This weekend will see Dundalk play host to one of the Ireland's premier wheelchair basketball events, with upwards of 150 athletes set to take part across the two days.
The competition, which is run by the Irish Wheelchair Association and comprises ten teams from across the country, will be the first major sporting event housed in the newly refurbished Dundalk Sports Centre.
“One of the primary goals of the new facility was that it be wholly inclusive and suitable for all people who want to participate,” says Triona Faapito, sports co-ordinator at the venue. “Our centre covers all bases in that regard, with everything from lifts and changing rooms to wheelchair-accessible toilets.”
“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to host this event and showcase this sport to people of disability as well as the able-bodied.”
Tomorrow will feature the senior competition, while Sunday plays host to a junior round robin for players under the age of 17.
“The nature of the sport in Ireland means the onus is on individual clubs to step-up in terms of hosting individual events, and we’re thrilled to see the facilities on offer in Dundalk.” That is the view of Robbie Hurr, programme co-ordinator with the IWA. “There are big plans for wheelchair basketball both in Dundalk and through the Ardee Sports Project, and we hope to be strongly affiliated with that progress in the future.”
Ms Faapito echoed these plans, noting that the town’s local team, Dundalk Ravens, could have a wheelchair team as early as next month.
“One element of our grant was devoted to investing in the development of a team in the area. To this point we have had to borrow wheelchairs from the IWA itself, but by February we hope to have our own equipment. As it stands, the Ravens already host weekly training sessions for all of our teams. With this development, we will be able to give even more people an opportunity to get involved."