Longford swimmer Patrick Flanagan pictured during a Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games team announcement in Dublin Pic: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Councillors in the Longford Municipal District have expressed their desire to see more support in Longford town for the county’s athletes.
At last week’s meeting of Longford Municipal District, Cllr Peggy Nolan expressed her “bitter disappointment” that there is not more bunting around the town for Olympians Darragh Greene and Derek Burnett, who competed in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, as well as Longford swimmer, Patrick Flanagan, who will compete in the Paralympic Games this month.
Just moments after finishing 23rd overall in the 200m breaststroke heats at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre yesterday, Longford Olympian Darragh Greene told RTE Sport that he loved every minute of his Olympic experience.
“If you walk up the town from one end to the other, you’d never imagine that it is a town that wants to rebrand itself, that wants to give off the best impression, that this little county could send three - and but for an error in paperwork or whatever, we could’ve sent four Olympians from this county,” said Cllr Nolan.
“When it was made public that we would have three people representing us before Patrick Flanagan was ever announced as a paralympian, I asked that the town be decked in bunting, flags and banners to show our absolute pride that these people have brought to us through their skills and dedication.
“I have to say I’m bitterly disappointed that it didn’t happen. The council got some signs printed and they have them up on the bypass. I would ask that they extend the number of signs that are put up for the two Olympians to at least six on every approach road to the town from all directions for our paralympian Patrick Flanagan.”
Cllr Nolan hit out at the Chamber of Commerce with whom she said the council engaged to encourage businesses to hang buntings that they have for St Patrick’s Day and other occasions.
“Nothing happened. It’s a little bit late now but it still would show that we have pride in the people that fly the flag for Longford,” she said.
“It’s my belief that the Chamber of Commerce is there to support business, to promote the town and the county but I haven’t seen it on this occasion so as far as I’m concerned, they’re not doing what they are there to do.
“Businesses are on their knees. The Chamber is the place to go and the people that should be promoting business and what better way to promote a town than to promote the good news?
“We were saying during the pandemic we’re all in this boat together. Well, I’ll tell you, we weren’t even in a canoe when it came to promoting these men who are trying to fly the flag for Longford and bringing world honours to this town.
“Are we throwing in the towel and saying they’re not going to do any good so what’s the point? I think it’s outrageous.”
Cllr Seamus Butler disagreed with Cllr Nolan that the fault is on the doorstep of the Chamber of Commerce.
“I think blaming the Chamber of Commerce for lack of bunting when we haven’t been able to run, for the last two years, the St Patrick’s Day parade is a bit rich,” he said.
“Longford County Council have a sports committee and surely that was the vehicle on this occasion that should be coordinated with. Castigating the Chamber is not really on. I think we should be working in this together - all of us. And yes, I’m proud of our Longford Olympians. To get to the Olympics is a huge achievement and we have so much talent here now and I can see in the future we’ll have more.
“You’ve seen businesses that have been closed for 400 days. This is the most traumatic period businesses have come through and I think in all fairness, it’s not the fault of the Chamber of Commerce.”
Other council colleagues were eager to express their pride and support for not just the county’s Olypmians and Paralympian, but also for athlete Cian McPhilips who broke a 45-year-old European record last week.
“I’d just like to congratulate our Olympians who have represented our county and our country with great pride and distinction,” said Cllr Gerry Hagan.
“It was very encouraging to watch Darragh Greene in both his races. In his interviews after he highlighted his pride in where he’s from - Newtownforbes and Longford - and it’s great to hear Longford being mentioned in a positive light in sporting media, which is worldwide at the moment. Also Derek Burnett is currently competing in the shooting.
“I’d also like to note that this week was a very special week where Cian McPhilips broke a former Longford great athlete, Ray Flynn’s 45-year-old record in the 1500m. He broke that 45-year-old record which is another significant milestone in the development of our super athlete Cian McPhilips.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Fianna Fáil Cllr Martin Monaghan.
“I think now, as a county, we have to give all these young people all the support we can. This is the future. Our young people are coming up. We’ve waited a long time for this,” he said.
“I think if we can harness the talents that they have and harness the sellability that they have, it would be a great step for us as a county with our tourism.
“We just need to puff up our chest, broaden our shoulders and say we’re very, very proud of these people and we want to use them for the benefit of Longford.”
A public appeal has tonight been made for ex pats residing in Gran Canaria to provide urgent assistance to a Longford man who remains in hospital after falling ill last month.
A major fundraising drive is underway to aid Longford woman Laura Gilmore Anderson in her ongoing fight against incurable cancer.
Derek Burnett's Olympic dream has come to an end after the Longford man came up short in his attempts to clinch a place in the men's trap shooting final.
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