WHEN Jim Reaney rounded up 13 sacrificial lambs for the Local Bulls Calendar 2019, the cream of the crop answered the call with a rousing bellow.
The men, from the Aghada region of East Cork, came forward to pose in various states of undress for a charity calendar, and to raise awareness of both cancer and mental health issues.
“A lot of the lads who feature in the calendar have had family members who have had battles with cancer or mental health issues, or they lost someone through suicide or mental health issues,” says Jim, from Whitegate, who lost a nephew to suicide this year.
“That is the theme running across the 13 bulls.
“Our aim is to raise awareness of mental health issues and cancer and to raise funds for Pieta House and the Mercy Hospital.”
Jim was propelled into action by the grief of losing a loved one.
“When I lost my nephew, I was stricken with grief,” he says. “I knew I had to do something.
“Two months after he died, I reserved a room for November at the Radisson Hotel, Little Island, for a fund-raising event, maybe a dinner dance or something.”
However, what he came up with was a little more racy than a dinner dance!
He got wind of a similar charity event by local woman who brought out a calendar under the name of the ‘Local Birds’. The idea for ‘Local Bulls’ was then born....
“There was a bit of slagging going on from the ladies in that calendar over the years about a male equivalent,” says Jim. “And I thought, this is an opportunity to bounce back.”
He bounced the idea off his wife, Ber.
“I mentioned the idea of a lads’ calendar to her at half-time during a GAA match in Thurles in July,” says Jim.
“It didn’t put her off her cup of tea and she said ‘Go for it’ — without fully realising her husband would be stripping down to his birthday suit!
“The idea was in my head and the possible candidates for the calendar were in my head too.”
However, Jim took a canny approach to his pet project.
“It was such a beautiful summer, I thought to myself, I will wait until the autumn before I approach the candidates so that, with a deadline, we would have to get it done and nobody would have too much time to be thinking about it.”
“The eight or ten weeks from September, everything just snowballed.”
So Jim was the instigator, coercing the male fraternity of Aghada to get their kit off. And he is Mr August to boot.
“You could say I am a bit of a mischief- maker,” admits Jim. “And I love a bit of fun in life.”
The lads stepped up to the plate like lambs to the slaughter, leaving their dignity and their modesty tastefully behind well-placed props.
Had the brave souls a bull’s notion what they were getting themselves into?
“It was a great opportunity for a cross-section of the community to raise awareness for these important issues and have a bit of fun as well,” says Aghada and former inter-county footballer, full-back, Kieran O’Connor.
Kieran is Mr October, with his brother John Paul, pictured with their respective sons, James and Noel.
“Things like that don’t come along very often,” adds Kieran.
He was game ball to be part of the Local Bulls Calendar 2019.
“We all have our own reasons for getting on board,” says Kieran, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in October last year. He underwent an operation in February when surgeon Gary O’Toole shaved off 110mm of bone and attached ligaments as part of repair, before Kieran resumed chemotherapy treatment until the end of July.
“So far. So good,” says Kieran. “I still have a lot of tests and scans to keep on top of things.”
He has to keep on top of his one-year-old son, James, who is finding his feet.
“James has us all running around him,” says Kieran. “He is a great distraction.”
The other Aghada lads in the calendar had no beef in entering into the fray and entering into the fun was par for the course.
“Jim rang me and asked me to be part of a nude calendar,” says Mr March, Donal Walsh.
What was Donal’s first reaction?
“Well, it was a no-brainer!”
Donal’s family, like families everywhere, had experienced the scourge of cancer.
“I lost my mother, Kathleen, to breast cancer when I was 24,” says Donal. “She was 53 years old. She never drank or smoked.
“Being a nurse, she knew what was coming down the line. My wife’s mother, Breda, had thyroid cancer. My kids grew up not knowing their grandmothers. They would have been fantastic grandmothers.
“Medical science has advanced so much now, they would have had a much better chance of survival.”
What did his wife think of his new exposure, albeit having been used to seeing her husband on stage in the limelight, with the local musical society?
“She’s my number one fan!” says Donal, smiling.
Mr June — personal trainer, Daniel McCarthy — proved that survival of the fittest pays off. He was voted ‘hottest bull’ on the launch night for the calendar last month.
“I said ‘yes’ without hesitation,” says Daniel. “The nude part was mentioned afterwards but I still would have said yes as both charities are close to my heart. Pieta House is such a great cause and has helped many people during a dark time in their lives.
“Personally, I’ve had loved ones who have used their services and I am so grateful the service was available to help them see positivity in their lives again.”
Cancer came knocking on Daniel’s door too.
“My sister, Michelle, was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer. It has been a rollercoaster since then and, following radiotherapy, she is currently receiving aggressive chemotherapy,” says Daniel.
“Michelle is such a positive, loving, caring, and incredibly strong person, and at 34, she has so much to live for.
“With the support of her family, friends, and amazing community, she is fighting with all she’s got to beat this cruel disease.
“Stripping down is nothing compared to what Michelle and others like her have to go through.
“For all the Bulls and myself, I hope the calendar gives hope, respect, awareness and has even given them laughter and fun during what are tough times.”
Shane Russell, aka Mr September, didn’t think it was much fun telling his missus what was afoot.
Did he get a dressing down?
“I broke it to her after I’d said yes! “It was something that I’d never have a notion of doing,” says Shane, who got into the ring behind a bale of hay.
“It was right outside my comfort zone. I’ve no problem speaking in public. But stripping?”
Shane joined the local herd, whose instinct was to drive on their bid to champion the causes so close to their hearts.
“I lost my granny, Maura Russell, a few years back to cancer,” says Shane. “In 2018, I lost an uncle and an aunt. My uncle in the USA is fighting cancer and another uncle is in recovery. So yes, I was game ball to be part of the calendar.”
Trish Daly was game ball to accompany Shane down the catwalk.
“I was really happy to do anything at all,” says Trish, who, five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, had got the all clear.
“I agreed to go on a clinical trial, taking a placebo every six months. Raising funds for cancer research and raising awareness is a wonderful thing to do. Ongoing research into cancer provides people with real positivity and hope.
“Walking down the ramp with Shane was a fantastic feeling. I was good friends with his aunt Mary, who passed away from breast cancer. So yes, it was poignant as well for me.”
Roisin O’Sullivan, who partnered Pearse O’Neill, Mr January, says it was an emotional experience.
“It was good to put troubles aside to help others,” says Roisin, who has put her breast cancer well behind her. I dodged the bullet. It’s in the past now. Others are still on their own journey and taking part in the calendar launch was a wonderful thing to do.”
The calendar was a joint effort from one and all, putting their hearts and souls and other body parts into the roaring success of the Local Bulls Calendar 2019.
“We kept it country!” says Jim.
“We must make a special mention for young videographer Jack Long, who is a digital media student in CIT. Jack who hails from Ballyvolane. He had no connection with any of our group, answered the call and volunteered his services on the basis of an email sent to his class requesting video assistance for the project.
“Young magician, mentalist/illusionist, Daniel Cremin, wowed everyone with his magic on launch night. DJ Tommy Coppinger provided the musical back up with his own inimitable style. Our photographers, Kevin Day, Rory O’Toole and Stephen O’Shea were sworn to secrecy during the shootings.”
The launch night was a tremendous success and the two MC’s, local legend John Wall and guest Aisling Thompson, Cork camogie star, ensured the event ran smoothly.
The Local Bulls Calendar 2019, is a culmination of committed community effort. Special thanks go to the sponsors.
“It was a wide-reaching fund-raiser that crossed into every corner of the community,” says Jim.
“We hope that through the funds generated by the generous purchase of this calendar, our two nominated charities, Pieta House and Mercy Hospital Cancer appeal, will gain funding to enable them to continue their good work in assisting those among us who are affected by illness.”
The Local Bulls Calendar 2019 can be purchased for €10 at Days Eurospar, Whitegate and Pier Garage Lower Aghada.
Donations to: TSB, Main Street, Midleton;IBAN IE501PBS99070527890846;BIC IPBSIE2D.
The Local Bulls are: Conor Counihan, Jimmy O’Leary, Austin Broderick, Pearse O’Neill, John Paul O’Connor, Kieran O’Connor, Noel O’Connor, James O’Connor, Donal, (Ducky), Walsh, Shane Bennett, Benny Deady, Ger Sheehan, Joe Morrissey, Shane Russell, Tosh O’Donoghue, Kenneth O’Keeffe, Daniel McCarthy, and Jim Reaney.