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Laois athlete and coaches ready to fly the flag for the upcoming Special Olympics Games

Coaches and Athlete from Laois, Kenneth Kavanagh, Keith Murphy and Etta Hayes in attendance at the Special Olympics Ireland official launch Team Ireland for the 2019 Word Summer Games at the Carlton Hotel Tyrellstown in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Two Laois coaches and a Laois athlete are getting set for the upcoming Special Olympic Games in Abu Dhabi this March.

Ballybrittas man Keith Murphy is representing Team Ireland on the men’s basketball squad.

Twenty-nine year old Keith is part of the Palmerstown Wildcats Special Olympics Club in Dublin and will join 90 other Special Olympics Ireland athletes who are travelling to Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics World Games.

Two Laois coaches are also making the trip to the Middle East for the Games.

Kenneth Kavanagh is joining Team Ireland as a coach and tutor while Etta Hayes from Kylebrook Equestrian centre is an equestrian coach for the Games.

Last year Kenneth received a Distinguished Service Award from Special Olympics Ireland during the Special Olympics Ireland AGM.

Etta is highly distinguished in both Special Olympics Ireland and equestrian circles.

Taking place between 14-21 March 2019, Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the largest sporting and humanitarian event in the world this year.

Supported by a volunteer management team of 39, Team Ireland will join 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from 170 countries at the Games.

Athletes from right across Ireland will compete in 12 sports: athletics, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, equestrian, football, golf, gymnastics, kayaking, swimming and table tennis.

Head of Delegation for Team Ireland Emma McMenamin said: “These athletes are extremely focused and determined and like any athlete facing into a major competition, they are putting 100 percent into their training.

“It was great to see how excited the athletes are to be part of this huge event. To represent Team Ireland and compete on the World Stage in Abu Dhabi is a big honour and one these Special Olympics athletes are not taking lightly.”

Ahead of the official launch, President Michael D. Higgins sent a message of support to Team Ireland athletes. He said: “Being chosen to represent your country on the international stage is a great honour indeed. It is a tribute, not only to your great talent as athletes, but also to your dedication, hard work and perseverance; qualities which make you inspirational role models and admirable ambassadors for Ireland.

“I thank you for your commitment to representing our country so proudly on the international stage and assure you that, as you travel to Abu Dhabi, you bring with you the support and goodwill of all of the people of Ireland.

“May I wish each and every one of you every success and many precious moments of enjoyment and happiness at the 2019 Games. May I also commend those who have encouraged and assisted you on your journey to date including your coaches and family members.

“I have no doubt that Ireland’s great reputation at the World Summer Games will be further enhanced by Team Ireland’s performance in Abu Dhabi, and that you will make us very proud indeed.”

Special Olympics Ireland is first and foremost a sports organisation and charity that supports children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

They currently have 7,985 registered athletes participating in 15 sports in 313 clubs around Ireland.

Athlete Keith Murphy from Co. Laois. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

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Siún Lennon joined LaoisToday in a full-time capacity after studying Journalism and New Media in the University of Limerick. She hails from Rosenallis and her interests vary from news, sports and politics.