Lourdes to Knock farming cyclists due to land in Ireland
Some would say that a 2,000km cycle is a hell of a journey, but for Mayo farmer Alan Heaney, who is cycling from Lourdes to Knock, it is more of a pilgrimage.
Alan, a suckler farmer in Swinford and founder of the robotic milking Lely Centre in Mullingar, is one of four cyclists undertaking the five-day trek this week.
He and his companions Maurice Dore, Gary Bigley, Jonathan Verry and Gerry Boots will began the gruelling journey from the south of France to the west of Ireland on Tuesday to raise funds for Down Syndrome West and IFA/Pieta House's mental health helpline.
Alan feels that raising awareness of depression and anxiety among farmers is very important.
"Depression in farming is a huge issue. As a farmer and someone working in agri-business I have customers who are farmers and work with people who are farmers and I saw how much they struggled in 2018 with the weather," he says.
"Farmers are such a big part of society and have a lot of pride, so when they're under pressure they keep it hidden."
Alan says that Down Syndrome West is close to his heart.
"It is a local charity that needs the money. They are in the middle of trying to get a housing project up and running which would provide respite for parents and a play area for kids and things like that," he explains.
Alan is hopeful that the cycle can raise €30,000.
"The entire trip is self-financed so 100pc of funds raised will go to the two charities. It's an expensive trip: we had people who came over with us driving along beside us carrying our tent and equipment," he says.
"We find it very rewarding."
This is the group's third endurance cycle in the last three years.
Last year they journeyed from Land's End in England to John O'Groats in Scotland (1,600km in four days) and in 2017 they cycled from Mizen to Malin Head (600km in 23 hours).
You can donate to the cycle at the Lourdes to Knock 2000km Go Fund Me Page and follow their journey on their Facebook page.
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