Three Co Down businesses have handed the first Northern Irish track and field athlete in 16 years to make an Olympic Games qualifying time an early Christmas present ahead of this weekend’s European Cross Country Championships.
Kerry O’Flaherty, one of Ireland’s best track and field athletes, has already met the qualifying time in the 3k Steeplechase required for the Olympic Games next summer in Brazil. Now with the help of three Downpatrick businesses – McGrady Insurance, M.B McGrady & Co. Chartered Accountants and McGrady Financial Services – Kerry will be able to fund months of altitude training in the Pyrenees as part of her preparation for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Hailing from Newcastle in Co. Down, Kerry’s winter training includes cross country. This weekend, she is part of the Irish team, participating in Hyères in France at the 2015 European Cross Country Championships, and there are high hopes for an Irish team medal.
Following competing at this year’s World Championships in Beijing, Kerry is well aware of the standards of the best female chasers in the world, and for Kerry, preparation in the run up to Rio 2016 is key. This significant sponsorship from the County Down businesses is crucial in helping to fund high altitude training, which is essential for athletes who are competing at the top of their game.
“In 2009 I decided to follow my dream of reaching an Olympics and since then, have committed 100% to reaching Rio 2016,” she explained.
“To perform at the highest level, you have to be absolutely dedicated 24/7, therefore there’s not the normal security of employment for living expenses, travels and other expenses.
“The support of all three McGradys’ businesses will help to ensure that I can train in Font Romeu in the Pyrenees mountains after Easter, and I’m incredibly grateful for their support as it will help me get into the best shape possible for achieving my goal,” said Kerry.
With limited funding available, Kerry reached out to local businesses in a bid to help her to realise her dream of attending the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Fintan McGrady, Managing Director with McGrady Insurance, commented: “We’re immensely proud to be funding a central part of Kerry’s preparation for Rio. Her drive and determination are admirable and all three businesses are 100% behind Kerry’s efforts. We’ll be following Kerry’s progress and our teams are hopeful of seeing a local girl from Newcastle achieve her dreams on the world stage come August 2016.”
Training seven days a week, for the last six years, at 34, this may be one of Kerry’s last opportunities to reach an Olympics. As a professional athlete, it’s not a given that there’s funding, therefore for Kerry and other athletes, private sponsorship is crucial in helping Northern Irish sportspeople to perform at the highest level.
“Over the years, our businesses have grown in Downpatrick thanks to our community and their ongoing custom. Therefore, when we heard about a local athlete, who was the first in 16 years to reach the track & field qualifying time for the Olympics, we felt that it right to step up and help Kerry to represent Co. Down, Northern Ireland and Ireland in Rio.
“By joining forces with McGrady Insurance and McGrady Financial Services, we’ve been able to increase our donation, and we’re thrilled to be able to help Kerry on her ‘Road to Rio’,” adds Malachy McGrady, Partner with M.B McGrady & Co. Chartered Accountants.
Managing Director of McGrady Financial Services, Philip McCrickard, says: “As a member of Newcastle Athletics Club, I’ve been following Kerry’s progress over the last few years, and the grit and determination that she’s shown to be the very best is hugely inspiring. Kerry has already achieved so much, representing Ireland across the world, and as local business owners, we’re proud to be supporting one of Ireland’s finest athletes.”
Notorious as one of the most difficult track and field events, the 3,000m Steeplechase is Kerry’s chosen event. In July past, Kerry and two other Irish runners - Michelle Finn (from Cork) and Sarah Treacy (from Meath) - became the first-ever trio of Irish athletes to all achieve the Olympic standard of 9.45.00 at one event in an unprecedented historic night for Irish athletics. Kerry’s time of 9.42.61 was also inside the world championship standard of 9.44.00, enabling Kerry to compete in Beijing earlier in the year and established her as Ireland’s number 1 female steeplechaser for 2015.
McGrady Insurance, M.B McGrady & Co. Chartered Accountants and McGrady Financial Services are all situated on St. Patrick’s Avenue in Downpatrick. For further information on Kerry O’Flaherty, please see www.runkerryrun.com.