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Chasing the Olympic dream


TENNIS ACE Eoghan Jennings is pictured ahead of the European Youth Olympic Festival which takes place in Slovakia from July 24-31. Pic: Sportsfile

Michael Gallagher

ATHLETES from 50 European countries will congregate in Bratislava this week to celebrate sport and compete in the European Youth Olympics.
Among the thousands of talented sport people will be Westport teenager Eoghan Jennings, a young man embracing the joy of sport and the adventures it brings.
The 14-year-old was in the midst of preparations when he spoke with The Mayo News late last week. Embedded in his mother’s home city of Cork, playing a tournament to hone his skills for Slovakia and the challenges awaiting him there.
Eoghan will represent Ireland in both the singles and mixed doubles competitions. His doubles partner Rachel Deegan is another teenager with huge potential, and they can hardly wait to take on the best the continent can throw at them.
Eoghan isn’t long back from international competition — taking on the Norwegian number one and losing narrowly, 7-6, in the final set. Speaking with him on Thursday night, it’s obvious that the Westport teen won’t be overawed by the competition or the setting.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I love sport and love playing so this is another opportunity for me. I don’t really know anything about the other players, only that they will be very good.
“Tennis is a huge sport in many European countries and they will be sending their top players, so it will be great to pit myself against them and see what happens.”
Eoghan’s attitude is excellent. He sees opportunities and pathways to excellence everywhere he looks, so how did a Westport boy end up representing Ireland in the Youth Olympics?
“I got a call one day to play in a tournament in Dublin with 15 other lads and luckily enough I won it, so that’s how I’m going to Bratislava,” he answers factually, but there has to be more to it than that. What’s the back-story? What are the opening chapters in the Eoghan’s sporting annals?
“We moved to Westport from Dublin when I was younger and I started playing tennis soon after. My family are very sporty.
“My mum played a lot of tennis when she was younger and my dad is mad into hurling and football. We’re big into all sports really so the house is busy.
“I played tennis in Westport first and then when the dome opened at Castlebar Tennis Club I played there and am still playing there. “I go to school in St Gerald’s in Castlebar because it’s beside the tennis club and makes it easier for me to play and train. I spend seven or eight hours training each week, but I also play a lot of football too, so there’s not much time for anything else.”
Describe your football involvement. How important is that?
“I love it. I was part of the Westport team which won the Féile recently and it’s very important to me. At the moment I probably play as much or more football than tennis, and I like that.
“I enjoy sport. I enjoy the fun, the competition and the people. I also played hurling, but have only played one game this year because the time just wasn’t there,” he added before being asked about his class-mates in St Gerald’s.
“They know I play a bit of tennis but it’s not overly important to them. They know I play in a few tournaments and spend a bit of time in the tennis club, but most of them are more interested in me playing football with Westport.”
So, what does the future hold for the teenager from Westport who loves sport and the opportunities it provides?
“I haven’t really thought about that yet. I’m just enjoying it all now. I may have to choose between sports in the future, but right now that’s not important. I know, if things progress on the tennis front there might be the possibility to go to America after secondary school, but that’s years away. Now, I’m just thinking of Bratislava, doing my best and enjoying the experience.”

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