Longford footballers biking it for a good cause

In a truly unique initiative, the county senior panel and team manager, Glenn Ryan are undertaking a massive fundraising bid in aid of Longford Social Services.

In a truly unique initiative, the county senior panel and team manager, Glenn Ryan are undertaking a massive fundraising bid in aid of Longford Social Services.

On December 10 and 11, the panel plan to cycle the equivalent of the famed 4,000km Route 66 road trip in the US on special gym bikes positioned on a viewing area at Longford’s Market Square.

Six panelists at a time will cycle in relays. Six members of the public will also cycle alongside them in relays. Each of the 12 will be raising funds for a deserving charity that comes under added financial pressure this time of the year. To put the cycle into some perspective, completing the 4,000km challenge would be the equivalent of cycling to and from Dublin 17 times!

‘Route 66’ is one of the most famous roads in the world and whilst Longford’s Route 66 won’t see the same weather or spectacular scenery, it will ensure you the same sense of satisfaction and achievement if you take part.

The initiative has been partly inspired by the work of the late Padraic Gearty, himself a great GAA man and staunch supporter of the county team. For that reason all proceeds from the event are going to a charity very close to the late Mr Gearty’s heart.

For his part, team manager Glenn Ryan sees the initiative as both an endurance test for his panel and an opportunity to galvanise the team and help them connect with supporters and the people of Longford.

He told the Leader: “All involved with Longford GAA are well aware of the support that we get every year and it doesn’t go unappreciated and we want to give something back.”

The gruelling cycle will start early on Saturday, December 10 with the first team of six panel members cycling on the six gym bikes which will be in place on the Square. The cycle continues throughout the night and into Sunday afternoon which will climax with a fun-filled afternoon involving all the county’s GAA clubs.

There is a very strong organising team involved in helping the county players achieve their goal, comprising well known business people from Longford, former county players and friends and supporters of Longford.

It is hoped that all the clubs in Longford will participate in a cyle on Sunday 11th, where it is anticipated that each club will arrive in their club colours between 1.30pm and 2pm.

The date of the event will coincide with the beginning of the Christmas shopping period in Longford.

A real carnival atmosphere is planned for the town on that Sunday.

Several local entertainers have already committed to perform throughout the afternoon. Whilst Route 66 in the USA takes you through Chicago, St Louis, Oklahoma City and Los Angeles, Longford’s version will see you rub shoulders with our top footballers and enjoy a great family occasion.

“It is a great chance to connect with the team and for young and old to get to meet with the players and for whatever length of time they feel they can commit, cycle alongside the players themselves,” said Barney Mahon, one of the organisers.

Ultimately, however, the weekend will be about raising as much money as possible for Longford Social Services and whilst they won’t be drawn on a target, it is understood that the organisers hope to raise a significant five figure sum for this most deserving cause.

“Padraic Gearty epitomised all that was good about the GAA and I know he would have been one of the first to lend his support to this project. We need to perpetuate that legacy; his sense of community and willingness to help others who are less fortunate,” said Barney.

The organisers have been taken aback by the early show of support for the event and to date several local businesses have already pledged financial support.

“It is a great cause and already we’ve had several businesses looking to sponsor players, as well as many members of the public looking to take part in the cycle. I know that a number of the GAA clubs are already putting in place their plans for the charity cycle on the Sunday,” he added.

All the county panel members are excited about the event and it is already the source of plenty of banter and competition amongst the players themselves.

The event is also enjoying the support of the many who have taken to cycling in the county over the past two years and potentially it could be one of the biggest charity events in the midlands this year.

The organisers hope to raise funds on a number of levels as follows:

a) Local businesses can sponsor any member of the county panel to take part

b) Members of public can cycle themselves on the six bikes reserved for the public to support the team and need to raise sponsorship to do so

c) Local businesses can also put forward some of these own staff members to cycle with the opportunity for up to six staff members to cycle at one time. Again they need to raise sponsorship

d) GAA clubs and other sporting or social groups can organise charity cycles on Sunday, December 11 and again anybody taking part needs to raise sponsorship.

Sponsorship cards will be available this week.

The event will also require a large number of volunteers and stewards over the weekend and those willing to offer up their time are also asked to contact Barney on 086 2676 555

Over the coming weeks the Longford Leader will run a weekly countdown to the Route 66 challenge and this will involve interviews with some of the players and members of the public taking part. So watch the Leader over the coming weeks for more details but mort importantly, get your sponsorship cards and start cycling today!