AGHADA GAA club have launched a fundraiser for Marymount Hospice to mark the first anniversary of the passing of their great friend and clubmate, Kieran O’Connor.
The former Cork footballer was struck down with a very rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma last year and his story struck a chord with the people of Cork when it became public in March of 2019.
‘Mizen to Ballin 4 Kieran’ will take place on Saturday week and will see 25 novice cyclists from Aghada, cycle the 165km from Mizen Head to Ballinrostig village in Aghada. Along the way, they will also be joined by many of Kieran’s teammates from the All-Ireland winning Cork team of 2010.
The church in Ballinrostig was a special place in Kieran’s life as it’s where he married his wife, Sinéad and his three children Isabelle, Ava and James were all christened there.
Kieran’s team-mate, Trevor O’Keeffe, has been central to the organising of the event and he and his clubmates have over ten weeks of training put in to prepare for the gruelling day that awaits them.
More than anything else, he said that his old friend “brought people together” and there are many videos highlighting this aspect of his character on the Aghada GAA Facebook page. Bringing people together is also what this event is about while raising funds for a cause that is close to the O’Connor family’s hearts after what they did for Kieran and his family.
As Kieran was a man who united people, on their cycling tops, the Aghada men have ‘Neart Dúinn’ printed around the number 4 that Kieran wore so often and with such distinction. It is also a motto that they hope to incorporate onto their club jerseys going forward.
Pa O’Connor understands the impact that his brother’s story had on people.
“We know that Kieran wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last person to suffer in the way he did but this is all about giving something back to Marymount and we’ve raised nearly €10,000 already.
"We know what he means to Cork, and when the going gets tough on the cycle I know lads will thinking of him and how he’d drive us on.”
Daniel Goulding was Man-of-the-Match in that famous win of 2010, and it was easy for him to get involved in the event.
“Kieran was just a great, great person, so genuine and just a great friend. He was a fella you could just pick up the phone to anytime just to have a chat with. He would do anything for you and that translated to the pitch as well.
“He was such a tough and honest player who always fought and minded his corner and I used to mark him in training, and I absolutely hated it!
“In fairness to the Aghada gang, they made it so easy for us and they are an unbelievable club in terms of supporting their own. We saw that with the way they organised the ‘Friends of Kieran’ group when he was sick, we saw it again at his funeral and just everything they do is top class.
Conor Counihan was manager of that Cork team and he spoke very warmly about his clubmate.
“Kieran would be heart and soul in everything, always driving everyone on and those type of people don’t grow on trees. He’d be fierce proud of something like this as it’s so positive in terms of Marymount and what it can do for people and that would have been before he went through the process himself because he was always a caring person. And Marymount has always been an absolute rock for families.
“There’s a massive bond in that group and Kieran was a big part of that and even though he’s not with us any longer, that bond still shines through on occasions like this and it’s great to see it.”
The Aghada peloton will be departing the Mizen at 7.30am and stopping off at Tadgh MacCárthaigh’s GAA, Sain Mary’s GAA and Éire Óg GAA en route.
To donate to this worthy cause, just go to this link.