Popular Hendon publican Finbar Holian, the landlord of The Claddagh Ring, will later this month (30 September) lead a team of 42 men and women, cyclists and support staff, on a challenging charity cycle from London to Ballaghderreen in Roscommon.
The five-day cycle is expected to raise at least £100,000 to support research into, and treatment for, Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and Alzheimer’s Disease.
MND is caused by a problem with motor neurone cells in the brain and nerves, and AD is thought to be caused by abnormal build-up of proteins in and around the brain cells.
MND’s symptoms are noticeably physical; such as slurred speech, muscle weakness and difficulty swallowing and walking. Whereas Alzheimer’s tends to present itself as changes in the person’s mind (brain), usually in the form of memory problems, confusion, disorientation and personality changes.
Both of the diseases are progressive and require professional care and treatment and, as yet, there’s no cure for either.
The team will head off on 30 September and cycle to Banbury for their first stop, on Tuesday they will head for Shifnal, and Wednesday go to Liverpool where they will be welcomed by a fundraising evening with music and special guests at Liverpool Irish Centre.
They will then take the Liverpool ferry to Dublin where there will be another fundraising event at Darkey Kelly’s Bar at Fishamble Street on Thursday night (4 October) followed by a reception at Croke Park, where they will be joined by 13 more cyclists and head for Tyrrellspass, Westmeath.
On Saturday the team will head for Athlone, then on to Roscommon Town, through Ballymore and Castlerea and on to their destination, Ballaghderreen GAA clubhouse and pitch.
Ballaghderreen was the home of Finbar’s late brother in law, Frank Kelly, who died from MND two years ago.
Frank was the local postman and a huge part of Ballaghaderreen GAA both as a player and manager.
The team will also remember Wexford man Joe Lynch from Enfield who recently died from Alzheimer’s Disease. Joe was was manager and chairman of Saint Theresa’s GAA Club in north London for many years and, 27 years ago, actually cycled to Ireland from the Claddagh Ring with some of the present team.
There will be an official Bike Team Fund Raising Night at The Claddagh Ring next week on Saturday 28 September with music, special guests, raffle, auction, Irish dancing and a chance to meet the team.
Meet some of the cyclists
Dr Aisling Hillary, from Galway, (a former London Rose) is an Accident and Emergency doctor: “I was originally asked to come along as a medic. This is for a great cause, both illnesses are devastating for the people and their families and so much research is still needed so we hope to help some of that happen. Thanks to everyone for all their support and, please, keep supporting us.”
Carpenter Finbarr O’Shea, 60, from Shepherds Bush and originally from Kilrush, Co. Clare said: “My brother-in-law had Alzheimer’s, and a couple of his brothers and sisters.”
Support Team leader John Bresnahan said: “I’m doing this in support of friends and family that have been lost to MND and Alzheimer’s. I hope the money that will be raised will support other families affected by these dreadful diseases.”
Team Leader Liam McCarthy, whose company LMC Contracts sponsored the team’s kit and leisure wear said: “I was born in Kerry where my dad comes from and my mum’s Tyrone but I’m life-long London-Irish. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’ve done three-day cycles before, but this is my first five-day cycle.
“I’m taking part because, firstly, Finbar is a great fellow and while MND has not affected anyone I know it could always be someone very close to me. It is nice to give a little bit back to other people.”
Paul McAloon, from Trillick, Co Tyrone, of the Crystal Sound company, said: “We all know of someone affected by Alzheimer’s, it seems to be booming and becoming ever more common. I do not know of anyone with MND but it is certainly a very worthwhile cause.
“When asked to do it I felt I had no other choice but to say yes. Aside from that, and of lesser importance, it was an opportunity to do something to get fitter. I’m looking forward to it with trepidation.”
Local businessman and property developer Joe La Porte, 53, is originally from the Seychelles and this will be his first time to visit Ireland: “Most of my friends are Irish and I’ve never been to Ireland in 45 years of living in England. My son-in-law is half Irish and my eldest daughter goes to Ireland four times a year. It is unacceptable that I have not yet been.
“Finbar is a very popular chap not just with the Irish but he is widely liked in Hendon, generally, so when he mentioned it, I wanted to support him and a couple of great charities – and go to Ireland for the first time.
“I’m really looking forward to it but might not have been if I had known how hard the training would be.”