Ring of Kerry Cycle 'just couldn't happen without our volunteers'

Tadhg Evans

It is, without question, one of the most iconic charity events anywhere in the country, let alone the county. And the feedback Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle PRO Cathal Walshe has received to date puts the 36th Ring of Kerry cycle up there with the very best.

From start to finish, there were stories to be found. Among these were Killarney cycling stalwart John Coffey joining Tríona and Brendan O'Connor - parents of the late Amy O'Connor, who sadly passed away aged 11 last year following a long battle against cancer - to send the many cyclists on their way at the 7.30am ceremonial start. 

Also present was Tríona's young nephew, Logan, who was born five weeks after Amy passed away. His presence was certainly a poignant addition to the occasion.

Mayor Michael Gleeson was there also, as was Bishop of Kerry Ray Browne, who said a prayer for the cyclists as they left the Beech Road Car Park - and some needed prayer more than others.

Brothers Declan and Pat O'Hara, for example, weren't content with doing the 175km loop once, so they went at it a second time - successfully so.

Hand-cyclist Chris Slavin from the US also completed the Ring - a notable achievement in his own right.

And it was about more than just cycling. Credit is due to Limerick group 'Biddies on Bikes' who won the inaugural triangle dance for their efforts on a wooden stage set up at Coomakista.

At the heart of the occasion, however, were volunteers, 1,400 of them, among them John Garvey, who once again dispensed 'Filemore Spring Water' from a small tanker at Coomakista. For efforts such as that, Cathal was particularly grateful.

"It just couldn't happen without our volunteers," he said. "Between the preparations the night before and stewarding on the day, there were 1,400 of them. They're invaluable.

"All along the route you had people handing out bananas and water and whatever else have you - even though we had three stations at Coláiste na Sceilge, Cahersiveen; Kenmare Business Park; and at the Beech Road Car Park, where participants got their medals and high-vis vests.

"The patrons were fantastic. For example, they lined out on the approach to the car park to welcome the cyclists back.

"I suppose you could say every year that it's the best one yet, but the feedback from all the cyclists in the days since is that they found it really enjoyable and will be back next year to coincide with Killarney's 'Fourth of July' celebrations. That has the potential to be a great day in Killarney, but we're two separate organisations, and we'll have to arrange it well between ourselves."

The cycle has raised around €16m for good causes over the years, and the hope is that "We'll touch the million-mark again this year" for the six tier-one, five tier-two, and many tier-three charities, Cathal said.

"We should have a good idea what we've raised by the end of September, and we'll make a presentation on October 11," he added. "If anyone has sponsorship cards to return, please do so as soon as possible."