Cyclist Michael praises nursing home as he donates proceeds of his Ring of Kerry jaunt
Setting out in the saddle from his home in Ballinorig outside Tralee at 6.30am, Michael O'Callaghan was intent on one thing - not letting COVID prevent him from undertaking the Ring of Kerry challenge in 2020.
Though the massive charity event had to be cancelled, this fighting-fit Castleisland native , a keen cyclist for many years, had resolved days earlier to take it on by himself in any event.
And among the abiding incentives for Michael was the fundraising potential for Listowel's Árus Mhuire care home, where his brother-in-law Anthony receives quality care as a resident.
"The work they do at Árus Mhuire is just brilliant, they are brilliant people over there in fairness and it was my wife Anne's [CBS The Green Principal Anne O'Callaghan] idea that I should try to raise funds for them and for the PPE they need on an ongoing basis," Michael told The Kerryman.
Once a dedicated golfer, Michael witnessed cycling also entirely consume his leisure time over recent years - as the Tralee Cycling Club member embarked on training sessions for the Ring of Kerry with Graham Harris and gang in Crotta.
"It's an amazing sport. I'm a life member in Barrow but it's impossible to have time for everything and I prefer to cycle. One of my favourite spins to do on my own since Covid came in is to go back to Brandon Point from my home, a round-trip of 103km that I'm doing in less than four hours at the moment."
About a week out from the should-have-been date of the Ring of Kerry this year, Michael suddenly decided to go for it anyway.
"I put my arse up on the bike one day, I wasn't training but I said 'Mike, come on, you need to do the Ring of Kerry and it's 'on' next Saturday'! I kept my mouth shut, told no one, I left the house at 6.30am, went up Farmers' Bridge and it was raining and that morning going up to Castlemaine I said to myself 'what am I doing?'"
By Cahersiveen he had fallen in with a gang from Killarney - socially distanced of course on the bikes. "But as I figured I would have to cycle home to Tralee as well I eventually said 'lads, off with ye'and took a 20 minute break in Sneem on my own.
"I got off my bike at the Gleneagle when I got to Killarney to eat some scones I'd brought, and it was then the boys passed me shouting 'hi Mike'." He thought nothing of adding the Tralee-Killarney round trip onto the ROK as well. "It's a lovely part of the trip." The fundraising, amazingly, was mounted via WhatsApp as family, friends and neighbours all weighed in for Árus Mhuire, helping Michael raise the €800 for PPE.
"People were so generous. That's why I really wanted to put it on a big cheque to show that every last penny went to Arus Mhuire out of respect to those who donated so they might feel rightly proud of helping such a great care home."