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Trio to cycle from Achill to Athens

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ALL SET Stephen Ryan, Cormac Ryan and Niall O’Donnell who are all cycling 6,000km from Achill to Athens in aid of Pieta House and BodyWhys.

Stephen Ryan from Kilmeena and his cousin Cormac will take part in 6,000km charity cycle


Anton McNulty

A MAMMOTH cycle across Europe awaits a Kilmeena man and two of his friends who set off from Achill Island tomorrow morning on a 6,000km cycle to Athens in Greece.
Stephen Ryan (33) along with his first cousin Cormac Ryan (28) and their friend Niall O’ Donnell (27), both from Whitehall in Dublin, will leave Keel tomorrow morning for the start of their 6,000km charity cycle.
The three friends will cycle through 13 countries in Europe with the intention of reaching the Greek capital by the end of October.
The trio had originally hoped to cycle across the US but the coronavirus pandemic put paid to that ambition. However, instead of scrapping the idea altogether, they decided to cycle the 6,000km across Europe.
“Plan A was to cycle across the US but we have gone with Plan B,” explained Cormac, whose father Gerry is a native of Kilmenna.
“We said we would cycle the 6,000km across Europe instead. When we checked where to set out from, we thought Achill to Athens sounded good and we went with that. We are giving ourselves around 45 days of cycling and aim to be in Athens by October 28 and have about ten days of contingency to get there.
“When we decided to go across Europe we found out 6,000k is not the most direct route so we are detouring to a few places. We said while we are doing it we might as well go the scenic route so it’s a bit of a zigzag through Europe. We are really looking forward to it,” he told The Mayo News.
The three men all come from GAA backgrounds, with Stephen having played with Kilmeena, while both Cormac and Niall are both members of the Whitehall Colmcille Club in Dublin. Cormac also played hurling with the Dublin minor and U-21 teams.
Stephen works as a lab technician in Allergan in Westport while Cormac is a physio and Niall, whose father is from Strokestown, is a primary school teacher.  

Biggest challenge
While they have taken part in charity cycles in Ireland this is by far the biggest challenge they will undertake but they believe they have the work done to get them through Europe.
The cycle aims to raise money for both Pieta House and for Bodywhys, the national eating disorder charity. It is an association which Cormac has first hand experience of having suffered from an eating disorder after getting a pacemaker fitted in his heart when he was 18.
“I struggled with an eating disorder for years. I was not wanting to eat and hiding the fact I was not eating and being really obsessive about my weight. It started off small with not wanting to eat too many carbohydrates and exercising more and then it spiralled over the years and then I was getting panic attacks.
“I was dealing with it for eight or nine years and it only came to a head recently and thank God I am doing good now. It is not uncommon among males but it is rarely spoken about. Because it was never spoken about I did not know what was wrong with me and it got to a point where it spiralled and I needed help.”
Cormac explained that because eating disorder services in Ireland are poor, Bodywhys provide a lot of services and support for families.
As big GAA fans, the one downside of the cycle will be that they will miss the All-Ireland final on September 11 between Mayo and Tyrone.
“I reckon we will be somewhere around Toulouse for the All-Ireland so we are trying to source some public house which will have the game on. If the game goes Mayo’s way I don’t think there will be too much cycling done the next day,” he joked.
To date the three men have already raised close to €20,000 for the two charities and Cormac said they appreciate all the support given to them as they set off on the journey.

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To make a donation visit the website, www.idonate.ie/achilltoathens.