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My 2014: From documentary launches to sitting the Leaving Cert – it was a year to remember!

I turned 18, released a documentary, met President Higgins and started university – it’s been a rollercoaster.

Joanne O'Riordan

2014! WHAT A YEAR it was! From documentary launches to sitting the Leaving Cert and awaiting my results, I must say it was a year to remember for my family and me.

Reeling in the New Year with a few close friends in Killarney, we never imagined we would face the year of highs and lows.

What are the highs you may ask? Firstly, my documentary No Limbs No Limits was released into cinemas nationwide, and it succeeded in inspiring a nation. No Limbs No Limits was received greatly by critics and to be honest, the highlight came when we received more stars than Brendan Gleeson’s Calvary in the Irish Times (sorry Brendan!). Not only did it get released in cinemas – a screening in the Jameson Dublin Film Festival – it also got its small-screen debut thanks to RTE. It aired on 19 June, coinciding with the end of that small obstacle in my life, the Leaving Cert. Typical post LC students, we all decided to go out and watch the documentary the day after, which assisted in our recovery from the antics of the night before.

In between the high of No Limbs No Limits, I also got the 18th birthday week of my life. My parents and I flew off to Barcelona for a match, as I am an avid fan of FC Barcelona. We stayed in the same hotel as the team (what a coincidence!) and between my parents and hotel staff, I managed to meet my heroes and I met the king, Lionel Messi. I was blessed with the presence of the Messiah on Easter Sunday. What could top this off? Meeting the president, Michael D Higgins, of course.

The day before I officially became an adult, I met with our president and his wife Sabina. It was nice knowing going in there the president was amazed at my weekend in Barcelona, so I kind of had one up on the president. My family and I had tea with the man himself and looking back on the photo, it’s funny to see his two Bernese Mountain dogs photobombing.

The sudden snap back into reality came when I was hit with the dreaded task of sitting my Leaving Cert. Throughout tears, tantrums, breakdowns and typical LC behaviour. Thankfully, I got through it alive and I lived to tell the tale. Oh yeah, I was also awarded with a Quercus Scholarship by UCC for my working in raising awareness for the rights of people with disabilities. Joanne 1 – CAO 0.

I started college like any other student, reeling in the aftermath of Freshers’ week and, of course, throwing myself into study as I am now a student of Criminology. I am now living completely independently thanks to the personal assistants supplied by the Irish Wheelchair Association. Of course, there was the tearful goodbye as I was leaving my beloved Shih Tzu for the first time. Yes, I cared more my little dog.

College life is something I’m still getting accustomed to. I am now independent and have to make decisions for myself, like a big girl. I am delighted to say UCC have welcomed me with open arms and I’m thrilled to say another chapter of my life has begun.

My aim is to hopefully inspire others to fulfil their dreams and to encourage them to do what makes them happy. I have reached my goals and dreams with various hiccups, but I have never allowed them to hold me back. Finishing page 365 of the book of 2014, I will reel in the New Year once again with my nearest and dearest, and I hope the book of 2015 will be just as eventful, a rollercoaster adventure just like the book of 2014.

Joanne O’Riordan.

Off to college: Joanne O’Riordan gets the course she wanted at UCC

‘I can see why people see me as an inspiration, but I don’t see it myself!’

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