Live from #LA2015 with #TeamIreland – A Volunteer’s Diary

An extended version of my diary article published in The Sunday Life newspaper on Sunday 9th August 2015.

There’s been radio silence on the writing/blogging front of late. Work has been pretty all-consuming and I’ve been working on number of voluntary projects that have also needed a lot of attention. Hopefully this article will give an insight into one of the main projects I’ve been working on over the summer (amongst other things). Oh, and I’m planning my wedding too… It will all fit in. Somehow.

Team Ireland depart for LA2015 from Dublin Airport. Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Team Ireland depart for LA2015 from Dublin Airport. Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

On 23rd July, 155 volunteers – myself included – flew out to Los Angeles to support Team Ireland at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games (LA2015). Ten days later we returned, changed forever by our experience on the front line with our incredible Team Ireland athletes, coaches, families and fellow volunteers.

Supported by a 40-strong coaching and management team, an army of volunteers and over 300 family members, 88 athletes – including 12 from Ulster – achieved incredible success. Coming home with a haul of 82 medals (26 Gold, 28 Silver and 28 Bronze), 41 Place Ribbons and 31 Personal Bests, our athletes inspired and enthralled supporters at home and abroad during their two weeks at the World Summer Games, which have been heralded as one of the most successful ever for Team Ireland.

 

Team Ireland Media Mob

Team Ireland Media Mob

The Media Mob – Telling the Team Ireland Story
Team Ireland’s massive volunteer team was made up of 155 amazing people of all ages, from every corner of the island. You often hear the words ‘Games Makers’ when volunteer driven sports events of this kind are mentioned and LA2015 was no different. From the volunteer management and logistics team to stewarding at events and managing the presentation of Awards, Team Ireland’s volunteers really made the Special Olympics World Games in LA.

My own role was in the Team Ireland Media Team or ‘The Media Mob’ as we quickly became known. The mob featured a team of 14 volunteers who are amongst the most committed and dedicated people I’ve met. We had roving Team Ireland reporters in each competition venue that really got under the skin of the Games, seeking out and reporting incredible stories about our athletes, coaches, families and volunteers. The buzz they generated on social media, the content they created and the assistance they gave to media played a vital role in getting the word out about Team Ireland at LA2015. There are too many of them to mention individually here but you will see most of them pictured above and if you follow my twitter feed – you’re bound to see an exchange or two there.

Media HuddleBack in the media centre, we had volunteers collating Team Ireland results and tracking social media mentions, whilst I worked as part of a core team with Special Olympics Ireland’s Fiona Hynes (PR & Communications Manager) and Pamela Kavanagh (E-Marketing Manager) and Team Leader Brian O’Callaghan to distil the information down into daily press releases and social media highlights, whilst handling media enquiries.

In addition to sending Team Ireland reports to media back home and responding to their queries, we also worked with traveling media, including Today FM‘s Ian Dempsey Show; RTÉ‘s Caitriona Perry; Kevin Doyle from The Irish Independent; and Newstalk’s Henry McKean. The enthusiasm and dedication they all showed to unearthing great Team Ireland stories was incredible and the daily reports they filed helped those watching, listening and reading at home feel they were truly part of the LA2015 action.

Putting Newstalk's Henry McKean through his paces.

Putting Newstalk’s Henry McKean through his paces.

I also had the opportunity to put my old journalistic skills to good use, conducting interviews with athletes, families, Special Olympics staff and supporters, creating  audio and video content for media at home. And aside from one instance – where I christened myself ‘Shaky Sinead’ whilst filming some video footage with a dose of mild heat stoke – I got through the process relatively unscathed.

The time difference in LA – eight hours behind – meant there were a lot of very late nights and early mornings but the resulting coverage made it all worthwhile.

Sportsfile's Ray McManus and Paul Mohan with Kevin Doyle from The Irish Independent, keeping on the right side of the Armed Forces!

Sportsfile’s Ray McManus and Paul Mohan with Kevin Doyle from The Irish Independent, keeping on the right side of the Armed Forces!

 

Picture Perfect

As important as our daily press releases and content were, pictures and video played a vital role and were a major part of the Team Ireland output. Out on the field, day in, day out, the legend that is World Games veteran Ray McManus of Sportsfile captured so many magic moments throughout the Games  – a select few of which you will see pictured in this post. His stunning photographs told the story of LA2015 so powerfully and resulted in countless front pages and amazing pictorial coverage for Team Ireland. Meanwhile his colleague, Paul Mohan‘s moving videos also travelled far and wide – on television and online – delving further still into the Team Ireland LA2015 stories and capturing many special moments.

My LA2015 Highlights & Some Notable Results from Team Ireland Ulster Athletes

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Opening Ceremony

Colin Farrell with Team Ireland athletes during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Colin Farrell with Team Ireland athletes during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, United States. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

A trio of well-known Irish stars joined Team Ireland for the official parade of athletes at the Opening Ceremony on Saturday 25th July 2015. John Treacy, CEO of the Irish Sports Council, who won a historic silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, was joined by actor Colin Farrell, a long-time supporter of the Special Olympics movement and Claudine Keane, wife of Irish football captain, Robbie Keane (the Keanes are ambassadors for Team Ireland).

Colin and Claudine showed such kindness to the athletes, spending relished time with them ahead of walking them out to a star-studded Opening Ceremony at the impressive Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. As volunteers, we watched on proudly from the nose-bleed section of the stands, as the athletes made their way out, enjoying the great celebration that had been laid on in their honour, with performances by Stevie Wonder, Avril Lavigne and Nicole Scherzinger and a rousing address from First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. View the pictures here.

 

Day One

27 July 2015; Team Ireland's Sarah Jane Johnston from Lurgan, Co Armagh, celebrates winning a Bronze Medal in 100M backstroke. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

27 July 2015; Team Ireland’s Sarah Jane Johnston from Lurgan, Co Armagh, celebrates winning a Bronze Medal in 100M backstroke. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

As the first day of competition got under way, Team Ireland got off to a great start, winning three medals – one Silver and two Bronze, with a host of Personal Bests achieved. The first medal of the Games was clinched by Co. Armagh swimmer, Sarah Jane Johnston, who won Bronze in the 100m backstroke. View Day One pictures here.

Day Two
Day two of the competition saw further success in the pool for Sarah Jane Johnston (35) from Lurgan, Co Armagh. Talented Sarah Jane took home a second Bronze medal after finishing third in the 100M Freestyle, bringing Team Ireland’s medal haul to four. See the pictures here.

Me and fellow Team Ireland media volunteer, Brian McGuigan from Dungiven with Belfast Team Ireland gymnast, Kirsty Devlin and her two Gold and Silver medals won at LA2015.

Me and fellow Team Ireland media volunteer, Brian McGuigan from Dungiven with Belfast Team Ireland gymnast, Kirsty Devlin and her two Gold and Silver medals won at LA2015.

Day Three
Team Ireland’s first gold was won by 21 year old gymnast Kirsty Devlin from Belfast on day three and I was honoured to be there to see Kirsty receive her medals and meet her family afterwards. Kirsty from the Shankill in Belfast– who received a fantastic homecoming celebration last week – won an incredible total of four medals: two Gold and two Silver, as well as a fourth place ribbon in various sections of the Gymnastics Rhythmic Level 1 competition. At the end of day three, Team Ireland’s medal tally climbed to an impressive 15.

Day Four

Team Ireland's Dearbhail Savage from Mowhan, Co Armagh riding 'Pepper' at LA2015. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Team Ireland’s Dearbhail Savage from Mowhan, Co Armagh riding ‘Pepper’ at LA2015. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Team Ireland’s winning streak continued on day four with a further seven medals won across Equestrian, Athletics and Table Tennis events. At the LA Equestrian Centre, Team Ireland enjoyed a hugely successful day with four medals captured in English Equitation over the course of the day, with a Gold won by 15-year-old Dearbhail Savage from Mowhan, Co. Armagh –Team Ireland’s youngest athlete.

One of my fellow Media Team volunteers, Niamh Withers, captured an incredible video of the moment Déarbháil and her family were told she won Gold. She was being interviewed by Today FM’s Ian Dempsey at the time and the resulting reaction – alive with unscripted and unplanned emotion – was absolutely priceless. As soon I saw it, I knew Niamh had captured a magic moment. We uploaded the video on Facebook and shared it with Today FM; it went viral within hours. It remains one of my stand-out moments of the Games.

 

Watch the video below.

 

Being present at Mullingar Bocce athlete, Peter Malynn’s Gold medal presentation in the Los Angeles Convention Centre on day four is something I will never forget. The atmosphere was absolutely electric, with a huge crowd of Team Ireland supporters turning out to cheer him on. If you could bottle the feeling of pride and joy in the room that day – and at all of Team Ireland’s medal presentations – you’d be set for life.

Team Ireland's Nuala Browne from Strabane, Co Tyrone, celebrates after winning her first Silver Medal with Nicola Higgins, from Coolock, Dublin, who finished 5th in the Kayaking at Long Beach. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Team Ireland’s Nuala Browne from Strabane, Co Tyrone, celebrates after winning her first Silver Medal with Nicola Higgins, from Coolock, Dublin, who finished 5th in the Kayaking at Long Beach. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Day Five

The Team Ireland medal rush showed no signs of slowing on day five, with a stunning 11 medals won across various sports. At the end of the day, the tally stood at a total of 33 medals. There was more success in the Ulster camp, with a double medal whammy for Special Olympics Ulster Team Ireland athletes: in Table Tennis, Newtownabbey’s Carole Catling took Gold, whilst at Long Beach, Nuala Browne from Strabane, Co. Tyrone won Silver in 500M Kayaking. View the Day Five pictures here.

 

 

Me and fellow Team Ireland media volunteer Suzanne Hamilton from Bangor with NI boxing legend, Wayne McCullough.

Me and fellow Team Ireland media volunteer Suzanne Hamilton from Bangor with NI boxing legend, Wayne McCullough.

Day Six

NI boxing legend, Wayne McCullough visited LA2015 on day six and I had the pleasure of taking Wayne, his wife Cheryl and daughter Wynona to see Team Ireland in competition at USC. Cheering on from the stands of Loker Stadium in the midst of a jubilant Team Ireland crowd, Wayne witnessed Dundalk athlete, James Meenan win Gold in the 100M. Christening him the ‘Junior Pocket Rocket’ after his incredible performance, Wayne was on hand to present James with his Gold medal. He then joined Team Ireland’s Acquatics team – including Co. Armagh double silver medallist Sarah Jane Johnston – to cheer on their teammate Sean Coleman from Co. Cork in the pool, as he raced to win Silver in the 25M freestyle. Giving a huge boost to Team Ireland athletes, including the 11 and 5 A Side football teams, Wayne proved a hit as he took time to pose for photos with his signature fist punch pose.

On the penultimate day of the Games, Team Ireland had its best day’s performance ever, winning a staggering 37 medals in one day – more than the previous five days combined. Ulster athletes were to the fore once again. Nuala Browne from Strabane, Co. Tyrone won her second Silver in 200m Kayaking; Sean Campbell from Coleraine won Silver in Bowling Singles; Co. Armagh’s Déarbháil Savage won her second medal with a Silver in Equestrian Woking Trails; Jill Connery from Scarva, Co. Armagh secured Silver in golf (Level 2 Alternate Shot), along with her playing partner, Ursula McDonnell from Belfast, Co. Antrim; and Oliver Doherty from Buncrana, Co. Donegal also clinched Silver in Golf (18 holes). See pictures from Day Six here.

Day Seven
On the final day of the World Games, Team Ireland’s medal haul climbed to an incredible 82, with athletes achieving a grand total of 26 Gold, 28 Silver and 28 Bronze medals; 41 Placement Ribbons and 31 individual Personal Bests. Ulster Team Ireland athletes continued to blaze a trail, with Donegal gymnast, Patrick Quinlivan winning one Silver, three Bronze and three 4th Place Ribbons; 15 year-old Co. Armagh Equestrian athlete, Déarbháil Savage brought her personal tally to three medals, helping to secure a Gold in the Equestrian Team Relay. The Team Ireland ladies basketball team put in a huge performance, beating Mexico by 19 points to 17 points to win Gold. Having seen one their high octane and truly nail-biting performances when they beat Ecuador earlier in the week, I can personally vouch that their Gold was exceptionally well deserved. View Day Seven pictures here.

Driving Support for Special Olympics

21 July 2015; Back L-R: Ulster Team Ireland athletes, Sean Campbell from Coleraine (10-pin bowling); Jill Connery from Scarva, Co. Armagh & Ursula McDonnell from Belfast (golf); coach, Roisin Henry; Ulster athletes, Oliver Doherty from Buncrana, Co. Donegal (golf); Patrick Quinlivan from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal (gymnastics) & families coordinator, Angela McGee. Front L-R: Ulster Team Ireland athletes, Christopher Kane from Lisburn, Co. Down (football); Peter Fitzpatrick from Ballynahinch, Co. Down (football); Déarbhail Savage from Mowhan, Co. Armagh (equestrian); Nuala Brown from Strabane, Co. Tyrone (kayaking); Carol Catling from Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim (table tennis) with Aer Lingus crew ahead of departing for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, United States. Terminal 2, Dublin Airport, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

21 July 2015; Back L-R: Ulster Team Ireland athletes, Sean Campbell from Coleraine (10-pin bowling); Jill Connery from Scarva, Co. Armagh & Ursula McDonnell from Belfast (golf); coach, Roisin Henry; Ulster athletes, Oliver Doherty from Buncrana, Co. Donegal (golf); Patrick Quinlivan from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal (gymnastics) & families coordinator, Angela McGee. Front L-R: Ulster Team Ireland athletes, Christopher Kane from Lisburn, Co. Down (football); Peter Fitzpatrick from Ballynahinch, Co. Down (football); Déarbhail Savage from Mowhan, Co. Armagh (equestrian); Nuala Brown from Strabane, Co. Tyrone (kayaking); Carol Catling from Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim (table tennis) with Aer Lingus crew ahead of departing for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, United States. Terminal 2, Dublin Airport, Dublin. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Special Olympics is a charity that needs constant investment and funding in order to continue to provide its grassroots sports and athlete development programmes in towns and cities right across the island of Ireland. Working with Special Olympics Ireland in the Ulster region at MCE Public Relations over the last four years, I have seen first-hand the incredibly positive impact this charity has and World Games is just a small part of what Special Olympics does.

In Ulster alone, 85 clubs provide life-changing sports opportunities to over 2,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities on a year-round basis, supported by a network of almost 6,000 volunteers and over 970 coaches. Not all of these athletes get the chance to compete on a world stage but each and every one of them benefits from inclusion in the Special Olympics family – a community that celebrates their individual abilities and helps to build vital social skills in a world where they aren’t always understood.

 

 

 

 

Me with members of the Team Ireland Media Mob

Me with members of the Team Ireland Media Mob

LA2015 Legacy
As volunteers we started out as 155 strangers. By the end of our 10 days in LA, lasting friendships have been formed with people from every corner of the island. It’s an unbreakable bond that was developed through our collective Special Olympics World Games journey – the most incredible, inspiring, joyous and ultimately indescribable experience.

Watching each of our athletes strive to do their best, we had the privileged position of watching them as they became heroes right in front of our eyes. It was intense, exhausting and often emotional but absolutely incredible and unforgettable.

A week on since leaving Los Angeles, I still feel myself welling up, as well as an immense sense of pride when I see the impact the 2015 World Games has had. The incredible media coverage and support back home means so much to Team Ireland athletes, their families, friends, communities, clubs, volunteers and even complete strangers.

A selection of the coverage and countless front pages following Team Ireland's homecoming

A selection of the coverage and countless front pages following Team Ireland’s homecoming

In a taxi in Belfast this week, the driver – totally unprompted and without knowing I was a volunteer – asked me if I’d heard how well our Special Olympians did out in LA. That about sums it up; Team Ireland’s success has impacted us all and is a reminder that when we celebrate ability, rather than focusing on disability, we level the playing field.

I hope that the legacy of these Games will be that long after the celebrations settle down, people that have been inspired by Team Ireland’s incredible success at LA2015 will be driven to support Special Olympics in the future.

Team Ireland’s story will continue long after LA2015. Find out how you can get involved and support Special Olympics Ireland and local Ulster athletes at www.specialolympics.ie

Follow Special Olympics on twitter @SOIreland & @SO_Ulster and on Facebook: Special Olympics Ireland & Special Olympics Ulster

A MASSIVE final thank you to everyone that contributed to my fundraising efforts, helping me to take up my position as a Team Ireland volunteer at LA2015. It was a once in a lifetime experience; this post only really scratches the surface. I couldn’t have done it without you and your support means the world. Thank you.

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58

Golf balls. Cufflinks. Crime thriller novels.
Present buying was a torture
when it came to you.

You weren’t rich
but wanted for nothing.
Just give me a card
and a call
You’d say.

I look now at my few mementos
and realise you were right.
Most precious are
the memories,
they never fade
nor lose their shine.

Today you would have been 58.
If you were here
I’d buy you nothing
just tell you that
I love you.

Six Months

Milestones weigh heavy
Like a millstone
Around your neck.
Feelings intensify,
Memories magnify,
The Loss seems larger.
It’s not.
 
Today transports us
Back to your bedside
Where we said our final
Goodbye.
 
Time is a healer
But also a stealer
Blurring the lines;
Putting you in soft focus.
 
Gone
But never forgotten.
Six months on
I remember
You’re larger than life.

Keys to the Castle

Preface: It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything – life has gotten in the way of writing. However, a rather special weekend break has inspired me to try my hand at some travel writing, after a long break. Perhaps it might even inspire a fairytale at some point, who knows…

A sleepy salmon fishing village in County Antrim holds the key to a romantic getaway fit for a Queen, writes Sinead Doyle…

The Barbican, Glenarm - view of bridge

The Barbican, Glenarm

Across the stone bridge, the forest green gates at the base of The Barbican sprung open with a jolt, inching backwards to reveal a seldom seen view of Glenarm Castle Estate; its lush manicured lawns inviting us inwards.

As we drove through the underbelly of the imposing building, tucked away off the main street of the quaint County Antrim village of Glenarm, we knew we were about to experience something special.

“The gate is electric and fully automated. The code is on your keying, you just punch it in here,” explained smiling house manager, Penny, pointing to a keypad discreetly concealed within the basalt wall – a singular James Bond-esque addition to a thoughtful restoration.

We had been given the keys to the castle – ours for one night only.

Ok, it’s not actually a castle. If you want to get technical about it, it’s a miniature medieval castle styled gate lodge.

Modest in comparison to Glenarm Castle proper [a private residence and the ancestral home of the Earls of Antrim], The Barbican offers holidaymakers the chance to experience a taste of fairytale escapism nonetheless.

A ‘Barbican,’ by literal definition, is ‘a defensive outpost.’ Built in 1825, this charming Gothic styled building acted as a strong part of the Castle’s defences; a live-in gatekeeper manning the gate and turning away undesirables in a fashion not dissimilar to the doormen of our modern city nightspots.

Today, The Barbican’s gatekeeper and protector is the delightful Penny. Employed by the Irish Landmark Trust – the charity that restored and transformed this property into a quirky self-catering holiday home – she takes great pride in welcoming guests and giving them a rare glimpse of life on the other side of these guarded gates.

A truly romantic retreat just for two – as you travel the stone spiral staircase of this three-storey one-bedroom fortress, you leave the trappings of modern life behind.

The Barbican - bedroom

The Barbican – bedroom

On the first floor you discover the bedroom chamber – a cosy and inviting room peppered with interesting antiques; an ornate iron framed bed, a beautiful dressing table and a full collection of leather bound Daily Express Encyclopedias amongst the gems.  Travel down a set of wooden steps from this room and you’ll find a large bathroom [formerly the gatekeeper’s sleeping quarters] with an 8ft cast iron bath, seemingly made for long candlelit soaks and giants like me. Bliss.

The second floor is home to a cute country kitchen with a wood fired stove and comfy antique high-backed armchairs making it the perfect place to lounge, whilst enjoying stunning views through its gothic windows over Glenarm village to the front and the Castle Estate to the rear.

As with all Irish Landmark holiday homes, there’s no TV and no Wi-Fi, so you might as well leave the Smartphone at home. There is a radio, however, should you want some background noise to quell the silence.

You’ll also find shelves upon shelves of old books. The makeshift library, with its mismatched bookshelves scattered around the room was a pure delight to this inquisitive writer; less so to my other half, who opted for his football magazine over ancient works. They do say opposites attract.

Lady Antrim

An illustration in Lady Antrim’s book, ‘The Antrim McDonnells’

The literary treasures hiding within The Barbican’s walls range from 19th century travel fiction to prose by Yeats, books on architecture, local landscapes, Irish ghosts and a humorous history of the Earls of Antrim, ‘The Antrim McDonnells’ written and illustrated by the late Angela Antrim in 1977 – a recommended read for her accomplished cartoons alone.

Dusty old English dictionaries can be utilised alongside a Scrabble board [stowed beneath a bookcase] for some extra entertainment. There’s a Chess board too, if you fancy taking the King and Queen metaphor a little further. We settled for Scrabble. I still can’t talk about the score; ‘beginner’s luck’ is as much as I’ll say.

Me playing Rapunzel on the turret tower

Playing Rapunzel on the turret tower

Further up the spiral staircase still, comes the pièce de résistance – a flat rooftop terrace, complete with picnic table and its own fairytale turret tower. By day, you can enjoy sensational panoramic views with the varied vistas of Glenarm village, Glenarm Castle Estate, the North Antrim coast and plush forest competing for attention. And by night, if you’re lucky and there’s a cloudless sky, you’ll feel closer to the stars than you ever dreamt possible.

I challenge even the most determined city slicker not to love this place. The Barbican quickly forces you to into surrender; removing everyday distractions and noise, relaxation comes quickly here.

Unsurprisingly there’s not much nightlife in the small coastal village of Glenarm. There are three pubs if you fancy a quiet tipple, including ‘The Barbican,’ at the end of the street. None of these establishments serve food though, so it’s best to plan ahead. We could have cooked a banquet or travelled to one of the North Coast’s finer restaurants; instead we chose to dine like paupers before sleeping like kings, grabbing fish ‘n’ chips from The Galley – a nautical themed chippie in nearby Carnlough.

Peruse The Barbican’s visitors’ book and the words ‘magical’ and ‘enchanting’ almost lose meaning from the sheer frequency of their use. If you’re lucky enough to call this home, even for one night, you too will understand the beguiling nature of this place.

Before we left, we were joined by my boyfriend’s parents for breakfast. Good County Antrim folk, they’d seen The Barbican but had never travelled beyond its green gate. After just an hour inside its walls, they too were spellbound; drawn into the fantasy of life in your own little castle – the ultimate escape.

The Walled Garden at Glenarm Castle

The Walled Garden at Glenarm Castle

In an effort to acclimatise to the everyday after our regal getaway, we made a trip to the nearby Walled Garden at Glenarm Castle before we hit the road back to Belfast. The castle itself and the surrounding estate are closed to the public, aside from a few designated open days, but the Walled Garden is there for all to see (for a £5 entrance fee).

Open from May to late September, the stunning garden is well worth a visit.  With two keen gardeners in tow, we received quite the education in horticulture but even for those not au fait with their flora and fauna, it’s a beautiful setting for a sunny afternoon. The adjoining Tea Room serves up the most delicious Afternoon Tea, with their freshly baked scones with clotted cream and jam, homemade pastries and tray bakes providing a sweet treat to round off a wonderful weekend.

The Barbican is one of over 20 holiday homes owned and managed by the Irish Landmark Trust. North, South, East and West, you’ll find quirky alternative accommodations for unique Irish breaks. From a lighthouse in Wicklow to a Co. Down country house with its own spa; a castle for 10 or a tower for two, there’s something to suit all.  To find out more, visit www.IrishLandmark.com

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Stars in My Eyes

A retrospective look at some of my journalistic work…

I always wanted to write for a living. When I told my secondary school English teacher this towards the end of my A-Levels, she pointed me towards a degree in journalism. Soon after, I followed her suggested career route, joining the Journalism class of 2001 at Dublin City University. I’ve never really looked back. Until now.

Post-graduation in 2005, I spent a hectic year living in Dublin juggling three jobs; something had to pay the bills while I searched for that much-lauded and increasingly elusive paid writing job. My search eventually ended in spring 2006, when I was offered a job with a large independent magazine publishing company in Belfast. I upped sticks and moved to a city I’d only visited once – a risky move at the time. Seven years on, I’m still here.

Go front cover

GO April 2011 – one of the later issues I wrote for and edited

I was taken on for the launch of the company’s new launch title, GO Belfast (now GO Magazine) – a lifestyle and entertainment magazine for men and women. The title’s launch was a reaction to a new Belfast that was emerging at that time; a thriving, contemporary city with a blossoming social and creative scene.

I quickly rose up the ranks from an editorial assistant to reporter, deputy editor and then editor. All in all I spent five and a half years with the title, prior to moving into PR in July 2011.

My writing for GO was varied; I wrote on everything from fashion and food to music, arts, culture, film, current affairs and more. I also had the pleasure [and displeasure at times] of interviewing countless celebrities and stars; getting a relished glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous.

As a retrospective exercise, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back through the archives and revisit a small selection of my old articles and interviews, published during my time at GO, particularly those that are still viewable online. So, here goes:

Blondie’s Back – interview with Blondie’s Debbie Harry & Clem Burke

GO Belfast magazine, May 2010

Blondie's BackUndoubtedly one of my biggest musical crushes, Debbie Harry is a living legend. I am a massive Blondie fan, so when I heard they were coming to Belfast for a show, I made it my mission to secure an interview with Ms Harry. It was a slightly strange interview, to say the least. My questions were relayed first by email to her publicist, who then read them to Debbie via video link before transcribing them and sending them back to me. It was a strange set-up, however, I’m still glad to say that I was able to interview a true music icon. Read the full story here.

Arthur’s Day article, GO Belfast, November 2010

Arthur's Day 2010One of the perks of the job was getting to go to great events and one such event was Arthur’s Day in 2010. A very clever marketing construct by drinks company, Diageo for its flagship brand, Guinness, this was the second annual Arthur’s Day celebration and I got to spend it in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. I joined media from across Ireland and further afield to interview stars including Snow Patrol, Manic Street Preachers, The Script, Kelis, Westlife, Tim Robbins & Eliza Doolittle on the red carpet. Some Guinness was also consumed. Read the full story here.

Keith Lemon interview, GO Belfast, November 2010

Keith Lemon interview As a seemingly simple Q&A, this isn’t exactly a work of art writing wise. I’ve included it here however, as it was possibly one of the most bizarre interviews of my career. Fictitious TV personality and Celebrity Juice star, Keith Lemon (brainchild of comedian/actor, Leigh Francis) stayed in character for the entire interview; serenading me over the phone at the beginning and proving impossible to keep on track throughout the rest of it. I’ve kept the recording of the interview for safe keeping too – when you listen to it, the interview is peppered with uncontrollable spurts of involuntary laughter on my part. I’ll save you that particular horror. You can however, read the full interview here.

Neil Hannon interviewNeil Hannon (Divine Comedy) interview

GO Magazine, April 2011

An interview with one of my musical heroes – The Divine Comedy frontman, Neil Hannon. A true lyricist, I’ve always admired his beautiful and distinct way with words. Perhaps one of the most captivating interviewees, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to, his love and passion for his work was inspiring. Read the full story here.

On the Front Line

On The Front Line, GO Magazine, June 2011

A profile piece on two of Northern Ireland’s leading war correspondents, Bill Neely and John Irvine, featuring interviews with both journalists – two men I greatly admired.

Read the full story here.

A Eulogy: For Dad

IMG_0018

In memory of my father, Laurence Doyle, who died aged 56, 30th April 2013. R.I.P

They called you Lucky Larry; really we were the lucky ones.

You taught us to dream big and live large; you taught us to laugh, to love, to smile and to enjoy life to the full.

We learnt from you that life is for living.

We learnt from you to banter with the best of them.

We learnt from you to never give up, however bad the odds.

You were the life and soul of the party. You lived in the here and now, never fearing or worrying about tomorrow.

Forrest Gump said ‘Life was Like a Box of Chocolates’ but for you, life mimicked a different dessert. Like your favourite trifle, life was filled to the brim with contrasting yet complementary layers.

You were a father, husband, brother, uncle & friend. You were a plumber, a publican, a dancer, a joker, a sport fanatic, music fan & wind-up merchant – you were so many things to so many people.

You were taken from us too early but in time, I hope we will all begin to understand that our loss was heaven’s gain.

When the sun shines, when music fills the air, when we laugh and when new memories are made, we’ll know that you will be smiling down on us, watching with pride as the party carries on, in your honour.