Training Session With A Difference For Sports Stars Of Tomorrow

5 of NI’s most promising athletes meet the experts at Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy Masterclass in partnership with Mary Peters Trust

Five of Northern Ireland’s most promising sporting talents were given access to a unique Masterclass event at Kingspan Stadium today. The Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy Masterclass, in partnership with the Mary Peters Trust, brought together athletes Casey Jo Bell (gymnastics), Annabel Wilson (golf), Peter Bothwell (tennis), Megan Marrs (athletics) and Ian Sloan (hockey) for a day of interactive training workshops with experts from across the world of sports.

As well as gaining insight and advice first-hand from Paralympic skier and Gold medallist Kelly Gallagher and Ulster Rugby Scrumhalf Paul Marshall, the five young athletes had one-on-one guidance sessions with sports nutritionist Dr Sharon Madigan, Ireland’s leading sports psychologist Dr Mark Elliott and sports journalist Jim Gracey.

Following a competitive application process each year, the Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy selects five of the top local rising sports stars, who require assistance to develop their career internationally. As well as attending this unique Masterclass event, each athlete is presented with a financial bursary from Dale Farm towards furthering their career.

Speaking at the event, Kelly Gallagher said, “I am delighted to be taking part in the Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy. It is really encouraging to see a local company supporting local sports and I’m proud to meet these five athletes who are so committed to being the best they can be in their chosen sport. I hope my achievements will act as inspiration to them as they further their career at an international level.”

Over the last eight years, Dale Farm has contributed significantly to developing local athletes’ careers. Jason Hempton, Commercial Director – Branded Products, Dale Farm said:

“Dale Farm created the Athletes’ Academy to help equip upcoming Northern Ireland sporting talent with the financial and practical support they need on their journey towards the top.

“This Masterclass gave our five athletes the chance to learn directly from some fantastic ambassadors for Northern Ireland sport, to ask questions, share experiences and further their skillset in everything from managing nutrition to handling media interviews. The hope is they will come away with practical advice that they can use in developing their career. Certainly their enthusiasm and passion is unquestionable and I have no doubt they will continue to excel."

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Dame Mary Peters CH DBE, President of the Mary Peters Trust, said:

“This is a great experience for our five young athletes, I wish I had access to this type of Masterclass in the early stages of my sporting career but things were very different then. I am delighted with our continued partnership with Dale Farm and hope that it will endure. NI sport needs forward thinking commercial companies like Dale Farm to help create the stars of the future.”

The selected athletes on the 2014/15 Dale Farm Athletes’ Academy are:

- Lisburn gymnast Casey Jo Bell (14 years old)

- Golf’s Annabel Wilson (13 years old) from Aghalee

- Tennis player Peter Bothwell from Hillsborough (18 years old)

- Belfast hurdler Megan Marrs (17 years old)

- Hockey player Ian Sloan from Stewartstown (20 years old)

Athlete Biographies:

• 13 year old Annabel Wilson played on the Irish team of 3 for the World Under-18 Championships in Canada in September this year and is the current Irish, Ulster and Leinster Girls’ Open Champion. In 2015, Annabel hopes to be selected for the Junior Solheim and Vagliano Teams and is likely to be offered to play in a Ladies European Tour Event. Her long term goal is to play on the LPGA Tour.

• At the age of just 18 years old, tennis player Peter Bothwell is the first man to have an ATP World Ranking, making him Northern Ireland’s most successful player to date. Having turned professional earlier this year, Peter trains in Spain on red clay courts at Soto Tennis Academy and is planning to play in 25 men’s Futures tours over the next 12 months.

• Megan Marrs achieved no less than 5 new Northern Ireland records in 2014 in sprints and hurdles. Ranked 5th in Europe in the 100m hurdles, Megan aims to compete at the European Under-20 Championships in Sweden, a stepping stone towards her 2018 Commonwealth Games vision.

• Hockey player Ian Sloan is seeking to become part of the GB Olympic squad for Rio in 2016. Ian has represented Ulster/Northern Ireland at every age group as well as playing for the Ireland senior team.

• Casey Jo Bell is the current gymnastics Northern Ireland Minor and Irish Champion and having now entered the Junior competition programme, will travel to International Competitions representing Northern Ireland and Ireland. Her goal is to represent Ireland at the 2016 Olympic Games.

For further information contact Sarah Stitt / Seona McGrath at Morrow Communications on (t) 02890 393837 or (e)