.8km distance in a time of 2.29.32, finishing in 16th place, fourteen minutes behind the winners Poland. Walsh and Hickey finished in ninth position overall on the women’s 72.6km course, with a time of 2.03.14 bringing to an end an excellent competition for the Irish cycling team at these Games achieving numerous personal bests, Irish records and high finishes at these 2008 Games.
Tomorrow; the second last day of competition for the Irish at these Games sees only two Irish athletes competing. 100m (T13) gold medalist will get his 200m underway with the heats in the morning. Tomorrow evening Dunmanway’s John McCarthy competes in his favoured field event; the club throw in the Bird’s Nest.
For Further Information contact the press officers to the Irish team:
Sinéad McElroy, firstname.lastname@example.org 087-6338512 or 008613911678098
John Fulham, email@example.com 087-2709182 or 008613911678366