Galway’s Pocket Rocket

Image: Lucasz Langowski

by Brian Donnellon

    Sinead Keon will be one of Ireland’s entrants in this autumn’s World Dwarf Games in Canada, and she will be representing us in three different sports, shot put, javelin and table tennis, the latter of which she is the defending champ from the 2013 games. All of that is impressive on its own, but the fact she is just 19 years old is jaw dropping.

A Galway girl from Woodford, Sinead is currently studying in her second year of business in GTI, but has bigger aspirations in what she wants to achieve both in the short and long term.

At 19, there is a long future for Sinead competing in Athletics at the highest levels. Having only been sportingly active since 2012, when she was inspired watching the Paralympics, there is still plenty of room for progression, but Sinead didn’t take long to reach new heights as just a year after beginning her journey at the 2013 World Dwarf Games, she competed in, and won the table tennis at the tender age of 15, an age where most of us were just happy to get through the Junior cert.

She isn’t even part of the Irish Paralympic squad yet, which is surprising given the level she has already reached. She is a member of the development squad and trains 6 days a week, mostly at her local athletics club in Loughrea under the guidance of her coach Mary Barrett. Along with that, she trains in the engine room gym in Portumna and the Kingfisher gym in Galway.

Sinead claims one of the main difficulties she faces is not being in the Irish paralympic squad. She doesn’t receive any funding to compete and has to raise all the money for herself and her coaches to go to the competitions, which is another ball to juggle along with being a full-time student and as dedicated to training as she is.

With fewer Irish competitors going to these games than the last, down to 9 from 14, there will be more pressure on Sinead and co to bring home medals, but there is a quiet confidence in Sinead, she doesn’t come across as cocky, she seems humble but there is a steeliness in her eyes, a determination that she will achieve what she sets out to do.

When asked how many medals will she bring home, I got a direct and firm answer of “I’d like three”. She then added “if I got one I’d be happy”.

Talking to her about her aims for after the games again she was quick with her response, “Tokyo 2020”, she stated. She is also considering taking up a fourth sport in badminton. She will be taking a year break from her studies after she completes the level 6 this year, which will allow her to focus on her sporting career and hopefully progress on to the Irish Paralympic squad and another step closer to her Tokyo 2020 dream.

One would be forgiven for being overawed by the whole situation, yet Sinead seems to take it all in her stride. The way she talks about looking forward to the whole games there’s that confidence again, “ya I can’t wait, a bit of sunshine as well!”. Such a beautifully Irish response, representing her country at the World Games and she talks about the weather. But that is what makes a champion, she can see the bigger picture, she doesn’t get bogged down by minor issues and appears to truly enjoy the buildup and event itself.

We as a community in the west of Ireland need to support our own and Sinead will be hosting a fundraising night on April 1st, at Elsie’s bar, Woodford, and all donations will go towards getting Sinead to Canada to compete in the games.

The link below is to Sinead’s fundraising page and I urge all people to help in any way possible!