TWELVE hardy and experienced cyclists made their way from Malin Head to Mizen Head last week raising money for cancer charities.
From June 6 and 10 the mini peloton completed the South for Susan and Antoinette challenge and have raised tens of thousands of euro for Cancer Care West and Sláinte an Chláir.
The cycle was named for two women lost to cancer, Ballyea’s Susan O’Neill and Antoinette Pender of Quilty, and the cyclists covered some 675 kilometres.
They left home on June 5 for the Ballyliffin Hotel close to Malin Head, where they roared on Clare’s Munster final efforts, before the serious stuff began the following morning.
Monday morning saw cyclists departed Malin Head in bright sunshine while the first overnight was in Donegal Town. The bright sunshine lasted almost until Claremorris at the end of the second day but the rain started close to the Mayo border. It was a wet start to Day 3 also but the prospect of a Ballyea stage finish and the chance to sleep in their own beds kept the cyclists energised.
At a lunch stop in Oranmore, the CEO of Cancer Care West, Ritchie Flaherty and the Fundraising Manager, Dave O’Donnell were waiting to meet everybody with protein bars, drinks and t-shirts. Upon crossing the border into Clare, a Garda escort team of a motorcycle and traffic corps jeep took up positions at the front and rear of the convoy.
The reception in Ballyea was marvellous and a large crowd of supporters, families and friends were treated to refreshments in Ballyea Hall. On Thursday morning (Day 4), the pupils, teachers and staff of Ballyea National School formed a ‘guard of honour’ to see the cyclists on their way to Blarney in Cork. In Newmarket-on-Fergus, the schoolchildren greeted the cyclists with scones and refreshments.
Friday, June 6 was the last day of cycling and like many a challenge, the last hours of the 675 kilometre challenge were the toughest, with the cyclists battling a strong headwind. Ballyea hurling legend Tony Griffin, a lifetime friend of the O’Neill family, joined the cyclists on the road to Inishannon.
All the support team and some family members were on hand to celebrate the finish as “From Clare to Here” blared out from a stereo. The finish was celebrated with a meal in Schull where highlights and memories were discussed and debated.
The fact that all involved remained strong friends and that there had been no falling out within the group was regarded as an achievement. So, also, was the fact that there were no injuries or accidents; two punctures, one to a bike and one to a support van were the only incidents of note.
A surprise for the team at the farewell dinner was a special poem that had been composed by Tara Lynch (née O’Neill), which recounted all of the quirks and laughs along the route.
It was very well composed and drew howls of laughter. All who participated on the journey from Malin to Mizen paid their own accommodation and meal costs.
To keep costs down, it was necessary to share rooms in the various hotels. This led to the only complaint that was aired a few times along the route – snoring! Tired cyclists seem to snore at a higher pitch than normal snorers.
The amount raised is set to exceed €40,000. Donations can still be made at the Gofundme page or by bank transfer to AIB account IBAN: IE71AIBK93538757123183