Joanne addresses young footballers
Joanne O’Riordan of ‘No Limbs, No Limits’ fame was one of the special guests at the annual Roscommon LGFA underage presentations at the Abbey Hotel last Sunday.
One of only seven people in the world born with Tetra-amelia syndrome, meaning she was born without all four limbs, the 22-year-old Cork native inspired a global audience after her brother Steven produced a documentary about her life in 2014.
Joanne had previously come to national prominence when she wrote a letter to the Irish Examiner after then Taoiseach Enda Kenny reneged on a promise not to cut disability funding in 2011.
Joanne spoke to the Roscommon People before addressing the Roscommon LGFA U-14 and U-16 panels last Sunday.
“When I wrote that letter to the Irish Examiner in 2011 I thought that like all media, things would just move on to the next breaking news. It was cool that the interest was still there in my story,” she said.
The letter and Joanne’s subsequent campaign led to two appearances on The Late Late Show and the Government’s decision to cut disability funding was later reversed. Joanne then travelled to the United Nations in New York City in 2012 to give a speech on technology, where she received a standing ovation.
“I was sixteen at the time and I suppose in my mind I thought it was one of the coolest things on the planet but obviously looking back now, a little bit older and maybe wiser, depending on who you talk to, it was obviously a huge honour and something I’m incredibly proud of to this day. It’s like all the other cool talks, like coming here to Roscommon to the ladies underage teams and everything else in between – some of them are my highlights as well as that speech at the UN”.
So, how have things improved since that letter in 2011?
“We have got to the stage where we now notice people with disabilities and they’re more visible. Even people with hidden disabilities are becoming more visible so I suppose as a society we’ve started to accept that they do exist. I suppose now it’s about integrating them into society and making sure that we’re not implementing barriers and not creating obstacles for them to jump over. In general, we have got better but there are still things that able-bodied people take for granted (but are difficult for people with disabilities) like transport or living independently,” she said.
As for the young people she spoke to at the Abbey Hotel last Sunday, what is the lasting message she would like to leave them with?
“The message I’d give to the young footballers would be just believe in yourself, and it’s really cliché but anything you put your mind to is possible. Sonia O’Sullivan told me at an event that there were no excuses and to dig deep and that’s really what I would tell them.
“I’m just a normal person like everyone else. All the other stuff I have to do like taking a drink or feeding myself, even though I’ve had to learn it a bit differently, is normal to me. It’s just how my brain works: I pick up a fork and put it in between my shoulder and my cheek and feed myself. I don’t look at the situation as cruel or terrible or upsetting or things like that, I do just get up and get on with it and deal with it. Whatever has to come (in life), I’ll face it”.
Joanne was joined by fellow special guest, 2017 Rose of Tralee Jennifer Byrne from Offaly, while other speakers at the event included Roscommon Ladies captain Sinead Kenny and LGFA Development Officer, Shane Curran. Presentations were made to the U-16 Connacht ‘B’ championship winning team which also reached the All-Ireland final and the U-14 Connacht ‘B’ runners-up and Shane Curran thanked mentors, particularly managers Declan Walsh and Brian Lennon.