Jill going for more gold in LA

Banbridge golfer Jill Connery (top row, third from left) and her Ireland team-mates are given a big send-off by Aer Lingus staff at Dublin Airport last week.
Banbridge golfer Jill Connery (top row, third from left) and her Ireland team-mates are given a big send-off by Aer Lingus staff at Dublin Airport last week.

Banbridge’s Irish champion Jill Connery is off to Los Angeles dreaming of another gold at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

Having won the top prize in the Special Olympics All-Ireland Games last year, the 29 year-old Scarva girl was chosen in the Ireland squad to board the plane to America.

Along with her 71 year-old playing partner Ursula McDonnell, Jill goes off to compete fresh from receiving some top tips from Ireland’s golfing greats.

At the recent Irish Open at Royal County Down, the Team Ireland golfers received some guidance from Special Olympics Global Ambassador and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington.

As if that wasn’t enough, 2010 US Open champion Graeme McDowell also stopped by to give Jill some advice on her putting. In the end, she could have been the one doing the teaching as her straight putts were said to have made Graeme very jealous!

Now Jill will be hoping to put that advice to good use. The golf events began yesterday (Monday) and will culminate on Friday.

Jill and the rest of the 88 strong Ireland team - 12 from Ulster - jetted off across the pond last Tuesday from Dublin Airport.

A 40-strong coaching and management team will support the athletes in Los Angeles and 155 Irish volunteers and over 300 family members have also travelled to work at the Games.

Team Ireland athletes spent the first few days of their Los Angeles adventure in the city of Downey in southeast Los Angeles County as part of the Host Town programme.

On Saturday the Games were officially opened at a star-studded Opening Ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics.

It featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Avril Lavigne and Nicole Scherzinger, with appearances by First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, Jimmy Kimmel, actress Eva Longoria, and Olympic star Michael Phelps, amongst many others.

Team Ireland were led out by Irish Sports Council CEO John Treacy, who won a silver medal at the LA Olympics in 1984, actor Colin Farrell, and Claudine Keane, wife of football star Robbie Keane.

Shaun Cassidy, Regional Director, Special Olympics Ulster said: “It is a real honour for our local athletes to be selected to represent Team Ireland at the Special Olympics World Summer Games and we feel an immense sense of pride as they depart on this special journey to LA2015.

“We would encourage people across Ulster to join us and get behind our athletes and the whole of Team Ireland, sharing their well wishes and messages of support on social media.”

As well as being a top golfer, Jill is also talented horse-rider, proven by her Riding for the Disabled (RDA) NI Rider of the Year award she picked up in 2013.