Last week, a team of cyclists set out on a 218km journey from The Sportsground in Galway to Sligo Rugby Club, taking in all five counties in the province along the way.

The cycle was in aid of 35-year-old Sligo native, Claire Carpenter, who suffered a stroke earlier this year. Claire is the partner of Connacht staff member Ross Mannion and the event was part of an initiative to raise funds for her continued rehabilitation.

One of the standout features of the cycle was the camaraderie between all of the representatives from clubs around the province.

Carrick on Shannon RFC’s Ciarán McBrien mentioned this when discussing his experience.

He said: “The cycle, simply put, was one of the best experiences of my life. From start to finish the atmosphere of positivity, togetherness and community was unreal. I’d sign up again for it in a heartbeat”.

This was a sentiment shared by Patrick Curran from Galwegians RFC: “The cycle was brilliant. An amazing day and a great group of people to do it with. We all had a great laugh throughout.”

Paul, who is the Galwegians U20s’ coach, added that arriving to Claire’s home village of Coolaney reminded the group of the goal of the event.

He added: “Meeting Claire and Ross in Sligo was the highlight. It really hit home what we were raising funds for.”

Of course, after such a long journey, there was some relief when the troupe reached their final destination in Sligo RFC. However,  they did not anticipate the level of welcome they were going to get.

Julian Rippon, who is a former coach and player in Sligo RFC, mentioned this: “It was an amazing feeling pulling into the club. I couldn’t get over the crowds. There was a great sense of relief as well. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”

Damien Meehan, from Claremorris, was another who expressed his delight at the welcome.

He said:“Coming into Sligo was something special. Never have I experienced such a reception. We turned into Sligo RFC and were welcomed with a guard of honour, followed by 100s of cheering people. It was something special.”

Dara Geary from Monivea RFC also praised the final destination.

He said: “Arriving into Sligo was fantastic, there was a massive welcome for us.”

“I just want to know thing, when’s the next one?”, he added

You can donate to Care4Claire GoFundMe and hear more about Claire and Ross’ story here.

Clubs throughout the province have put their weight behind the Care4Claire charity cycle which takes place this Saturday.

The 218km cycle, which is being done to raise funds to help 35-year old Sligo native Claire Carpenter, will see both Connacht Rugby staff and members of clubs from throughout the province travel from The Sportsground in Galway to Sligo Rugby Club.

About Claire and Ross

Claire is the partner of Connacht staff member Ross Mannion. Earlier this year, the mother of three suffered a stroke in her home in Coolaney, Co Sligo.

After being rushed to the ICU unit of Beaumont Hospital, she was placed in an induced coma for over a week following a life-saving operation. Claire is now thankfully on the road to recovery, however significant funds need to be raised for her rehabilitation.

The idea behind the cycle is to help raise these funds and allow Claire to continue her rehabilitation, and eventually lead an independent life at home with her family.

A story that struck a chord with many

One of the club members taking part in the cycle is Patrick Curran. He is the U20s head coach with Galwegians.

After hearing about the cause, he was eager to help in whatever way he could. He said: “Claire and Ross’ story struck a chord with me. Anyone of us could end up in their position, so I’m just happy to be able to help in some little way”.

All of the cyclists shared that sentiment, with Carrick On Shannon’s Ciarán McBrien stating that he is more than happy to challenge himself for such a worthy cause.

He said: “I saw the original GoFundMe link months ago and it hit a chord with me as I have a young family too. I donated and kind of forgot about it. Then the cycle initiative was mentioned and something told me this was something I could do to show my support.”

The rugby community

Discussing the event with club representatives, it is clear that the rugby community around Connacht are eager to help in any way that they can.

Dunmore Rugby Club’s James Murphy typified this togetherness.

He said: “When I read Claire’s story, I thought of Ross having given his time to come and train us a few years back and I immediately wanted to give something to this cause”

Damien Meehan, from Claremorris Rugby Club was another who was keen to mention the togetherness the community has shown.

He said: “I think the rugby community is amazing. What they are doing for Claire and (her) loved ones shows this. I was delighted to be asked to be a part of this.”

Make a massive difference

David Connolly, the Director of Rugby at Buccaneers, is another who will be making the arduous journey from Galway to Sligo. He added: “I was delighted to offer to help out. Hopefully we can raise a good few quid for a very good cause”.

Mark Glynn, who plays as a winger for Loughrea, had a family member who saw the benefits of rehabilitation and was inspired to take part in the cycle.

He said: “I’ve seen how if a person gets the right help and rehabilitation it makes a massive difference to their recovery. Hopefully we can raise enough money to help Clare and her family”.

If you would like to help Claire, then you can donate via this link.

Come out and support

You can come out and support the event along the way, as the cyclists will be stopping at a number of locations. Their stops are Ballinrobe RFC, Frenchpark, Carrick-on-Shannon and Coolaney Community Park, with players from both the men’s and women’s senior teams available for autograph opportunities and to take photographs with.

The cycle itself will conclude in Sligo RFC, where Julian Rippon is a former coach and player.

Julian, who will also be taking part in the journey, said he didn’t need to think twice when he first heard about the cycle. He added that he is “wishing Claire a speedy recovery and Ross for being so strong in this difficult time”.

Prior to the stroke, Claire and Ross were planning their wedding which had already been postponed twice. It has now been put on hold again as they focus on Claire’s health and wellbeing.

They are a family who have gone through more than most of us can imagine in the past number of months. It is hoped that via this event, as well as other initiatives, that they can raise the money needed to fund Claire’s rehabilitation and allow them to start planning for the future again.

Full details of the cycle are available here and you can donate here.

The Care4Claire charity cycle is getting closer, with less than 10 days to go until the cyclists make their way from The Sportsground to Sligo on Saturday 13th August.

The route will see the group travel via Ballinrobe, Frenchpark, Carrick-on-Shannon and Coolaney before they reach Sligo RFC.


We can now confirm that 40 of the Professional team and 9 of the Senior Women’s team will be present along the route at each stop. We can also confirm the times they will be at each stop.

At these stops attendees will get an opportunity for photos and autographs with the players.

Ballinrobe RFC – 8.30am – 9.30am
Conor Fitzgerald
Ava Ryder
Matthew Burke
Grace Browne Moran
Josh Murphy
Jessica Loftus
Paul Boyle
Mary Healy
Sean Masterson
Muireann Cawley
Colm Reilly
Rebecca Gavin
Grant Stewart

Frenchpark – 11.30am – 1.30pm
Denis Buckley
Mary Healy
Jack Aungier
Noreen Cassidy
Conor Oliver
David Hawkshaw
Caolin Blade
Shane Bolton
Oran McNulty
Jordan Duggan

Carrick-on-Shannon – 1.30pm – 3pm
Gavin Thornbury
Mary Healy
Shane Delahunt
Byron Ralston
Kieran Marmion
Darragh Murray
Shane Jennings
Cathal Forde
Sam Illo
Adam Byrne

Coolaney Community Park – 3pm – 4pm
Peter Dooley
Mary Healy
Tom Daly
Nicole Fowley
Shamus Hurley-Langton
Oisin McCormack
Tiernan O’Halloran
John Porch
Dominic Robertson-McCoy

Sligo RFC – 4.30pm – 7pm
Jack Carty
Mary Healy
Ciaran Booth
Nicole Fowley
Alex Wootton
Shannon Touhey
Dylan Tierney-Martin
Jarrad Butler
Diarmuid Kilgallen
Oisin Dowling
Niall Murray


‘The atmosphere of positivity, togetherness and community was unreal’ – Connacht clubs look back on Care4Claire cycle

Pro players and Senior Women’s players to visit clubs for Care4Claire cycle

Pro players and Senior Women’s players to visit clubs for Care4Claire cycle

6 months ago