A history of the Aodh Ruadh Sponsored Cycle fund-raising trips: 1991-1995.

By Billy Finn

Poster for the 1992 Aodh Ruadh sponsored cycle.
Click for a larger version.

1991: From Galway to Ballyshannon

The idea of a sponsored cycle journey, using Aodh Ruadh members and friends was first mooted by Alan Kane, coach of Aodh Ruadh Camogie and John Larkin, senior Aodh Ruadh hurling selector, and the first cycle trip from Galway to Ballyshannon was planned for 24th August 1991.

Sponsored cards for each cyclist were made available and were distributed in many premises. The whole effort was voluntary and depended on huge and generous sponsorship from every quarter.

Three experienced cyclists Josie Boyle, Jimmy O'Connell and Jim Kane agreed to lead the group and Belleek cyclist and fund-raiser extraordinary Peter McDonald came on board. Other cyclists soon joined up, like Sylvester Maguire, Eamon McShea, Thomas 'Schillaci' Gallagher, Sean O'Rourke, Kevin Quinn, John Grimes, Tony Cummins, Barry O'Neill, Owen Rua O'Neill, Davey Smith, John Larkin, Moya Ferguson, Marita Maguire, Celine Flood, Judy Dalton, Josephine Loughlin, etc.

Indeed, Sylvie boasted that he and Eamon cycled more than 80 miles and then togged out for 2 football games! No doubt, this was pointed out to Jack and Bob Gallagher, who always spoke of the superior 'toughness' of the older generation of footballers, who actually cycled to play a football game in Glenties in the 1940s.

Drivers Patsy Quinn, Alan Kane, Seamie Granaghan brought the van, Dan Gibbons mini-bus and lorry transport and Joe Davis did trojan work on the lorry at bicycle repair work all throughout the cycle.

Many people came along as bucket donation collectors, first aid carers, refreshment helpers, drivers, announcers, supporters, including Pat Butler, Jimmy Gallagher, Billy Finn, Conal Gallagher, Carl Duggan, John Larkin, Bridget Quinn, Margaret Gallagher, Patricia Kane, Grainne Kane and Pauric Kane.

All in all. It was a great success. Having left Galway and passed through many towns, like Tuam, Claremorris and Knock on the journey northwards, the whole group slept in sleeping bags in a community hall in Charlestown, Mayo and before that, enjoyed the fare on offer in the local cafes and bars. Two latecomers disturbed the slumbering crowd in the hall and the password, often repeated on the cycle, was Light my Fire!

Another highlight was when John Larkin and Conal Gallagher led a team of collectors into a travellers' caravan encampment in County Sligo and collected a lot of money from the good humoured folk there!

A great long range image from the video of the cycle shows the cyclists travelling under Ben Bulben to the strains of the Doors, Riders On The Storm.

The venture made £2,261 for the club and Cerificates of involvement were handed out at a function in Fergie's Bar, Bridgeend, Ballyshannon.

1992: From Thurles to Ballyshannon

After the success of the Galway Cycle, it was decided to go all the way to the home of the GAA where it all started in 1884 Hayes' Hotel Thurles, Tipperary. A two day stop over was planned at Thurles Sarsfield's GAA club and at Longford Slashers GAA club Longford 20th-22nd August. This Cycle was known as from Thurles to Ballyshannon. On the first night, 20th August, a memorable social night was held in Thurles Sarsfield's clubhouse, with great singing from Thurles stalwart Tom O'Connell, powerful whistling from Aodh Ruadh's Jimmy O'Connell and excellent dancing from Ballyshannon's 'man for all seasons' Pat Butler. The large group from Donegal were accommodated in sleeping bags in the hall of the club and a noisy, if good humoured, atmosphere finally saw the party get a good night's rest before the rigours of the next few days.

Next morning, 21st August, the whole group visited renowned Semple Stadium, which was being resodded and Pat Butler, on behalf of the Donegal contingent, made a presentation to Thurles Sarsfield's chairman Liam O'Donoghue and thanked Thurles Sarsfields for all the hospitality. Liam thanked Pat and Ballyshannon and wished the cycle well.

The venture began around midday at Hayes' Hotel, Thurles.

The cyclists, led by Josie Boyle, made good ground and the whole entourage moved up through Tipperary, into Offaly. By evening, they moved through Roscommon and headed for Longford for a much needed meal and refreshments. Noel Caslin welcomed them to his restaurant in Longford and a great night's entertainment was held at Longford Slasher's club house with a disco which catered for all ages. The group slept in Longford Slashers hall in sleeping bags and a better night's sleep was had by all, after the long and gruelling journey. Next day, Pat Butler, on behalf of the Ballyshannon group, made a presentation to Longford Slashers and thanked them for the hospitality.

Then, on 22nd August, the cycle headed for Leitrim and the north west The scenery was beautiful, particularly on the Shannon in Carrick-on-Shannon and Leitrim town. Some rough weather was encountered but the crew soldiered on and enjoyed the spread put in front of them in Gallagher's, Drumkeerin, relations of Bundoran's Seamie Granaghan, who was on the Galway Cycle the previous year. Pat Butler, not for the first time, entertained all with his signature song 'The Blackbird'.

Soon, they had moved through Manorhamilton and the beautiful mountain drive to Bundoran. At last, the old Erne town of Ballyshannon loomed up and the weary travellers were glad to reach base.

A function was held in Kelly's Cozy Corner Ballyshannon and Certificates were presented to all who participated. Speeches were made by Patsy Quinn, Pat Butler, Jimmy Gallagher, John Travers.

The 1992 Cycle made £1,775. Socially, it was also a huge success.

Cyclists were Josie Boyle, Jimmy O'Connell, Jim Kane, Peter McDonald, Declan Slevin, Barry O'Neill, Owen Rua O'Neill, Mick Whelan, John Grimes, Moya Ferguson, Pauric Kane.

Drivers, First Aid, Repairs and Announcers were Alan Kane, Patsy Quinn, Bridget Quinn, Kevin Quinn, Joe Davis, Patricia Kane and Jimmy Gallagher.

Collectors were Pat Butler, Billy Finn, Donna Mulligan, Tracie McDonagh, Grainne Kane, Nuala McGowan, Caroline McGrath, Olivia McGee, Christy Coughlin, Shane McGrath, David Hoey, Stephen Ward, Martin Gallagher, Mark Boyle, Michael Ayres, Ciaran Whelan and Pauric Kane.

Collectors on the bridge in Ballyshannon were Damien Conlon, Peter Conlon, Pat Malaniff, Seamus O'Donnell, Sylvester Maguire, Donagh Keon, Peter Gallagher, Donal Buggy, Malachy Cullen, Diarmaid Keon, Ciaran Keon and Barry Gallagher.

Chief Organisers were Alan Kane, Patsy Quinn, Pat Butler.

Support came from Conal Gallagher, John Travers, John Magee, Jimmy Gallagher, Tom Daly, Peter Campbell, Aodh Ruadh Club committee, Jack Grimes, Sean Slevin and Pat Sheil.

1993: The Hills of Donegal

Pat Butler and Alan Kane felt that Aodh Ruadh should share the fundraising from the 1993 Cycle with a charity. Mickey Rooney from Bundoran had been doing great work with sponsored swims for Saint Luke's cancer hospital in Dublin, so, all agreed that friends of Saint Luke's Hospital, Dublin would share the fund-raising with Aodh Ruadh from the Cycle.

Mickey Rooney was delighted and gave great support and encouragement to the venture. He got Saint Luke's collection buckets stickers and T shirts.

Having gone outside the county for the previous two cycles, it was felt that a trip around Donegal county would be popular, especially in view of Donegal's All Ireland Senior football final success in 1992. So, this year's Cycle, on 13th August, was called The Hills of Donegal.

It proved to be a tougher cycle than the two previous events, due to the strong wind factor. The entourage began in Letterkenny and made it's way up via Creeslough, Falcarragh, Gaoth Dobhair, towards Dungloe, where Liam Reilly and his team of collectors were a great help. Then, the Cycle headed towards Ardara via Glenties and eventually back to Donegal town and home. The scenery was beautiful all the way, especially around Errigal, and there's no county with so much to offer, visually, as Donegal.

The war cry used by the cyclists was Onga Honga! No idea what it means!

Cyclist Padraig O'Brien remarked that the vocal encouragement given to the cyclists all the way by Pat Butler, as he collected before they arrived in the different towns, gave the riders great cheer.

Cyclists were Josie Boyle, Jimmy O'Connell, Jim Kane, Peter McDonald, Sean O'Rourke, Peadar Torney, Jim McIntyre, Padraig O'Brien, Declan Slevin, Owen Rua O'Neill, Barry O'Neill, James Bradshaw, Moya Ferguson, Marita Maguire

Youth Collectors were Aisling Buggy, Esther O'Donnell, Stephanie Greene, Stephanie Whelan, Elizabeth Clyne, Geraldine Kane, Emma Sheerin, Louise Sheerin, Linda Granaghan, Mairead Lydon, Grainne Kane, Nuala McGowan, Marie Doherty, Lorraine Gallagher, Reisna O'Connell, Ciaran Whelan, John Larkin jr, Paul Simms and Pauric Kane.

Drivers, Announcer, Adult Collectors, Helpers, First Aid were Alan Kane, Pat Butler, Jimmy Gallagher, Patsy Quinn, Billy Finn, Frances Kane, Patricia Kane, Joe Davis, Kevin Quinn, Conal Gallagher, Ali Magee, Denis Magee, Wayne Harrison, Virgi Harrison, Elaine Harrison, Liam Harrison, Susan Harrison, Martin Doogan, Tom McFadden, Colm McFadden, Peter Conlon, Carl Duggan, Johnny Gallagher, Patrick Boyle, Conor Boyle, Mickey Rooney and Jim McCullagh.

On the bridge at Ballyshannon were Jack Grimes, Sylvester Maguire, Buddy Greene, Brian McGinley, Olivia Magee, Herman McNelis jr., Charles O'Donnell, Gavin Burke, McGonigle, Siobhan McDermott, Liam Travers and Gerry McDermott.

There was a dramatic upsurge in the takings, with £2,000 going to Saint Luke's Hospital Dublin and around £2,000 coming to the Aodh Ruadh club. It was a wise decision to share with the friends of Saint Luke's Hospital Dublin.

A photo was taken at the Aodh Ruadh club rooms and published in the Donegal Democrat of representatives of the Cycle handing a cheque for £2,000 to Mickey Rooney, who accepted it on behalf of the friends of Saint Luke's Hospital Dublin.

It includes Pat Butler, Jimmy O'Connell, Jim Kane, Frances Kane, Moya Ferguson, Josie Boyle, Patsy Quinn, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Gallagher, Padraig O Brien, Billy Finn, Nuala McGowan, Marie Doherty, Reisna O'Connell.

1994: Letterkenny to Bundoran

This was the least documented Cycle and there are no real records of participants, towns, journey, personnel and events. The numbers taking part were down on other years and, for a while, it didn't seem likely to go ahead. There was a feeling that the Cycle had run its course. However, club stalwart Jack Grimes urged people involved to go ahead. Pat Butler, typically, was very upbeat about it and Josie Boyle was keen to lead the team, as usual. It was decided to keep it low key and to head from Letterkenny to Bundoran, in August, with Killybegs being visited. So, it was the Letterkenny to Bundoran Cycle.

Pat Butler brought his brother Mick, who hurled for New York and Mick was keen to help with the collecting. With a lot of the old team on board, all went to plan and a photo of representatives of the Cycle, at the Park, Ballyshannon, with Pat Butler on behalf of Aodh Ruadh, presenting Mickey Rooney and friends of Saint Luke's Hospital Dublin, with a cheque, was published in the Donegal Democrat.

The 1994 Cycle was able to give £1,600 to Friends of Saint Luke's Hospital Dublin and around £1,600 to the club. Despite the low key nature of the 1994 Cycle, good money was collected.

Included in the photo were Pat Butler, Billy Finn, Padraig O'Brien, Sean O'Rourke, Bridie McCullagh, Jim McCullagh, Mickey Rooney, Peter McDonald, Jimmy Gallagher, Johnny Gallagher and Neil O'Malley.

1995: Buncrana to Ballyshannon

There was no great enthusiasm for a Cycle in 1995. It was generally felt that the idea was played out and it didn't look likely to go ahead early in the year. All that was to change when word came through that Pat Butler was gravely ill in the summer of 1995. Pat died in July. He had been one of the chief motivators in the Cycle since it began in 1991, twice driving back from Limerick especially to be involved. The feeling, generally, was that one final Cycle should go ahead, in Pat's memory. Everyone was involved and it turned out to be the most lucrative Cycle of all.

It was decided to go from Buncrana to Ballyshannon, taking in Bundoran, with collectors also going to Killybegs.

Contact with James Malone, one of the great Aodh Ruadh hurling and football clubmen, who had been sent by the AIB from Ballyshannon to Buncrana in 1991, was made and James, a great friend and former team mate of Pat Butler, instantly suggested housing the Cycle entourage, in sleeping bags, in his house in Buncrana.

The party had a great night in Buncrana on Friday 11th August and James had sent sponsorship cycle cards around Buncrana, where he did great work for the GAA.

Next morning, the 12th August, there was no sign of James as the Cycle group rose from their sleeping bags. He arrived back from the shops, laden down with sausages, rashers and eggs and proceeded to cook a large breakfast for all the group!

Then, suitably fortified, the Cycle began from Buncrana, moving through Fahan, Inch Island, and the surrounding areas Tooban, Burnfoot, on towards Letterkenny, passing Burt, Manorcunningham. Then, on towards Ballybofey, Stranorlar, Donegal town, Bundoran and back to Ballyshannon. Of course, as on all the other Cycles, there were collectors on the bridge all day in Ballyshannon.

The weather was fine and collectors visited many villages and housing estates just off the main route.

The following list of people involved in the Cycle, in no particular order or grouping, appeared in the 1995 Aodh Ruadh hurling report. Josie Boyle, Jim Kane, Jimmy O'Connell, Alan Kane, Jim McIntyre, Mick Whelan, Peter McDonald, Maura O'Brien, Barry O'Neill, Joe Duffy, Padraig O'Brien, John Larkin, Patsy Quinn, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Gallagher, Billy Finn, Joe Davis, Kevin Quinn, Peter Conlon, Martin 'Kerry ' Ryan, Liam Reilly and his team of collectors in Dungloe, James Malone AIB Buncrana, Seamus McPhelim, Buddy Greene, Geraldine Greene, Adrian Flanagan, Owen Rua O'Neill, Claire Harte, John Dolan, Pat Fox, Carl Duggan, Sean Butler, Nuala McGowan, Granne Kane, Marie Doherty, Patricia Kane, Pauric Kane, Liam McGrath, Mary McGrath, Ciaran Whelan, Sean Davis, Enda Reynolds, Barry Ward, Anthony McGrath, Moya Ferguson, Marita Maguire, Donal Buggy, Barry Gallagher, Jim Maguire, Damien Conlon, Pat Malaniff, Brian Roper, Gerry McDermott, Mary Gilllespie, Andrew McShea, Michael McGrath, Shane Coughlin, Soinbhe Lally, Conal Gallagher, Diarmaid Drummond and Pat Sheil.

A photo of some of the Cycle crew, with Mrs Mary Butler, on behalf of Aodh Ruadh, presenting a cheque for £3,000 to Mickey Rooney, and friends of Saint Luke's Hospital Dublin, appeared in the Donegal Democrat. The 1995 Cycle was dedicated to Pat Butler.

Appearing in the photo were Alan Kane, Patsy Quinn, Pat Fox, Jim McIntyre, Jimmy O'Connell, Josie Boyle, Billy Finn, Buddy Greene, Geraldine Greene, Padraig O'Brien, Mary Butler, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Gallagher, Barry O'Neill and Kevin Quinn.

The Cycle made £3,000 for friends of Saint Luke's Dublin and around £3,000 for Aodh Ruadh.

Breakdown of money made by the Cycle from 1991-1995


Aodh Ruadh St Luke's
Galway to Ballyshannon 1991 £2261
Thurles to Ballyshannon 1992 £1775
Hills of Donegal 1993 £2000 £2000
Letterkenny to Bundoran 1994 £1600 £1600
Buncrana to Ballyshannon 1995 £3000 £3000
TOTAL RAISED £10,636 £6,600

So, it was a great success, both financially and socially, and the tally would be even more impressive in today's money.

Billy Finn
February 2015

Last modified: Thursday, 5 February 2015 at 9:33pm