By Olivia Kelleher
The daughter of a cyclist who died this time last year after a motorist had a momentary lapse of concentration at the wheel has paid tribute to her "superhero" dad.
Donal O'Brien (aged 45) died at the scene after his bike was struck from behind at Junction One the N40 South Ring Road on the Ballincollig Bypass in Cork on May 14, 2017. A female motorist recently received a one year suspended sentence in connection with his death.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that the motorist had been distracted from the road for a brief period as she responded to one of her kids who asked her to remove a tag from a toy.
Mr O'Brien's adult daughter, Nicole, has nominated her father for the monthly "Superhero Award" on Cork's Red FM. She said she was the "proudest daughter in the world".
"He is my superhero," she said.
"He was always so proud of me and I realised this even more after the accident. Every second person tells me I’m just like my dad, and it’s the greatest compliment I could ever receive.
"I was my dad’s world and I couldn’t have asked for anymore than what he did for me the last 25 years.
"Coming up to the anniversary, I really think my dad deserves to be recognised for every single good thing he has done throughout his life, I won’t say everything because it would take up the whole show, but oh my God he was something special. He will always be my number one hero."
Donal O'Brien from Ovens, Co Cork owned a garage as well as being a motorsports enthusiast. He was a popular man and known locally as a larger than life character who was always keen to assist people.
Nicole said her father was a "motorsport fanatic."
"Since the untimely passing of my dad we have had multiple articles in newspapers, rally magazines, social media status’ just showing what a great sportsman Donal was. There was even a calendar launch in memory of Donal. The motorsport world was broken by this.
"For the funeral, multiple lads went out of their way and into overdrive working on Donal’s beloved rally car so we could have it for the funeral.
"Since May 2017 we’ve had around six memorial trophies at different kind of motorsport events awarded to my dad Donal, with heartfelt speeches at each presentation, this just goes to show how much of a superhero my dad is and always will be."
Nicole said her dad got her involved in the sport from a very early age.
"When I was young and someone asked me who my favourite rally driver was my answer was always my dad, out of all the famous rally drivers across the world, in my eyes he was the best of the best. He was a great competitor and even helped out the competition, at one event a competitor was broken down and my dad stopped, towed him back to service and that competitor went on to win the championship due to goodwill."
Nicole added that her father was a kind and generous man
" Every Christmas Eve me and my dad would go into town, it was our day," she said.
"He would put coins from through the year into a jar and dispose them at Christmas to homeless people on the streets.
"I just can’t describe how much of a hero my dad is to me, and my mom Sandra, his brothers Jason & Jonathan, his mom & dad Margaret & John and all his friends.
Last month Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard from gardaí that Mr O'Brien died because a motorist had " a momentary lapse in concentration with catastrophic consequences."
At the sentencing hearing Judge Sean O'Donnabhain said the tragedy should bring to mind the vulnerability of cyclists on the road. Mr O'Brien was wearing all the appropriate safety gear including a high visibility jacket.
The court heard that the motorist Maria Harkin was without previous convictions and that drugs and alcohol were not a factor in the case. She was not driving at an excessive speed.
She also indicated a guilty plea at an early stage and was extremely remorseful for her momentary lapse in concentration.
She has been banned from driving for five years in addition to her suspended sentence.