Monday, September 25, 2023

Mullingar businessman playing his part to support local athletes

One Mullingar-based bus­inessman is calling on local businesses to step up and join him in supporting the town’s local sports stars in any way they can.

Dave O’Shea from the Chimera Art Gallery on Oliver Plunkett Street (above Days Bazaar) has been calling Mullingar home for the past eight years.

In the time he has spent living in the town, the Limerick native and ex-military man has taken a keen interest in the sporting careers of the town’s up-and-coming athletes, something which goes back almost two decades when he trained for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“In a previous life I was a reasonably good athlete, and I used to train with other people who were reasonably good athletes as well, but there was nothing there in terms of financial support or training facilities,” Dave said.
“In the early 2000s I got a second chance in sports. I was very friendly with a man by the name of Paul Kiernan who was a brakeman on the Irish bobsleigh team.

“Both Paul and his bobsleigh colleague, Peter Donohoe, were looking for another brakeman for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City Olympics. Because they knew me as a sprinter, I said I’d give it a go.

“I went out to Calgary in Canada for four weeks and trained. Even after a months training, I made the grade, but there was another guy who was more experienced than me, and he got the third place, which was fine. It was a huge experience.”

It was while training in Calgary that Dave realised the cost of being a professional athlete wasn’t cheap.

“I didn’t think much of it at the time, except that when the money ran out, the training ran out. I always said that if I got an opportunity financially, that I would give a dig-out to an aspiring athlete,” Dave continued.

A by-chance meeting with an up-and-coming athlete in Dublin Airport a number of years ago got Dave’s sponsorship drive in motion.

“About four years ago, I was at Dublin Airport picking up an artist colleague.I spotted this guy in Arrivals with a canoe and I recognised him as kayaker Sam Curtis. I introduced myself to him and we got chatting, and I asked him if he’d be interested in a small bit of sponsorship.

“He was delighted and said it would go towards flights and accommodation. He even put Chimera Gallery on the side of his boat! We ended up sponsoring him with about €8,000 over his three-year Olympic cycle. Sadly, he didn’t make the Olympic weight albeit he was still senior champion as an under 23. He’s still a great prospect.”

Fast forward to last October, Dave came across Lakeland Jiu Jitsu in Mullingar Business Park. With little experience in the sport, he decided to give it a shot.

“I thought I might give it a shot with the beginners class. I would have had a bit of experience in unarmed combat and Krav Maga, being in the military.

“When I walked in, I thought ‘what have I got myself into?’ What I got to notice was just how fantastic everyone was there. There’s no egos. It’s like a big family.”

Since he joined Lakeland Jiu Jitsu, Dave has taken an interest in excelling the careers of the some of the club’s more advanced members.

“I got to know the lads over time and it turned out that one group of brothers – the Quinn brothers – are lethal. They’re so unassuming and very quiet and methodical.”

Just as he did with kayaker Sam Curtis, Dave has taken Tyrone Quinn and his club colleague David Zamora on as sponsorship recipients.

“I got chatting to Tyrone and he said he was ready to go professional. I just thought to myself that this is an opportunity.”

With so much attention and sponsorship going towards local GAA clubs, Dave says it’s important to support local athletes, regardless of the sport they take part in.

“I do genuinely have a love for sport. I’ve played them all, but It’s important for people in Mullingar to know we have an international standard Jiu Jitsu players on our doorstep,” Dave said.

“The whole point of this is to showcase that Mullingar has a lot of local sports people who can really do with any help, big or small from local businesses.

“The smallest contribution can make a huge difference. I could save up and buy myself a better car, but it’s not all about that.

“There’s people out there who are very good and could be world champions, and they’re the ones that I’d love to see get the tiniest leg up.”

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