With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, Ireland is still trying to find a way of coping with the lockdown restrictions as well as harnessing anxieties about our loved ones. The absence of sport and leisure in our lives has not gone unnoticed, but missing out on group physical activity can be especially hard for those with disabilities in the country.
We decided to spend some time with the Ballybrack Bulls – Loughlinstown’s wheelchair basketball club, with the Irish Wheelchair Association‘s experienced Mark Barry as their coach. The Bulls are full of competitive spirit, and the emphasis is most certainly on doing their local community proud – with Barry’s help.
After participating in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics, the coach has more than enough skill to help the teams progress through the Irish Wheelchair Basketball League, but his input is about more than just winning games and scoring baskets. For the players, the social aspect, the independence and the positive boost on mental health are an imperative part of the sport.
Oisin Putt, the 17-year-old wheelchair athlete and disability rights advocate, speaks to Kate Brayden about how he has coped without wheelchair basketball in his life as a result of COVID-19, which has halted all gym and sporting activities. With the Paralympics as his ultimate goal, Putt hopes to return to training as soon as possible. Putt and Barry go back years, with the coach inspiring the teenager to pursue his sport with passion.
“He’s a stellar basketball player – I wouldn’t want any other coach.”