Local Faces: Tony Rooney

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A CHILDHOOD spent playing football for various clubs in Ballyfermot instilled a lifelong love of sports in Tony Rooney.

A coach for Rathcoole Boys’ FC for over three decades, Tony (60) is now the head coach for the eastern region of Special Olympics Ireland.

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Tony Rooney says he loves seeing the enjoymnent athletes get from Special Olympics

Growing up in Ballyfermot with six sisters and one brother, Tony and his siblings were all involved in local sports teams.

Tony played for Cherry Orchard when he was in primary school, before joining Ballyfermot United when he was in his early teens.

“It was important for us growing up in Ballyfermot that we were involved in sports”, Tony told The Echo, “because it steered us in the right direction and kept us out of trouble.”

At age 17, Tony joined the Army and started a 31-year career which included two tours of Lebanon, and he played on the Army’s football team throughout his tenure in the Defence Forces.

He left his hometown shortly after he married his wife, Noelle, in 1980.

The couple briefly lived in Walkinstown before they bought a house in Rathcoole in 1982, where they settled down and raised their sons, David, Philip, and Daniel, and became involved in local groups.

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Tony Rooney

Now one of the longest serving members of Rathcoole Boys’ FC, Tony has had many roles in the club over the years, including coach, treasurer, PRO and secretary.

However, his passion has always been coaching and this led to the beginning of his involvement in Special Olympics Ireland in the early 2000s.

“Special Olympics Ireland wanted to set up some teams, but they needed a qualified coach so they asked me to do it,” Tony said.

“I’ve been coaching football teams all my life, from younger ages up to senior teams.

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Tony Rooney head coach for the eastern region of Special Olympics Ireland

“They had two teams that I ended up taking over, then I built it up to 23 teams, for all ages and different abilities.”

Rathcoole Boys’ FC have been a continuous support when it comes to Tony’s work with Special Olympics Ireland.

The club lets the Special Olympics team train in their grounds, and the team Tony primarily coaches – United Warriors – wear jerseys that match the Rathcoole Boys’ ones.

The players from Rathcoole Boys’ also help out with the training sessions that are held for the United Warriors players and offer support and encouragement.

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Tony Rooney

“I’ve coached mainstream teams all my life, and sometimes they win and sometimes they lose,” added Tony.

“But when you see a Special Olympics team winning something, you can see that it means everything to them.”

Tony’s passion for sports has been passed down to his sons, two of whom run a gym and one who coaches for Rathcoole Boys’, and his grandchildren.

“My sons showed an interest in sports and we didn’t have to push them, they were really into it,” he explained.

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Tony Rooney

“They all played football for Rathcoole Boys’, gaelic for St Mary’s and hurling for Commercials.”

In 2009, Tony retired from the Army and started working as a caretaker in Holy Family Community School, a role which he enjoys and has helped to cement his place in the Rathcoole community.

However, he derives most of his enjoyment from seeing the change in the athletes he has coached for Special Olympics Ireland and witnessing their success - many of the teams have gone on to win gold, bronze and silver.

“I love seeing the enjoyment they get out of it”, he said, “and you can say to yourself, ‘I had a little part in that’.”

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