Munster rugby stars line out for charity cycle

MUNSTER rugby players and supporters are organising a series of charity events to support a colleague and friend diagnosed with motor neurone disease last year and to research into the debilitating condition.

Paul Darbyshire, 39, joined the Munster set-up in June 2007 as the head of strength and conditioning.

Originally from Wigan but living in Cork, ‘Darbs’ served his time as a player, coach and conditioner for over 18 years with rugby league side Warrington Wolves.

He was also the Irish fitness and conditioning coach on the summer tour of Australia and New Zealand in 2008.

Last September he was diagnosed with the disease just weeks before his son Harry was born. Married to Lyndsay, they have three other children, Ella, 13, Georgia, 11, and Jack, 7.

Paul has now been left requiring the use of a wheelchair.

Despite his illness, he was at Thomond Park to see Munster win the Magners League Final and received rapturous applause when wheeled across the pitch for the cup presentation.

Munster Rugby, along with the official Munster Rugby Supporters Club, have organised several fundraising events.

Team manager Shaun Payne said: “Paul had long been the standard bearer within the Munster team. His drive and enthusiasm are infectious and the respect he is shown by players and staff alike bears testament to the commitment and dedication he has shown. Always ready with a smile and a wise crack he was a joy to work with. The past few months, as we have seen less and less of him, have left a void we will find impossible to fill.

“His courage in dealing with the impossible situation facing him and his family is an inspiration to all of us,” Mr Payne said.

On June 19, a charity cycle will leave Musgrave Park in Cork for Warrington in England via Dublin.

Munster players taking part include Keith Earls, Felix Jones, Wiann du Preez, Ian Dowling, Marcus Horan, Mick O’Driscoll and Billy Holland.

“The idea of a cycle ride from Cork to Warrington was first raised by Ricky Sergent who coaches Jack’s soccer team in Warrington. Since then Brian Carney (former league and Munster winger), a group from Warrington and the Munster team have all got involved in the event and will be taking part in various legs of the challenge,” the team manager said.

“Funds raised will go towards the Darbyshire family as well as Motor Neurone Disease research being carried out in Trinity college Dublin by Professor of Neurology Orla Hardiman.”

Other planned events include a massive barbecue which will be held at Flannagan’s in Ballina/Killaloe on Sunday next, while on June 19 a concert will be held at Dolan’s, Dock Road, Limerick, featuring Stocktons Wing, Jon Kenny, Pat Shortt, Eoin Coughlan and others.

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