AN Ennis priest has made a ‘wheel’ effort for charity, raising €5,000 for Barnardos. Fr Ger Fitzgerald finished his 30×30 cycle challenge this week, attempting to cycle 30 miles every day for 30 days.
He might have finished a few days behind schedule, suffering aches and pains along the way, but according to Fr Ger, he is delighted to have been able to do something to help the worthy cause.
“I hope that this helps even one person to have a brighter tomorrow,” he said.
Recalling his time doing the challenge, Fr Ger said, “It was a really wonderful journey, which took in Clare, Limerick, Galway and Tipperary. The cycle went to places like Corofin, Inchiquin Lake, Coole Park, Castleconnell, O’Briensbridge, Quin, Doonas, Ruan and, of course, to Fr Ted’s House. I documented all the places I was on my Facebook page.”
He went on, “I was struck many times by the incredible beauty of the Irish countryside and the friendliness of the people I met along the way. I was also struck by the many hills, which dot the Irish landscape. They were fairly savage at times, in particular the hill going up to Inchiquin Lake and the hill up from Dromoland Castle. Perhaps the most difficult of all was in the Ballyhoura Mountains; unforgettable.”
During the cycle, Fr Ger got to visit a lot of places that hold deep meaning for him, in particular the grave of Fr Michael O’Grady in Crusheen.
“He baptised me in 1980 in Castleconnell so it was good to visit his grave. I also got to visit the grave of recently deceased Fr Michael McInerney, a very saintly and holy man who is buried in the churchyard in Quin. I was lucky enough to meet him once or twice before he died. If I can be a quarter of the priest he was, I’ll be doing well.
“I also visited Kilnasoolagh Church of Ireland in Newmarket, where Lt Col Richard Stacpoole, MC is buried. He was a soldier and retired to Castleconnell in Limerick, where my aunt worked for him. I also got to see the beautiful landscape of the Burren.”
Fr Ger wasn’t the only one to get on his bike for charity. He was joined on some of his journeys by a number of local people. “I am indebted to all the people who came with me over the month. These people include Michael Conlan, sacristan of St Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in Ennis; Marta Kubik from Poland; Paul Kelly, who works in the cathedral and Jimmy Maher from Quin. All of these made the cycle more enjoyable and a lot easier and provided great company during the long days.”
Of course, the cycle would not have happened without a bicycle and Fr Ger’s trusty two wheels were loaned to him by Clare Cassidy and family. “I promise to return it in one piece,” he smiled.
Fr Ger recalled a number of funny incidents on his journey. “There was one evening, I can’t remember where I was going to, but I was behind a tractor and it was moving very slowly, so I decided that I could nearly pass it out if I moved fast enough down the hill. So, I moved out to overtake him and the front wheel of the bike went into a pothole and came halfway out of its holder. I ended up in the ditch and the tractor got away.
“Then there were my two punctures in Coole Park, which both occurred on separate days in the exact same spot. The weather for the duration of the cycle was interesting too, as we cycled through the four seasons.
“On the second day of the cycle, which took us to Inagh and beyond, it rained so much that we were soaked by the time we got out of Ennis. Then, the following week, in the heat, going to Gort from Coole Park was another out-of-body experience.”
He said he was delighted with the level of support he received. “At this point, words fail me because the generosity of people, even in these troubling times, has been nothing short of breathtaking. I am deeply indebted to everyone who has supported me and would like to express my most sincere gratitude to all of them.
“Particular mention should be made of JP McManus, whose charitable organisation donated €1,000. Overall, we have raised in the region of €5,000, which is just fantastic.”
Would he do it again? “Overall, leaving pains and aches aside and trying to forget about the hills in the road that just seem to go on and on, I enjoyed it. I probably won’t be doing it again but I’m glad that I gave this a go.”