Miles away — but always close to the heart

They may be thousands of kilometres from home but friends and family left behind in Ireland are never far from the thoughts of the thousands of

You will see them front and centre these next few weeks as pictures of the British & Irish Lions are beamed back into your living rooms from their tour of Australia, the sea of red created by 20,000 supporters from the four corners of our islands peppered here and there with a Tricolour and green jersey. Or the Kildare flag proudly draped over a stand at Paterson’s Stadium in Perth on Wednesday night when the Lions played Western Force. That belonged to Anne and Gary O’Doherty, the parents of four Irish-born kids aged between two and six, trying to make it work six months after deciding to try their luck in Western Australia.

Donncha Lowney left West Cork’s Beara peninsula four years ago and is now happily settled in Perth, working as a civil manager for a company in the gas industry. His office on the 29th floor of a downtown skyscraper is a world away from the highways and byways of Allihies on the tip of Beara but on July 20, the 27-year-old will be on those lanes in spirit after marshalling around 100 fellow expats, many of them from West Cork, and locals to embark on a 60-kilometre cycle to raise funds for the fight against Motor Neurone Disease.

The Perth cyclists will be riding from the city’s Cure Tavern Irish pub, in which Lowney has an interest, and their event will run, ahem, in tandem with a bigger event that day back in his native Cork.

That is where his friend Ollie Rue O’Sullivan is organising a 133km

cycle from Ballincollig Rugby Club to Allihies in memory of his late mother and Garnish GAA stalwart Betty Rue O’Sullivan.

Ollie, who captained Beara to its last county SFC title in 1997, lost his mother to this awful disease last year but has committed himself to this fundraising effort, naming it the Live Your Life Cycle as a tribute to Betty’s philosophy for living.

“My mother Betty was a happy, ordinary Irish countrywoman who touched the lives of many people both young and old,” Ollie said. “She loved to laugh and got great pleasure in making other people laugh. She was involved in many charities locally and was always helping someone. She took pride in feeding every person who called to the house no matter what time of the day or night.”

Betty was also a big Munster Rugby supporter and her family were honoured to have Ronan O’Gara lend his weight to the cycle ride when he became the Live Your Life Cycle ambassador. And her enthusiasm for life certainly had an effect on Lowney, who made the trip home from Perth last summer to play for Garnish and decided to help Ollie’s cause.

“I’m friends with Ollie and knew Betty well and because I couldn’t partake in the cycle at home, we said we’d do one the same day here.

“She was involved in a local festival on the committee, involved in the ICA and the GAA club and she was always the heart and soul of things.

“There is a big bunch from our parish in Garnish and over 100 people from West Cork over here. So we’ll be raising funds for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association as well as the Australian charity.”

Lowney has enlisted cyclists from the burgeoning GAA scene in and around Perth as Irish emigrants arrive in search of a better life. There are eight football and six hurling teams now whereas even two years ago Lowney’s Morley Gaels club were struggling to put out a team.

“There’s a second league over here now because most clubs have enough players for a second team. It’s fine for us but it’s our parents... it’s definitely harder for the people we leave.”

Back home in Cork, Ollie Rue O’Sullivan is certainly in need of more cyclists to join his throng in the main event. He has welcome sponsorship from Gala, Musgraves and SuperValu but is urging more cyclists to part with the 35 registration fee and help the cause, with 70% of funds helping the IMNDA to continue their invaluable support for families caring for loved ones with the disease and 30% to research being headed by Professor Orla Hardiman at Beaumont Hospital. Lowney encouraged more of those people at home to follow the example being set in Perth to support the Live Your Life Cycle on July 20, reasoning that “if people are getting on their bikes half way around the world surely you could drag yourself out of your house for the day in Cork for a good cause.”

Registration forms and more information is available at

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