Casey celebrates as she beats her personal best in Waterford last month.

There’s a new Olympian in town

The 2024 Olympics is calling and a young Mullagh woman is preparing to answer.

Casey Fitzgerrald (17) is on a mission to represent Ireland at the Paralympics in Paris which runs next year from August 28 to September 8.

The young woman with cerebral palsy earned her spot on the Irish Paralympic team last month, having secured two gold, a silver and a bronze medal at a recent competition in Waterford where she beat her own personal record by lifting a whopping 75kg.

“I was very, very happy,” says Casey of her fantastic win. “I never doubted that I’d get onto it. I was always saying to my mam - ‘I’m going to get on this team, I know I am’.

“It gives me something to do now that I’m finished school instead of sitting at home and it’s something that I genuinely enjoy doing. I will be travelling to countries that I’ve never been to before and I might get to meet some interesting people on the way.”

Casey’s debut competition sporting the Irish colours is set to take place in Dubai in August.

“I’m excited but also kind of nervous too,” says Casey.

“I’m nervous as I’m not used to travelling a lot and I’m nervous for the competition, but I’m quite confident that I’ll do very well.”

Casey has spent the last few weeks preparing both mentally and physically for her upcoming competition, set to take place in Dubai in August, all under the watchful eye of her coach, Bryan Foy of Club Active Kells. A complicating factor for Casey’s training regime this year has been the Leaving Certificate.

“It was hard sometimes because of course when I was doing my exams I had to juggle around my training days but that was really the only hard bit for me.

“I train Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but I just go training after school.”

When asked which was more nerve wrecking - exams or competing? - Casey laughed, saying “I’m more nervous about the upcoming competition, I wasn’t nervous about my Leaving Cert at all because I kind of knew I would be okay.”

She also stated once her exams were over “I threw my uniform away”.


The Mullagh woman was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was just 18 months old.

“We always knew there was something not right but it was when she couldn’t bear her weight at nine months that the doctor said there was something not right,” explained her mother, Tracey. “So then we had all these tests and it took until she was 18 months old to tell us what was wrong with her.”

While both her mother and her father Noel’s lives were in turmoil following the diagnosis, they were grateful she wasn’t diagnosed with the worst stage.

“She’s a stage three and the worst one is stage four. She is very lucky that she hasn’t got the worst type of cerebral palsy. The worst type would be if she wasn’t able to speak or anything, so we’re very lucky in that respect.”

Casey attended St Kilian’s National School in Mullagh where she made friends, however she could never fully immerse herself in the games they were playing.

“I remember her school sports day, I think it was fifth class in primary school and all the kids were running by her and she was trying to keep up with them,” explained Tracey.

“She has a walker and she was trying to keep up with them but it doesn’t go on grass very well. She literally did everything she could to participate.”

As she got older, everyday tasks continued to be difficult for Casey.

“She has an electric wheelchair, she has a manual wheelchair. To transfer from her wheelchair to her bed, she literally has to have her wheelchair beside her bed otherwise she would fall. She wears leg splints to try keep her a wee bit more stable when she’s transferring. It affects all the muscles in her legs basically. She can’t stand for any more than maybe two or three seconds or she falls on the ground, she’s had so many operations.”

Weight lifting

Throughout her teenage years, Casey became interested in weight lifting, spending hours watching various sports on Youtube, awaiting the day she could participate herself.

“I couldn’t do it until I turned 16,” says Casey, explaining if she had participated in the sport any earlier, it could have impacted her development.

“When I first saw the sport, I think I was only about 14 and I had a bit of an interest in weight lifting in general and I was always watching people online doing it. I had to wait until I was 16 which I wasn’t happy about, but as soon as I hit 16, that’s when I started.”

Sharing her daughter’s enthusiasm, Tracey said “It’s great to actually have something that she can participate in.”

The cost of Casey’s flights to Dubai in August have been sponsored by Park Rí in Kells, however, her family are also holding various fundraisers to cover her expenses, and future competitions.

Casey isn’t the only Mullagh woman striving for her place on the Olympic stage next year. Well known paralympian Britney Arendse is also eyeing up the competition.

“I’m delighted to be one of the paralympians in Ireland. It’s tough getting there but when you get there it’s all worth it.

“I’ve been in it since 2017 and I’ve set world records and broken my own records as well and come home with many medals, I’m just opening the gates for other athletes to carry on the legacy.

“It’s been a great journey and to get to the next Paralympics will be a tough journey but it’ll be worth it in the end.”

Britney currently holds the record for the category in which Casey is competing in Dubai, and is pushing Casey to break it.

“I’m honestly telling her to go for it. I’m telling everyone to go for it.”

Having someone from your hometown compete in the same sport as you sounds like a recipe for rivalry, however both ladies are supporting eachother, pushing the other to achieve their goal.

“I am honestly grateful that Casey has taken up after me. She’s a strong woman and she’s going to go far, very far. I have high hopes and I believe in Casey. She can definitely do great things with the sport,” says Britney.

“I’m grateful that she picked something that she loved and I’m honoured to have a friend in the town as well and a partner in crime.”

Showing the same enthusiasm, Casey stated, “We can just encourage each other to lift heavier and push each other further to see how far we can get.”

Both Casey and Britney are now fighting for their place in the 2024 Paralympics which can be secured following their success in upcoming competitions.