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Thursday 23 November 2017

Rugby stars left shattered by death of fitness coach

Barry Duggan and Ralph Riegel

SOME of the country's top rugby players were left in deep shock yesterday when they learnt of the death of their former fitness coach as they raised funds to assist him.

Paul Darbyshire, who worked as head of strength and conditioning with Munster rugby, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) last year and died in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The former rugby player from Wigan died as some of the Munster rugby team gathered to take part in a charity cycle to raise funds for the 41-year-old and MND research.

Rugby players, including international stars Paul O'Connell and Jerry Flannery, had gathered at Thomond Park in Limerick for the second stage of the Munster Cycle when news was relayed to them of Mr Darbyshire's death. All were left stunned and silent.

Paul and his son, Jack, were reunited with the Munster team last month in Limerick when they captured the Magners League title. The team celebrated with him in the centre of the Thomond Park pitch.

The former Warrington rugby league player moved to Munster in 2007 where he was employed as a strength and conditioning coach.

Munster players credited Mr Darbyshire with being a constant source of inspiration and admiration for them.

The opening leg of the fundraising cycle -- from Cork to Limerick -- began on Sunday.

More than 50 people, including Irish coach Declan Kidney, set off from Musgrave Park in Cork arriving at Thomond Park in Limerick on Sunday afternoon to complete the initial 100km stage. The cycle was also attended by Mr Darbyshire's wife, Lyndsay.

Among those cycling were Ronan O'Gara, David Wallace and Tony Buckley, with Mick O'Driscoll and Denis Fogarty taking part in yesterday's stage.

The cycle continues today from Portlaoise RFC to Trinity College and organisers are hoping to raise €100,000.

Mr Darbyshire is survived by his wife and four children Ella, Georgia, Jack and Harry.

Irish Independent

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