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Dublin: 8°C Monday 30 November 2020

Paralympic hero Mark Rohan inspiring Westmeath footballers

Manager Pat Flanagan has heaped praise on Rohan, who won two gold medals last year in London.

Mark Rohan at last year's Paralympics.
Mark Rohan at last year's Paralympics.
Image: INPHO/Greg Smith

PARALYMPIC GOLD-MEDAL winner Mark Rohan has been hailed for the impact he has made since joining the Westmeath senior football backroom team.

This is the first year that Rohan, who won two gold medals in hand-cycling at the Paralympics in London last August, has been involved with the county side.

Rohan has contributed to the improvement in Westmeath’s fortunes that has seen them claim promotion as they get set to contest next Sunday’s Division 2 league decider in Croke Park.

The Ballinahown man has a strong GAA background, having played club football in Westmeath for Castledaly and lining out at full-back for the county in the 2001 Leinster U21 football championship.

Rohan was a promising Gaelic football prospect until he suffered horrific spinal injuries in a motorcycling accident in November 2001, but is now back assisting his county.

And current Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan has heaped praise upon Rohan.

“Basically, I met Mark last November or October with a view to maybe giving a talk or two. I was about two minutes into our conversation when I realised that he had a lot more to offer Westmeath. I wouldn’t have known him, I would have only known him to see, but not to speak to. I organised to meet him and thankfully he met up with me.

“Mark was actually part of the Westmeath U21 panel when he had his accident. Training was called off, he was going to a soccer match and he came off his bike and hurt himself. He’s one of those guys that it’s just a pleasure to be around. He arrived to talk to us and had no airs or graces.

“He brought his two medals but as he said at that first meeting, it wasn’t to highlight what he achieved but to highlight what can be achieved. I think it really set the bar for the year because every player was amazed by his speech that he gave on the day.

“Everyone was amazed by the direction he gave them and each and every one of them have bought into it since that. We always go back to the very first day that we met Mark, what he said and what was taken from that meeting, I think we’re living off that and I think it’s been invaluable what he offers the panel.”

Flanagan revealed that Rohan will not be part of their setup for next Sunday’s clash in Croke Park against Derry due to his training commitments.

“Unfortunately he’s been abroad in Portugal on his training camp for the last number of weeks but hopefully we’ll get him back before the Leinster championship to give us a lift before the Carlow match. He’s been in constant contact with myself. He’s been watching all the games and he’s been passing comments on what may or may not be needed for the next day.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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