Joanne O’Riordan was the guest of honour at the Roscommon LGFA underage presentations in the Abbey Hotel on Sunday last.
In a witty, humorous and uplifting address to the county’s minor, U-16 and U-14 panels, Joanne stressed that life has no limits. The girls listened attentively as Joanne spoke to them about the challenges that she faced in her own life, overcoming them to live a life that she described as normal.
“Life for me has no limits” was the theme of her talk. “When other people see disability, I see only ability”, she stated.
Despite being one of only seven people in the world born with a condition called Tetra Amelia, which effectively means born without any limbs, her parents treated her as normal from the outset. She humorously recalled a wheelchair match as a ten-year-old where she was sent off for being too competitive.
“That was the end of my brief sporting career”, she quipped.
“Just because I have no limbs doesn’t mean that I don’t have a voice,” she explained to the girls, a reminder of her dispute with a former Taoiseach who reneged on a promise not to cut funding for disability. After her campaign, culminating in a Late Late Show appearance, she managed to get the funding restored.
She later spoke to the United Nations about the role technology played in her life and received a standing ovation — the first speaker to attain this particular honour.
Her brother Steven made a film about her live called “No Limbs, No Limits”, which has been seen by over 15 million people worldwide. She struck a chord with the girls in talking about having wrestling matches with her brother when she was small, recalling an episode when Steven threw her into the air and she hit a chandelier, knocking out two of her front teeth.
Joanne went on to speak about her love of sport and her present role in managing a team in Kerry.
“I am not sure that I am the best person to talk to you girls about winning as my team have lost five county finals in a row. However any group I have talked to have gone on to have success, so maybe the fault is theirs not mine,” she quipped.
She used the analogy of a boat to explain how success can be achieved. The oars are the energy from all the players who must pull together. The boat is the sacrifices that the players make and the bigger the sacrifices, the bigger the boat. Finally the compass of the boat must be directed in a positive direction to achieve success.
Finally, she wished all every Roscommon team success and was delighted to be presented with a Roscommon LGFA top by Secretary Marie McAleer.
Other speakers included former Offaly player and 2017 Rose of Tralee winner Jennifer Byrne; Roscommon captain Sinead Kenny and Roscommon LGFA Development Officer, Shane Curran. Roscommon LGFA Treasurer Sandra Shanagher made a presentation to Jennifer Byrne.
The managers of the various teams introduced their panels. Minor manager Ollie Colgan named his panel that won the Connacht B championship and reached the All-Ireland final. Tommy Beirne and Paddy McTigue introduced their U-16 and U-14 panels that reached Connacht B finals and received runners-up medals.
Shane Curran thanked the coaches of the county’s underage development panels, particularly managers Declan Walshe and Brian Lennon, and highlighted the tremendous work being done with all these players.
Martina Walshe from Ballymore Properties presented kit bags to all the players present. Ballymore were thanked for coming on board as Roscommon LGFA’s main sponsors for 2019. Sponsors of county teams and local competitions were also thanked for their ongoing support.
Sandra Shanagher appealed to clubs and players to support the Roscommon LGFA Mega Christmas Draw in aid of development. MC for a very enjoyable and inspiring occasion was Chairperson Brendan Cregg.