Thursday 29 June 2017

It's a long way from Tipperary for top climber Sarah (11)

Sinead and Sarah O'Neill with Fionnuala McGeever and Ian McKeever after the 11-yearold
became the youngest girl to scale Mount Kilimanjaro
Sinead and Sarah O'Neill with Fionnuala McGeever and Ian McKeever after the 11-yearold became the youngest girl to scale Mount Kilimanjaro

Brian Hutton

An 11-year-old from Co Tipperary has become the youngest girl to scale Africa's highest mountain.

Sarah O'Neill, from Bansha, reached the peak of 5,895-metre Mount Kilimanjaro yesterday with her mother Sinead.

The proud Premier county fan said she hoped her feat was an omen for her side against Kilkenny in Sunday's All-Ireland hurling championship decider.

Dressed in her home colours of blue and gold, Sarah said: "I'm over the moon -- so thrilled."

After reaching the summit at around 11am, she added: "I'm very proud and hope that Tipp can now go and win the All-Ireland next Sunday."

Sarah, a pupil at Bansha national school, read about Irish adventurer Ian McKeever helping his then 10-year-old godson Sean McSharry become the youngest person in Europe to reach the top of Kilimanjaro in 2008.

The story inspired her to make an attempt at it and she has trained with her mother in mountains around Ireland for the past five months.

They formed part of a 33-strong secondary school group, one of eight separate expeditions, involving 150 Irish students, parents and teachers, led up Kilimanjaro this summer by Mr McKeever (41) from Lough Dan in Co Wicklow.

Fionnuala McGeever, chief executive of Tipperary South Vocational Education Committee, who joined them on the climb, said she was thrilled to see so many of her students reach the top.

"Sarah's mum Sinead was overcome with joy," she said.

"I can't believe we did it, and together. I'm so proud of Sarah, she's such a determined girl with so much heart and courage."

Mr McKeever had to abandon an attempt earlier this month to become the fastest man to scale the peak when he was prevented from descending the same route he was running up during a final practice attempt. But the mountaineer said he was holding talks with Irish ambassador to Tanzania Lorcan Fullam about persuading the authorities to allow him to attempt the fastest ascent challenge around the middle of next month.

Along with his African climbing guide friend Samuel Kinsonga, Mr McKeever is hoping to break the record of five hours 38 minutes, set by Italian speed climber Bruno Brunod in 2001.

The effort is part of their anti-racism Black & White Makes Sense campaign.

Irish Independent

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