Council worker bowled over by call to represent Northern Ireland at Commonwealth Games
Wednesday 3 January 2018
Highly decorated bowls player and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council member of staff Martin McHugh has told of his pride at being selected to represent Northern Ireland at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.
The 44-year-old, who works as a foreman painter at the Council, was named as part of the Team NI lawn bowls side heading to the prestigious showpiece on the Gold Coast, where he will be aiming to brush off his rivals.
It will be Martin’s sixth Commonwealth Games and the Co Antrim man, who has won more than 50 illustrious titles during a glittering sporting career, told of his delight and excitement at the prospect of taking to the rink in front of a global audience.
And he is confident he can add another Commonwealth gold medal to his collection having been part of the all-conquering Northern Ireland bowls team of 1998.
Martin said: “I am honoured to be selected to represent my country at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. This will be the sixth time I have participated in the Games and I am really looking forward to it and mixing with some of the world’s best sporting competitors.
“I have been playing bowls since about the age of 12 and have always adored it.
“I would spend all my school holidays perfecting my game and playing with my friends.
“Fortunately, all the hard work over the years has paid off and I have been lucky to travel the world. I’ve been to New Zealand, Australia, America, India, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and many other fantastic places, as a result of bowls.
“We have been training hard and it is a privilege to be selected for my sixth Commonwealth Games.
“A huge thank you to my family, who have been behind me throughout my career, and to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, who have always been very supportive.”
The Northern Ireland squad was announced at a special reception in Newtownabbey on Wednesday.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Councillor Paul Reid, said: “Congratulations to Martin on his selection to the Northern Ireland bowls team for the Commonwealth Games.
“This is a remarkable achievement and fully deserved given Martin’s success in the game over the past two decades.
“I also congratulate all those special individuals from our Borough and throughout Northern Ireland who will be representing us in Australia. In total there will be 88 athletes representing Team NI across 13 sports.
“Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is committed to facilitating and promoting top class sport in our Borough.
“The health and wellbeing of our citizens is vitally important and a key aspect of the Borough’s Putting People First Community Plan.
“We want all residents to enjoy long, healthy and active lives in a Borough which offers high quality public services and equality for all.
“We look forward to following Martin and the team’s progress at this year’s competition.”
In total, a team of 134 athletes, coaches and support staff will travel to Brisbane, which is the largest team that Northern Ireland has sent to a Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Martin, from Whitehead, has enjoyed a trophy-laden bowls career to date, winning gold at the Commonwealth Games back in 1998 and a silver at the Games four years later.
He picked up five British titles, 23 Northern Ireland titles and 14 Irish titles.
He also won bronze medals at the World Outdoor Championships in 2000 and 2016, as well as taking bronze at the Atlantic Rim Championships in 2015.
You can follow Team NI’s journey to and at the Commonwealth Games on Facebook at Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games, and on Twitter at @GOTEAMNI #TEAMNI
Photograph: Martin McHugh (left) with the Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid