Cathal Freeman amazed by reaction to garden hurling marathon

Freeman soloed a sliotar while running 1,400 laps of the tiny, makeshift circuit close to his University of Limerick accommodation.
Cathal Freeman amazed by reaction to garden hurling marathon

“I have been in better shape,” Cathal Freeman quips. “I’m sore in places I never knew I could be.”

It is the morning after the day before. Cathal Freeman is wrecked. No surprise there. Those who decide to run 42 kilometres off a whim, and without any proper training behind them, tend not to come off the better for it.

Along with physical fatigue, aches, and pains, there’s disbelief.

Disbelief at managing to run a marathon while soloing a sliotar on his hurl, but more so at the amount of money he has raised for the Irish Cancer Society and the purchasing of personal protective equipment for HSE staff.

When we spoke over the phone, the figure on the Mayo hurler's gofundme page stood at €54k. The initial target was €20k. It’s likely the final amount raised will end up being three or four times that.

After Freeman completed the tiny, makeshift circuit close to his University of Limerick accommodation for the 1,400th and final time on Sunday evening, he sat down on a chair to chat to the men who had provided live commentary on Mayo GAA TV.

It was at that moment he realised almost €30k had been donated.

“I was fairly emotional, just seeing the amount of people who had donated and the amount raised,” said the 29-year old.

“I am so unbelievably grateful to everyone; to my family, friends, and teammates for helping with the logistics, the commentators on the live stream, the lads who set up the live stream, the people who tweeted it, retweeted it, shared it, and got it going in the digital world, and obviously the 2,000-plus people who donated, which is just mind-blowing, really.

“It was never intended for the figure raised to get up to where it is now, but it shows how worthwhile both causes are and the appreciation people have for the work done on a daily basis by the Irish Cancer Society and our healthcare staff.”

Following on from the many, many clubs who have been assisting in their community since Covid-19 brought the country to a standstill, the generosity and goodwill Freeman has and continues to receive is yet another example of the GAA coming together - albeit virtually in this instance - to put its best foot forward.

“I was really taken aback by the GAA’s gathering together around the idea. At home in Mayo, there are plenty of clubs that my own club, Tooreen, would have strong rivalries with, but going by what has been put out on social media the last couple of days, all those rivalries were put to the side and there was a huge effort put in by any number of clubs.

Even Fr O’Neill’s from Cork who beat us in the All-Ireland intermediate semi-final earlier this year, they were hugely supportive. A number of Fr O’Neill’s people donated, and donated in great numbers. It just shows that as much as we might fight amongst ourselves in GAA terms, we are very much a family and community that is exceptionally strong.

“Further afield, the manner in which the Irish community has got behind this, particularly people who might not be GAA people, has been incredible.

“There is money rolling in all the time. As long as the donations are coming, I’ll keep the GoFundMe page open. I am incredibly thankful to everyone who has donated.”

The marathon itself was of course challenging. Circling the same small loop 1,000-plus times meant there was a bit of disorientation here and there. Rather surprisingly, though, having to keep a sliotar balanced on his hurl for 42 kilometres proved the perfect distraction, as did the various contributors on Mayo GAA TV.

All things considered, his time of six hours and 55 minutes was nothing to be sniffed at.

“Starting off and finishing weren’t too bad because of the novelty of the whole thing, and the craic that was to be had. I had my housemates with me and they were having a couple of drinks during it.

The middle section was tough going, but the commentators on the live stream did a huge amount to keep my spirits high. My reputation is in tatters after some of the stories that were told.

“One of the housemates said to me that I only started groaning or began to look in pain when I wasn’t tuned into the commentators.”

Easter Holidays have arrived at just the right time for the UL medicine student as with no online classes to log into, he has planned a couple of days recuperation on the couch with Netflix for company.

“When I was sitting at my desk typing out the initial tweet last Tuesday, where I said I’d do this if I got 2,000 retweets, there was no great plan as to what it might become. It was just a daft idea to keep myself entertained, more than anything. It was something that grew legs and went a bit mad, really.”


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