The annual four-day Tour de Munster charity cycle came to a close on Cork’s gruelling St Patrick’s Hill today. Now in its 19th year, the cycle saw more than 100 amateur cyclists take on the 600km cycle to raise huge funds for Down Syndrome Ireland and individual beneficiaries.
Travelling across all six counties in Munster, the cyclists were cheered on their way through cities, towns and villages. Joining them was cycling legend Seán Kelly, who is a huge supporter of the event and has participated in the Tour de Munster for the past 12 years.
All funds raised from the charity cycle will go directly to the Munster branches of Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI), with 2019 marking the tenth year of the partnership between the Tour de Munster and DSI. Dozens of the charity's staff and supporters were among those in the hill cheering on the cyclists as they arrived.
The charity cycle expected to raise more than €250,000 for the Munster branches of Down Syndrome Ireland this year. Since its inception in 2001, Tour de Munster has raised more than €2.5 million for its beneficiaries with almost €2.78 million for DSI alone.
Cyclists took off from Cork early on Thursday morning, travelling to Tipperary, Limerick and Clare all before the end of day-one. From there, they travelled down Munster's west coast, ending their second day in Tralee. On day-three, it was on to Dingle, Killarney and Kenmare, before a final day trek through Glengarriff, Gougane Barra, Macroom and Lissarda.
The final step of the journey brought cyclists through Cork city and up St Patrick's Hill - one of the toughest legs of the entire 600km route.
Cyclists faced challenging weather this year, too, with wet conditions and wind adding to the difficulties of the lengthy cycle, while the closure of St Patrick's Bridge in Cork city due to Irish Water works meant they didn't get to enjoy their normal route, being redirected along the city quays instead.
But, as always, large crowds were on hand to applaud and cheer the cyclists up the steep hill, giving the 100-strong group that last bit of encouragement as they came over the crest of the hill.
Elsewhere this weekend, more than 100 cyclists took to the road in the Martin Hopkins Memorial Cycle, a 212km challenge from Cavan to Tipperary to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer and to raise funds for cancer support services.
Martin died of pancreatic cancer in November 2018 and his friends and colleagues held the event to mark what would have been his 42nd birthday. It started in Virginia in Cavan and brought cyclists through Kells, Mullingar, Thurles, Cashel and Clonmel.
All funds raised will go directly to CARE Cancer Support Centre, a service that provides support and information to people affected by cancer in South Tipperary and the surrounding area. CARE worked closely with Martin and his family throughout his illness.
Martin was diagnosed at 39 with no prior illnesses. He underwent surgery to remove a tumour in May 2018, at which time it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his liver. He passed away just five months later, leaving behind his wife Karen and children Sebastian (10) and Seonadh (7).