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Are you doing the Ring?

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It’s all systems go for the 42nd instalment of the Ring of Kerry charity cycle, writes Eamonn Fitzgerald

“Are you doing the Ring?” That is the frequently asked question at this time of year, as it has been for the past 42 years. It’s getting close now, just one week to go before the Ring of Kerry 2024 gets underway.

Jordan Lee, the Irish Paralympic high jumper will officially start the Ring of Kerry cycle on July 6 in Killarney. He is a member of the local Killarney Valley AC. What an inspirational athlete! He is preparing for his second Olympics, and he is undertaking all his training locally.

Brendan Coffey, a member of the organising committee, informed me earlier this week that registrations are still open for the 2024 ROK, but there will be a cap of 4,500 cyclists because of the logistics involved and to ensure that all participants have a safe and enjoyable day on the 110-mile (171km) circuit. You can register at ringofkerrycycle.ie/register-2024.

It is a cycle and not a race, so cyclists going on ROK for the first time should be mindful that the prime aim of this wonderful event is fundraising for so many deserving local charities.

To date, over €19 million has been raised by volunteers and there are so many volunteers, not just the cyclists but the whole organising committee. It may appear to be a one-day event but the planning for the next ROK commences the day after each year's event so cyclists can enjoy that wonderful trip around the majestic Ring of Kerry.

Tier 1 beneficiaries this year are Comfort for Chemo, Focus Ireland, St Francis Special School, and Breakthrough Cancer Research. There are also Tier 2 and Tier 3 beneficiaries who will also receive funding.

The Irish Cancer Society are running the 170km MyWay which allows people to cycle 170km in their own area at their own pace over a few days.

QUESTIONS

I did get answers to some questions that cyclists have, particularly those who may be doing the ROK for the first time. With the vast experience gained over 42 years of staging this mammoth charity event, the organisers have tweaked the structure of the day. Times have changed and E-Bikes have become more popular. E-cyclists who are raising money for their preferred charity are welcome to participate. However, they should bring a spare battery to avoid queuing up at some charging points along the way.

The control centre in Killarney is in constant phone contact with key personnel such as Paul Curtis who heads up the mechanical backup team. Even a basic puncture can disappoint a cyclist but Paul and his team are only a phone call away once more.

On one of the years I did the ROK, we started at the International Hotel but my friend got his first puncture outside the current Easons. Swift support from the backup mechanics had him on the road very quickly until he reached Ballydowney Bridge. Puncture number two, and the third one came at The Gap Cross. Was he cross? Not at all. Such stoicism and then it was all good from there on. He had a tale to tell at the finishing line and said he was determined to finish after collecting so much money for his favourite charity. Once again the focus is on a cycle and a fundraiser for a charity.

Can you start at another point away from Killarney and still cycle the 110miles? The answer is ‘yes’ but that cyclist will not have the comfort of the backup teams, road closures (only for a certain time) and no sweep cars to get you out of trouble. The marvellous services of the Irish Red Cross, Order of Malta and the Civil Defence will not be able to service cyclists who start their ROK at points other than Killarney. So, the advice is to be in Killarney for 7.30am when Jordan will set you on your way.

If a cyclist for some reason or other is unable to complete the ROK, the sweeps will transport you and your bike back to Killarney. Fiona Carroll will be heading up the sweep operation.

The whole organisation allows up to 14 hours support but at 8pm all support systems will be stood down and any cyclist who for whatever reason has not completed the ROK will not have the benefit of backup services or traffic restrictions.

There are three official food stations along the cycle. These are located at Cahersiveen (72 kms), Kenmare (136 kms) and Killarney (finish). However, there will be plenty of facilities to stock up on water, bananas etc. along the route. There are also so many people along the Ring who provide drinks and sandwiches all out of the goodness of their hearts as their way of thanking cyclists for raising so much for charity.

To all the cyclists, whether it's your first or 42nd ROK, enjoy the day and the camaraderie. Tóg go bog é. Remember it is the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle, raising money and awareness for deserving causes; a cycle not a race. No yellow jersey or King of the Mountains. Enjoy and be safe.

GREAT CRAIC

I have enjoyed that ROK spin so many times, in all kinds of weather. Mostly good, but we also had wind and rain. Yes, it was an odyssey hugely enjoyable and great craic. Mind you there wasn’t too much opportunity for free-wheeling and that climb up from Waterville to Coomakista was a reminder that like life itself one meets the highs and lows.

How did we face that challenge? How did Roche and Kelly manage the Category 1 climbs to the Pyrenees, Vosges Jura etc? Certainly, don’t try racing. Just drop down on the gears and tóg go bog é in a manner of speaking and there are great breaks on the trip. The first main food stop at Coláiste na Sceilge is a Godsend. Say hello to the CNS principal Maurice Fitzgerald, one of the all-time greats of Kerry’s football stars.

Coomakista provides a splendid vantage point from around the Grotto. The drop-down from there to Caherdaniel is one of my favourite views of Kerry. On your right is the broad Atlantic Ocean, surely one of the highlights of the well-marketed Wild Atlantic Way. There is Derrynane House, the home of Daniel O’Connell. What a journey he had by horse carriage to the London parliament in the 1820s.

Before one gets to Castlecove on your right are the ruins of Lady Albinia Brodrick’s hospital at Ballinacoona, an amazing woman of royal stock in England who came to Ireland in 1915 and then disowned her royal riches, changed her name to Gobnait Ní Bhruadair, fought in the War of Independence and in the Civil War, set up a co-op for the local farmers and lived to the age of 93, dying in 1955.

On to the famous Black Shop. Brendan Galvin is no longer alive to greet so many cyclists who marvel at his collection of monuments to local heroes. Take a breather there and on your right is a collection of famous local stars such as Olympian Eamonn Fitzgerald, who also won three All-Irelands with Kerry and of course the Iron Man of the Rás Tailteann, Mick Murphy. Them and many more. Take a breather. It’s worth it.

After a few kilometres, freewheel into Sneem, that delightful village. Say hello to Louis Moriarty, a veteran of many Rás Tailteanns, who cycled the Ring on his 80th birthday. Inspirational. He owns the Sneem Hotel.

I always found the section between Sneem and Kenmare challenging. No hills, but a dead road. Food stop in Kenmare and relish it. You will need it for that long six-mile pull-up to Molls Gap. Nearly there, just 15 miles, but don’t be fooled. It isn’t all downhill, but the views are spectacular.

Home to base in Killarney. A wonderful day on the bike and a good few bob collected for charities.

SPIN

And it all started 42 years ago when Denis Geaney and his friends met at the Grotto for their Sunday morning spin when cycling wasn’t as popular as today. More for a dare or for the craic they said they might try cycling around the Ring.

They did and decided to do it for charity and over 40 years later the ROK has done so much for healthy exercise and raised over 19 million for deserving local charities.

It is a remarkable success story and volunteerism is at the heart of this marvellous fundraiser.

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Ladies’ Semi-Final Preview: Armagh stand between Kerry and a third shot at glory

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LGFA All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final

Kerry v Armagh

Saturday 7.15pm

O’Connor Park, Tullamore

Live on TG4

The Kerry ladies are just 60 minutes away from their third All-Ireland final in a row but they will have to bring their ‘A’ game to overcome the challenge of Armagh at O’Connor Park in Offaly later today.

The Kingdom have been installed as competition favourites after beating Meath (and after champions Dublin lost to Galway) in the quarters and they should be in confident form following that victory over the Royals in Tralee a fortnight ago.

However, they are unlikely to have it all their own way against an Armagh side who have beaten them twice already this season, in the league in March and then in the league final in Croke Park in April.

Losing star player Aimee Mackin to an ACL injury in the Ulster final came as a tremendous blow to the Orchard County. Mackin scored 2-6 (2-5 from play) and 1-4 (1-2) from play in the two games against Kerry this year so her teammates will have to make up the difference in her absence.

Kerry, meanwhile, have been buoyed by the return from an ACL injury of Síofra O’Shea, who scored 0-3 off the bench against Meath. The skilful trio of Danielle O’Leary (1-28, 3f), Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (2-15, 9f) and Emma Dineen (4-5) have accounted for the bulk of the team’s scores this season with Hannah O’Donoghue and team captain Niamh Carmody also capable of finding the target.

Managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long will be hoping that this attacking threat coupled with the teak tough defending of Eilís Lynch, Deirdre Kearney and Aishling O’Connell will be enough to see them over the line. With the dependable Ciara Butler between the sticks, Kerry have kept three clean sheets in their last four games which is a record they would love to improve upon today.

Armagh, who haven’t played in a senior ladies’ football All-Ireland final since 2006, arrive at the semi-final stage on the back of wins over Meath and Mayo. Eve Lavery is their top scorer to date with 0-11 (7f) to her name. Blaithin Mackin, younger sister of Aimee, has chipped in with 1-5.

Kerry v Armagh will be preceded at O’Connor Park by the other All-Ireland semi-final between Galway and Cork. The Rebels last made the final in 2020 while The Tribeswomen are aiming to reach their first decider since 2019. Both counties lost to Dublin in those respective finals.

Galway v Cork starts at 5pm. Both matches will be shown live on TG4.

Kerry team to play Armagh: C Butler; E Lynch, K Cronin, C Murphy; A O’Connell, D Kearney, A Dillane; M O’Connell, A Galvin; N Carmody (captain), D O’Leary, N Ní Chonchúir; H O’Donoghue, E Dineen, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.

Armagh: A Carr; G Ferguson, C McCambridge (captain), R Mulligan; C Towe, L McConville, D Coleman; N Coleman, C O’Hanlon; E Druse, A McCoy, B Mackin; E Lavery, N Henderson, K Mallon.

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Jordan Lee vows to bounce back as injury ends 2024 Paralympic dream

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Killarney high jumper Jordan Lee is determined to bounce back stronger than ever after announcing his withdrawal from the Paralympic Selection Process due to injury.

The Killarney Valley AC athlete, who represented Ireland at the Tokyo Games in 2021, was hoping to wear the green singlet again in Paris in August/September but he was forced to pull out “due to an injury that had developed over the past couple of weeks”.

“[To say that I’m] absolutely gutted is an understatement considering the season that we’ve just had and being ranked number 6 in the world rankings on the lead-up,” Lee said via Instagram.

“This is sport at the highest level and unfortunately this is an injury that couldn’t turn right in time for Paris which is only a few weeks away.”

The local lad went on to thank Killarney Valley and his coaches Tomás Griffin, Alan Delaney and Shane O’Rourke for their support, as well as his sponsors PTSB, Puma, Toyota, Kellihers Garage and Output Sports.

“To my family and my friends, I’ve always repped that Irish vest with the utmost pride, not just representing myself and my beautiful country, but my amazing family and friends that I have too. I love ye all.

“Wishing my teammates within Paralympics Ireland all the very best in Paris.

“Roll on 2025 for the Europeans. I’ll be back better and ready for vengeance. Believe that.”

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