At school and in college, Sarah Cregg, who lives with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, was constantly battling to overcome the challenges posed by memory retention issues.
Retaining the information learned in class in primary and secondary school and what she studied in three third level business courses was difficult for Sarah. However, she persisted and did not give up.
Now, aged 21 with a full driving licence under her belt, three successfully completed business courses to her name, two All-Star Awards for Wheelchair Hurling, and a new job which she is thoroughly enjoying, Sarah can look back with pride on her achievements.
“I do now definitely feel a sense of achievement and I know all that I have done for myself, but I did not appreciate it at the time,” says Sarah.
“Looking back now I can see how far I have come, and I know that I have done it.”
Sarah, who is from Frenchpark in Roscommon attended St Patrick’s National School in Frenchpark and St Nathy’s Secondary School in Ballaghaderreen. After completing her Leaving Certificate, she undertook a PLC course in Business Studies in Castlerea and the following year, she did a Business Course in Sligo IT.
Sarah then completed a hat trick of studies by successfully completing another PLC course in Business Studies in Sligo.
“There were challenges right throughout primary and secondary school and into my college courses,” admits Sarah.
“Remembering what had been taught in school was always hard for me. I had difficulties with tests and exams and if you asked me a question about something I had learned last week, I would have trouble remembering.
“That was my experience, it was very difficult, but I did it.”
Sarah has passed her driving test and now has the great freedom and independence of being ‘able to go where I want without having to wait for lifts’ as she drives herself around in her Ford Focus.
And now she drives herself to Strokestown every day to her new job in administration with a company called Oncor Ventures.
“It was as a direct result of all the courses I did that I was successful in getting this job. One of the businesses within the company is the Strokestown Democrat newspaper and I work for that selling advertising.
“I am enjoying it so much and I really like meeting and speaking to new people every day. I work 21 hours a week, the job is for one year, but I hope I will be kept on.”
Sarah, a young woman with career ambition looks to the future when she gains more experience in the world of business which will allow her to progress to more senior roles with more responsibility.
Her advice to anyone living with spina bifida and/or hydrocephalus who would like to follow in her path is to think carefully before rushing into third level education just for the sake of it.
“You need to decide exactly what it is you want to do, make the right choice of course for yourself and do not have anyone telling you what you should do,” urges Sarah.
“Then when you see a course that you would like, just go for it.”
Sarah lives in a ‘GAA mad’ family with her parents P.J. and Annette. She has three brothers Cathal, Finbarr, and Darragh and a sister Niamh. It is because Cathal and Finbarr play on the Roscommon Football team that the whole family is heavily involved with the GAA.
About five years ago, Sarah was approached to ask if she would be interested in joining a Wheelchair Hurling team which was being set up in Roscommon.
“I did one or two training sessions to see if I would like it and I did, and I have been on the team ever since. I am the only girl on the team but that is actually great, and I am accepted as just one of the team by the rest of the lads.”
For two successive years – 2016 and 2017 – Sarah was deemed to be the best player, winning All-Star Awards.
“I was never expecting to get awards, so winning two All-Star awards was brilliant and extra special.”
In June, Sarah had the privilege and pleasure of being selected as one of a few GAA players to meet Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle in Croke Park during their visit to Ireland.
“It was absolutely amazing. It did not hit me until I was up there right beside them that I was actually meeting them!” she says.
“It was really good to speak with Prince Harry and Meghan, they were very genuine and lovely and very easy to chat to.
“I told them that I play on a Wheelchair Hurling team and when Meghan heard that I am the only girl on the team she said: ‘good for you’!”