IN life if we're luck we come across someone who touches our heart in a special way.
One man who touched many hearts recently is Cork sports super fan Stuart McCarthy, who had a crowd of over 6,000 Cork City fans on their feet cheering as he hit the bar in RedFM'sat half time of the City and Galway United game.
To see the joy and what it meant to Stuart, his friends and every supporter at the ground, made it a memorable moment.
For one great friend and colleague Luke Dennehy, it’s a moment that will live with him for life.
“The crossbar challenge was truly amazing,” said Dennehy.
"On Wednesday I explained to Stuart what he needed to do as he never did a crossbar challenge before so he decided Friday he would take the ball he got from his nephew Darius who recently visited him from Australia and head down the Regional Park to practice hitting the crossbar with Dave and Peter from the Hub (Cope Foundation).
As it happened they saved the best 'til last.
"After two near attempts Stuart stood up for his final attempt, Stuart waved his arms up and down to signal the crowd to raise the volume, stood up and pinged the crossbar with a beautiful strike and the amazing crowd erupted with the delight and chanted his name he ran off to celebrate by first doing the Klopp fist pump and then Mo Salah pointing to the sky.
"I had goosebumps at the time and still get them when I watch it back. It's a moment he will savor for a lifetime.”
The Ballincollig man can be seen at many sporting events throughout the year such is his love for so many sports, GAA, soccer, rugby and basketball. Here Dennehy tells us about his friendship with Stuart and the joy he brings to his family and so many people.
“I know Stuart since he was about 10 years old, with us both from Ballincollig. He then started working out in Dennehys many years ago doing personal training and then became a member in 2016.
"In early 2019 Stuart began work experience with us through 'ability at work' with Cope Foundation and progressed on to become a paid employee not long after, this is where our real relationship began. Stuart enjoys a bit of craic and is heavily involved in many sports and helps me out both at work and with our own soccer team Killumney United FC.
"He loves his mother and family and friends. He is very outgoing and loves a party.
“I would say Stuart is someone we could all learn a lot from as he lives in the moment, he loves striking up conversations with strangers and can make friends very easily (which adds hours to my weeks) but it’s great because he has a gift of making people smile and you never know how valuable that might be to someone on any given day."
He is very involved at all levels and ages with Ballincollig GAA and the club is very good to him.
He has a head like a diary, he can tell you the schedule for matches and training across multiple age groups every week just off the top of his head, it is truly remarkable and he would get it quicker than Google for you.
"At Killumney he is our main man come match day, helping us prepare and when we got to a final last season he gave us a good pep talk over the phone as he was away in sunny Spain.
“He is part of the World Cup-winning Sunday's Well Rebels rugby team too in Musgrave Park and it truly was amazing. I hope that organisation gets all the recognition it deserves because what I witnessed at that competition was the best example of inclusive sport I have ever seen and all the organisers, coaches and athletes did an amazing job.
"Stuart became known for his celebrations that week which he later used in the crossbar challenge. Leading up to the World Cup there was a marketing campaign with many giant posters around Cork and of course, Stuart was the face of the competition, he loved the fame and attention.
“He plays for a soccer team called the Gunners on Saturday mornings so living with Down Syndrome hasn’t excluded Stuart from taking part in the sports he loves.”
Support from Stuart’s family has always been paramount to his happy life.
“Stuart is very close to his mother Martina and her partner Paul and all three have a great relationship even though Paul follows Man Utd and Stuart is die-hard Liverpool but they make it work! Martina is a great mother to Stuart and should be proud that she has raised possibly the biggest legend in Cork."
With all his activities, Martina has to drive him around to different places and collect him.
"She has the patience of a saint as it can be hard to pull Stuart away from the crowd at times. Paul also helps out here too and Stuart loves to turn the radio up as loud as he can when he’s riding shotgun.
“Stuart has a sister Amanda living in Australia. Amanda, her husband Ferdi and their son Darius came home for five weeks recently and were there to support Stuart and The Rebels to their victory in the World Cup.
“I know that Stuart has a huge family and community of friends around him and many homes in Ballincollig have an open door policy for Stuart. He often finishes work on a Thursday and strolls up the road to his family friends the Nevilles and always comes back well fed, ready to workout in the gym. I hope he continues to make such an impact in so many people's lives.”