School pals begin trek with Donal's message to live life
IT was something he had intended doing with his son Donal, but instead Fionnbar Walsh is walking from the Aviva Stadium to Thomond Park in his memory.
The gruelling 200km trek began with a wake-up call at 7.30 this morning for 46 Transition Year students who are joining in.
The team are calling in at Crumlin Children's Hospital before walking to Naas on the first leg of the Donal Walsh #Livelife Annual Walk. The trek will end at the home of Munster rugby on Saturday ahead of their game against Cardiff Blues.
Armed with sleeping bags, pillows and sleeping mats, the TY students from Donal's old school CBS The Green and Mercy Mounthawk in Tralee will spend each night at rugby clubs along the route. Some of them knew Donal through school or Tralee RFC, but all were inspired by the teenager who lost his battle with cancer in May.
Along the route that takes in Dublin, Kildare, Laois, Tipperary and Limerick, they will visit two schools in each town, spreading Donal's simple message that it's good to be alive.
They will be collecting money for Crumlin Children's Hospital, the Donal Walsh #Livelife Foundation and charities supported by Tralee RFC.
"The spirits are very high; mind you, they were very quiet at 6am when we left Tralee – but teenagers don't tend to start waking up until about midday," Fionnbar said.
He said he had planned the walk about three years ago with Donal as a bed push from the Aviva to Thomond but circumstances changed when he was diagnosed with cancer again.
"He was supposed to be here with us but now we're doing it in his name," added his father.
"The walk brings together the school pals of Donal, his rugby friends and the hospital he was treated in for nearly three years."
The IRFU and Munster Rugby have given their full support to the project. Honorary secretary of Munster Rugby Joe Murphy said: "Donal was both a Kerryman and a Munster man at heart but the message he gave was a global one so we were delighted to join in continuing the conversation this young man started."
Fionnbar hopes the walk will be an annual event.
"We had no trouble getting volunteers to take part this year and I'd expect it would be even bigger next year," he said.
TY coordinator at CBS The Green Ellen McGillicuddy said her students had jumped at the opportunity.
"It's something they feel privileged to be part of. There's a very strong sense of solidarity and loyalty to Donal at the school and they're honoured to be ambassadors for his foundation."