Locals get on their bikes for hospital
THIS year's Ring of Kerry Cycle will forever hold a special place in the hearts of the Valentia Island and Iveragh cyclists who took part as their efforts were on behalf of the Valentia Island Cottage Hospital, which was nominated as one of the charitable beneficiaries.
It was a day when varying accents from all over Ireland were heard on the roads with discussions as diverse as the length of grass on fields, this year's success in saving turf and silage, the World Cup, Garth Brooks and the inevitable Cork-Kerry banter on the following day's Munster football final.
The weather, apart from the odd shower was good, the atmosphere, craic, banter and camaraderie was at an unprecedented high, complimented by the fact that 810 cyclists took part on behalf of the hospital. Many of these cyclists benefited from regular Sunday morning training sessions on the roads of Iveragh on beautiful summer mornings, organised by Valentia's Tony Curran.
The hospital, which has provided 143 years of unbroken service to the people of Iveragh, currently provides long stay care for 16 residents, respite care, a laundrette and also day care services three days per week to a further 12 people. It employs 30 full and part time staff and is managed by a not-for-profit making organisation called the Valentia Community Health and Welfare Association(VCHWA) with charitable status and a voluntary board of directors who are elected annually by the community. Any improvements and extensions to the building must be funded by the VCHWA.
During 2009 the government changed the funding methods of the hospital with the introduction of the Fair Deal Scheme, also tagging the institution with private status which, with 33% less funds accruing, had a serious impact on its future.
However, in 2013 a new funding arrangement was negotiated with the relevant state authorities, but it is predicated on operating a 24 bed facility to meet all HIQA standards by 2015. In order to achieve this the facilities have to be upgraded and extended. While the daily running costs are funded by income from the Fair Deal scheme, the HSE and resident contributions, any improvements/ extensions to the hospital must be funded solely by the hospital. The cost of this will come to over €1 million with the funds raised from the recent Ring of Kerry Cycle giving a huge kick start to local efforts.
One particular group of Ring of Kerry cyclists left Valentia at 4am by car and set out from Killarney at about 5.45am.
They arrived to Cahirsiveen at about 8.15am and like all the cyclists were amazed at the reception with enough food to feed an army while the whole gala affair was very well catered for by many local stewards and caterers. Full credit for this must go to Denis Daly of Cahirsiveen, the main organiser, who was responsible for the smooth and efficient running of the the food and drink centre in Coláiste Na Sceilge.
After being well fed and watered, the group continued on their way but had to endure a prolonged heavy shower from Waterville to Cum a Ciste, being well soaked on arrival. But again their arrival was facilitated by very efficient stewarding. The former Valentia footballers, Brendy Murphy and Pat O'Connor, set a blistering pace up Cum a Ciste, despite now being in their 50s. Pat O'Connor suffered a puncture on the way into Caherdaniel and would like to sincerely thank Caroline Galvin who transported him by jeep and the Corkman and steward Denis Dennehy who mended his puncture.
Former Kerry footballer Ger Lynch set a very fast pace into Kenmare where the reception of food and drink, stewarding and catering was also of top class quality as, it has to be said, it was at all the various stops. The group were welcomed in Kenmare by the uncrowned king and aspiring Lord Mayor Arthur O'Sullivan who is a noted triathlon swimmer.
It was also noticeable that the father and son combination of Seamus 'Baff' O'Connor and his son Brendan were going well and that Kevin Curran was coping well with a niggling pre-cycle calf injury. Dermot Walsh seemed to possess a magic wand instead of a bike as he appeared at the various venues in the company of a friend from Kenmare and everybody enquired as to how the first time cyclist Eileen Mort Murphy was doing or where she was. Marie O'Neill who cycled with little training coped well with the daunting Moll's gap to complete the journey.
The final reception and welcome accorded to cyclists a t the journey's end in Killarney was akin to a Rás Tailteann finish in O'Connell St. with another spread of food at a gala occasion that was enhanced by brilliant summer sunshine, good humour and a huge welcoming crowd.
Congratulations to the Ring of Kerry Cycle committee on once more setting such high standards and on the local front well done to the Valentia Hospital committee, the local stewards and caterers and all those who cycled on behalf of the hospital. Tony Curran of Chapeltown kept everybody fit with his weekly Sunday morning sessions for cyclists on the roads of Iveragh and Colette O'Connor of Cooil, together with Marie O'Neill of Middle Tennis, burned the midnight oil and saw many sunrises in their to Trojan work on behalf of the hospital committee.
Comhghairdeas doibh go leir.