Friday, July 1, 2016

Celebrating our Paralypian pioneers

One of Ireland’s first ever Paralympic athletes, Oliver Murphy, will be honoured at the Paralympics Ireland More Than Sport fundraising ball  tomorrow, Saturday July 2.

The marks 57 years to the day since an accident at work decided the course of his life.

“An accident at work that night left me with a broken spine. I nearly died a number of times as I was taken to hospital. The medical staff did a great job on me, thank God, as I very nearly wouldn’t have been here today,' he says.

“Thankfully though, I pulled through and while I had to adjust to life in a wheelchair I had, and still have, incredible support from family and friends.”

Just one year later he, along with Fr Leo Close, Jack Kerrigan, Joan Horan and Jimmy Levins, travelled to Rome for the 1960 Paralympic Games – a Games that would kickstart paralympic sport in Ireland.

It was after those games that Murphy and his team mates founded the Irish Wheelchair Association - an organisation that would change the Irish sporting landscape of Ireland  forever.

“We came home from Rome that year after an incredible time. From there, we formed the IWA and focused primarily on promoting sport. It was all about letting people know that they could take part in sport no matter what.”

Murphy will be honoured, alongside fellow Paralympic athlete Anne Ebbs, on Saturday night as part of a new Paralympic Recognition Programme. All the Paralympic athletes who have represented Ireland at the games over the years will receive a unique number and pin to recognise their achievement.  Murphy will receive the number one pin this coming weekend and Anne Ebbs the number 22, while a special event to recognise all Irish Paralympic athletes since 1960 will take place next year in 2017.

Anne Ebbs, a Paralympic athlete who represented Ireland at the Paralympic Games from 1972 to 1984, wining  silver in 1972 and 1984 and bronze in 1980,  went on to have a considerable career as a sports administrator.  She was the driving force behind the foundation of the Paralympic Council of Ireland (now Paralympics Ireland) in 1987, and served as the organisation’s Secretary General until her retirement in 2008. She was also a longtime member of the Irish Sports Council board.

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