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Wexford sports stars on scholarships in the United States among those honoured at Rosslare civic awards

Hosted by Cathaoirleach of the RMD, Councillor Lisa McDonald, the awards began with an accolade for one of Mark’s fellow handballers, a man who has led the way for younger sportsmen and women to follow. Recognised for his Excellence in Sport, David Stanners is a 19-time county champion, 11-time Leinster champion, and three-time All-Ireland winner, and all this for a man who came to the sport quite late.

“David is a real role model and is a relative latecomer to the game having only began playing 15 years ago,” said Cllr McDonald. “He knew he had to hone his skills and his fitness to achieve at the highest level and that was what he did. He has made a lot of sacrifices but that has been the secret to his success. He has passed on his trade to many young people in the St Martin’s handball club and is joined here by his family and members of the club, who are all very proud of him.”

It was two particular members of his family that David wished to thank upon receiving his award, singling out his brothers Sean and James for not giving him “anything easy on the court and constantly pushing him forward”. Instrumental in the development of a new one-wall handball court in Murrintown Community Centre, David said that hall held special memories for him, not all of them sports-related.

“The court will be a fantastic addition for boys, girls, men, and women of all ages, it’s an extremely inclusive game because it’s a non-contact sport, a sport for all, a sport for life. I played many sports on that court, I even had my first slow dance there,” he said.

The next recipient was unable to attend the ceremony in person as he was, according to his father, currently “flying a two-seater plane over Salt Lake City”. Now attending Minnesota State University on a sports scholarship, Trinity’s Mark Doyle has long been one of the county’s brightest sporting stars as Cllr McDonald explained.

“Mark hails from a well-known handball family and lots of them have won handball titles through the years,” she said. “He has won ten national titles, two All-Ireland titles, and two world championships. we in the Rosslare district are very proud of his achievements and, in particular, the scholarship he has earned to Minnesota State University on the strength of his handball skills.”

Still only 19, Mark is now ranked 11 on the US pro tour, and his dad Robbie said they knew from an early stage that this was a young man destined for a career in the sport.

“From the time he was three or four years old we knew he was going to be a handballer, there was nothing else in his head,” said Robbie. “He used to be in the old house in Traceystown, where my father was reared, rooting for old medals, memorabilia, books; as a little child he’d be running across the yard with handball books. we knew it was embedded in him to play.”

However, Robbie said nothing came easy for the handball-fanatic.

“He was no better than any juvenile when he started, he got a lot of beatings coming up and I always say to any juvenile there’s only one way to achieve, you have to train and put in the hours. Mark trained hard, he trained every day and at the moment he’s reaping his rewards. But it’s not easy out there, he’s training every day and working a job in the college.”

The next group to be honoured have a storied history of their own, one stretching back to the 1970s, one only made possible by the dedication of commitment of a group of people whose work will undoubtedly stand the test of time. Now in its 52nd year the Kilmore Parish Journal has, according to Cllr McDonald, “recorded the highs and lows of the life in the parish over the years” thanks to the efforts of people like late editor Hilary Murphy, his successor Seamus O’Brien, historian John Power, and committee member Seamus O’Keefe.

Although Claragh Keane is preparing for her Leaving Cert later this summer, she too will be attending a US college in the coming months, a result of her prowess on both the athletics track and the rough terrain of cross country circuits. A member of the DMP Athletics Club in Drinagh, Claragh is the current under-20 All-Ireland champion in the 5,000 metres and also holds the national junior title in the 3,000 metre steeplechase.

“I can remember Clarragh down by the DMP as a nine-year-old, running in the wind and the rain in cross-country, and during Covid-19 she was always out on the road,” reflected Cllr McDonald. “She has medalled in every championship since the age of 13, represented her school The Presentation College on an international level, won club, county, province, and national titles, and is now on the Irish cross-country team.”

Noting how Claragh’s career path was following similar lines to those of Olympians Sonia O’Sullivan and Catherina McKiernan, Cllr McDonald revealed that the young athlete has received an athletics scholarship to Iona University in New York where she will compete at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division one level.

And Claragh was quick to pay tribute to those who have supported her in her journey thus far.

“You might have seen me running on the pitch at St Martin’s and thought it’s a really individual sport but I have a really big team around me who look after me and support me, I wouldn’t be here without them so just want to say thank you to all of them,” she said upon receiving her award.

Underlining the diverse nature of the RMD and the range of skills possessed by its residents, the next two awards were presented to men who have achieved excellence in an entirely different sporting field. Rathangan’s Nick Cullen is a current All-Ireland ploughing champion and, along with Clongeen’s Martin Kehoe, he received a civic award from the district.

Martin’s achievements date all the way back to 1988 when he was crowned Ireland’s strongest man and he counts14 national ploughing titles, one European and three world titles among his honours. The last award of the evening went to the late Margaret Gough, the pioneering academic from Rackardstown, who was the first Irish woman to receive a doctorate in mathematics in 1931.

In addition to South East Technological University (SETU) naming a programme in her honour, the Irish Mathematics Teachers’ Association (IMTA) has recently created the Maggie Gough Competition, an online competition which tests the problem solving skills of Junior and Senior Cycle students. Maggie’s niece Elsie Redmond, was on hand to collect the award

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