By John O’Sullivan 

 

The recently completed Connacht Rugby and Bank of Ireland For The Love of The Club virtual run/walk raised over €30,000 for Club and Community rugby in Connacht. 

 

Over 2,000 people put on their running shoes in aid of the Connacht club of their choice or —  for the unaffiliated —  club and community rugby in the province generally with all of the money raised going directly to the cause. 

 

The event wasn’t just confined to the four corners of the five western counties, and participants took part in 25 Irish counties and 11 different countries, which shows the breadth of the Connacht Rugby club & community footprint throughout the world.

 

We caught up with some of the international contingent who shared their stories, images of their walking/running route, and how the event helped them stay connected to their clubs and — by extension – their communities in the midst of a global pandemic. 

 

John Gorham represented Connemara RFC from Chicago. The Clifden native said that the For The Love of The Club event enabled him — and his fellow participants, including the 2016 Rose of Tralee — to stay in touch with his home club.

 

“My friends and I really enjoyed our run,” he said. 

 

“We started and finished at “the Kerryman pub” here in Chicago. We ran a 5k course that is used for the running club during the summer.  We kept the runners to a minimum due to restrictions.

 

 “When finishing we settled in for a “couple” of pints to watch Ireland beat England.

 

 “Among our runners was the 2016 Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney and a couple of guys from the Chicago Lions Rugby Club.

 

 “I love the fact that events like this help me stay in touch with my club back home. Connemara RFC has always had a place in my heart and with social media, online lotto, and now events like this I can stay in touch and contribute to the club.”

 

John Gorman, centre, and his fellow runners/walkers in Chicago.

 

 

Moving continents, Jonathan Cleary took part in the run/walk in aid of Ballyhaunis RFC in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Cleary was proud to represent the Mayo club, whom he described as a community focal point. 

 

“Ballyhaunis RFC have a long and treasured tradition in the community and are a focal point for many a generation,” he said. 

 

“It’s fantastic to see the progress the Club has made in terms of their underage programmes, facilities, and a wide network that reaches far beyond the town. I would like to wish them every success in the future and look forward to bigger, brighter, and better things once the lockdown has passed.”

 

Jonathan Cleary took part in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

Elsewhere, Martin McDonagh ran in aid of Corinthians RFC in Melbourne, Australia.

 

“Connacht Rugby had been a huge part of my life from a very young age being involved with Corinthians and having had the opportunity to work and be involved in Connacht over the years so I found it important to show my support from Melbourne, Australia for a great cause,” he said.

 

Martin McDonagh’s running route through Melbourne

 

By John Mulligan

 

What started as a small fundraiser for Galway RNLI and Cancer Care West has turned into something quite spectacular as the players and members of Galway Corinthians RFC have raised over €8,500 to date for both organisations through two fundraising efforts. 

 

The first of the two fundraisers featured the senior players in the club with Jack Noone and Kenneth Casburn behind the organisation of a “Movember” event where players, management and committee members grew facial hair of some kind or other for the month of November. 

 

The second featured the magnificent artistic talent of Club President Kieran Faherty. Kieran generously provided one of his paintings known as “Brewing Up A Storm”. A “Stunning” view of Galway Bay that has proved very popular this Christmas with prints and cards selling out incredibly quickly. 

 

Kenneth Casburn, one of the organisers and Senior Team Manager, explained how the idea for Movember came about: “After the first lockdown, we started getting back into training with the focus of the games ahead. 

 

“Unfortunately, there was uncertainty of the structure of the season and whether matches would proceed or not so we focused on the now and tried to lift the mood in the Squad. I came up with the idea of doing Movember and I spoke with JP Cooney, Michael Harding and Simon Gillespie (Senior Team Coaches) and Aaron Broderick (First Team Captain) and I mentioned it to them about the lads getting behind the idea. 

 

“The two organisations I had in mind was Galway RNLI and Cancer Care West. The reasons for both was simple, Galway RNLI have been rescuing people throughout the year in all weathers and the successful rescue operation of the two girls during the summer off Galway Bay lifted the spirits of people not only in Galway but worldwide during what has been a tough time for everyone. 

 

“Everyone involved in Galway Corinthians RFC is familiar with the incredible work that is done by Cancer Care West. Our own head coach JP was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer and his courage and strength was an inspiration to everyone at the club from minis all the way to seniors. It was only right that they too would benefit from the funds that are raised.

 

The lads were behind it from the start so I spoke to Jack Noone who was instrumental in setting up the GoFundMe page and in pushing it from the start and it was his hard work that saw us raise the amount we did.” 

 

Jack Noone was instrumental in making sure everyone was behind the idea and he was quick to point out the team effort involved in making it a success.

 

“It was actually quite easy. A lot of the lads got involved immediately and while it took longer for some than others, they stuck with it and they deserve all the credit they get. In some cases, though, I have to say thank God for face masks! But seriously, they are all good sports and made a fantastic effort and that has to be applauded.

 

Without the contributions of those who donated there was no way we would have reached the figure. I want to say, on behalf of everyone who was involved with Movember, a huge amount of thanks to them all. That money is going to two amazing organisations who work hard all year round and it will be a boost to them as we head into the Christmas.”

 

The second part of the fundraising was just as spectacular as the first as prints and cards of Club President Kieran Faherty’s “Brewing Up A Storm” were sold with these proceeds also going to the RNLI. 

 

Galway Corinthians RFC President Kieran “Flash” Faherty’s painting “Brewing Up A Storm”. Prints and cards of this painting were sold in Salthill Post Office and The Creamery Café with proceeds going to the RNLI

 

These beautiful pieces of art went on sale during November and so far, have seen all the prints sold out with the cards (At the time of going to press) at very limited numbers. Kieran (Known as Flash – A name that was given to him due to his speed on the wing for Corinthians during his playing days), explained the inspiration for this piece. “I am often asked that. Pretty much my signature pieces are all about colour, and Connemara is my inspiration for many. As a kid I only saw greyness in the Connemara landscape, but age opens your eyes. Now I embrace all the wonderful changing coloured landscape that the mountains, bogs and lakes give up to us.

 

“My painting of Salthill’s iconic diving tower reminded me of the challenge it offered as a young kid” Kieran added. “There was the big challenge, to jump off the top diving board. I had many visits and nightmares as a ten-year-old before I closed my eyes and stepped out and took the plunge. It seemed to take twenty minutes before I crashed through the skin of Galway Bay and another twenty before I surfaced, like a cork from a champagne bottle. My less than elegant windmill stroke got me to the ladder. So, I think my inspiration for this piece is the challenges it offers, as it sits in stormy waters, and I think appropriately it is raising funds for a charity that lives in stormy waters with their incredible brave crew.”

 

Before finishing, Kieran wanted to make this important point. “The reaction that I have received regarding this painting and the proceeds from the cards and the prints have been incredible and I want to personally thank everyone who supported this by buying them. I also want to thank Salthill Post Office and The Creamery Café for their help and support and they have also played an important role in this successful fundraising initiative. It is deeply appreciated.”  

 

Both organisations have been in the city for some time. The RNLI lifeboat station in Galway was established in 1995 due to an increasing number of search and rescue incidents meaning that 2020 should have been a year of celebration with their 25th Anniversary. However, that was not possible and they hope to celebrate that milestone next year. At the present time, is home to “Binny” a B class Atlantic lifeboat which is one of the fastest in the RNLI fleet. Galway Lifeboat are called out in all conditions and have been involved in many rescues, sometimes at the risk of the lives of the brave men and women who are called out. 

 

Cancer Care West was established in 1993 as the Leukaemia Trust and in the past twenty-seven years have supported thousands of people affected by cancer and they continue to expand their range of support services with the establishment of their Psycho-Oncology service and Patient and Family Support Programme and Support Services for Children opening their residential facility, Inis Aoibhinn, at University Hospital Galway in 2007 followed in 2009 with the opening of a dedicated Cancer Support Centre at Westside.

 

The fundraising event and the monies raised has been warmly welcomed by both organisations. Mike Swan Operations Manager of Galway Lifeboat Station said “I wanted to express my personal gratitude for the effort of the members of Corinthians Rugby Club and thank them for their very generous donation, of which will be put to good use saving lives at sea. Given the year that’s in it, the Crew are overwhelmed with the support from the people of Galway”

 

It is a sentiment that was echoed by Cancer Care West. David O’Donnell, Head of Fundraising and Communications said ‘Cancer Care West provide much-needed services for those who battle cancer in the West of Ireland and during Covid-19 have continued to provide a full range of support services to cancer patients and their families. This is only possible due to fundraising events like Corinthians RFC’s “Movember”. 

 

“Everyone in Cancer Care West would like to thank all at Galway Corinthians RFC for organising this successful event and for raising these vital funds. Not only is the money important regarding the funding of our services, but the awareness raised is just as important. Men and Women everywhere from all walks of life continue to be affected by Cancer and events like this in these days of the pandemic reminds everyone that early detection can save lives.”

 

The final word must go to Kieran Faherty who wanted to stress the importance of community in these very stressful times. “While there has been no competitive rugby for some time due to Covid restrictions, Corinthians found another way to work as a team. The players, management and committee’s fundraising efforts raised a substantial amount for both the RNLI and Cancer Care West and Kenneth, Jack and everyone involved deserve great credit for what they have achieved. There may be still uncertainty as to when we can play again but in other ways, we will continue to support the community the best way we can. Congratulations to all.”

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