The Dream Team

The Lawlor Family in Croke Park.

Henry Ford once said “Coming together is the beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is Success” and his quotation certainly sums up the amazing Lawlor family from Shanagolden, Co. Limerick, finalists in RTE’s “Ireland’s Fittest Family” programme. It’s a reality TV series where families from across Ireland compete in different adventure races and fitness competitions in an effort to win €15,000 and the title of ‘Ireland’s Fittest Family’.
The Lawlors, Dympna and sons Jonah, Darren and Matthew decided during the past summer that they’d like to give the competition a shot. “When we applied for it back in June, I never thought we’d actually get it,” Dympna told me. “We went to Athlone for the fitness test on a Saturday, and I couldn’t believe it when we got a phone call the following Tuesday telling us we were in. We got in on our own fitness merit. The producers recognised that the boys had fantastic strength and that really stood to us.”
The family has been through some extremely hard challenges and have taken part in several elimination rounds. I asked Dympna about their fitness regime. “I train about three days a week. I run and do some boxercise. The boys always loved the gym and go five days a week.” Dympna has ran the Dublin City Marathon three times and admits that running is her first love. She is a devoted mother, and the unity that exists between the four of them during their various challenges has been exemplary. “The boys are fantastic. We’ve gone through so many challenges from day one. We work very well together, and we have never let each other down.”
From a very young age, Jonah, Darren and Matthew were encouraged to take part in team sports. They loved their hurling and football, and Dympna played the typical role of every mother by attending all their matches and events. They played with their local club in Shanagolden, and with their schools. They saw how much their mother loved to take part in running events and this has played an influential part in their love of Sport. Dympna has had to work on her upper body strength for many of the challenges that the family have faced. “I’ve done some training with the boys to help me with the more physical aspects, like heavy lifting and pulling,” she said. I asked her what her toughest challenge was to date. “It has to be the bog” she said “It was just horrendous. That whole day, having to do three events was really tough. Darren and Jonah did the first one with no difficulty really, Matthew, Darren and myself did the second one, and all four of us did the third. When I saw the six walls at the end, I just didn’t know how I’d manage it. We really had to dig deep to keep going. I told the boys that I was shattered after the bog, but we kept each other going.” The Swamp Trek is an obstacle-filled race course complete with cliff-hanger walls, 100m of bog, and an ice-cold swim. The Lawlors and Pierse family from Listowel had to battle it out over hay bales, “confidence crushing” walls, a cold-water dip, a cargo net climb and uphill rat tunnels.
After an incredibly intense and challenging race, the Lawlors triumphed, earning them a spot in the final. I asked Dympna if she felt like giving up at any stage. “Oh yes” she told me there were one or two stages when I thought we’d done so well, only to be faced with another eliminator round. I wondered if we were better off just going home. But we stuck together and supported each other as a team and that’s what got us through it, we held it together.”
Dympna’s father passed away a year ago. She told me that every challenge they completed, they did it for him. “He was such a great Family man, he was so proud of the boys and their achievements. He went to all their matches and supported them in every way. He’s our extra man, looking down on us,” she said emotionally.
The year has been remarkable for Limerick people everywhere. For all of us who are watching the programme, it has evoked excitement similar to the All-Ireland final. We wish the Lawlors every success in their remarkable journey and, regardless of the result, we can safely say that this is another great victory for Limerick.
The final is on Sunday night at 6.30pm and the Community Hall, Shanagolden will be open for all supporters of the event.