Fighting cancer step by step...

Friends for 40 years, CHRIS DUNNE talks to two ladies who raised €12,000 for cancer research, in the Evening Echo Women’s Mini Marathon
Fighting cancer step by step...
Marie Daly and Mary O’Callaghan who are running the Evening Echo Women's Mini Marathon for Breakthrough Cancer Research.

SISTERS-in-law Marie Daly and Mary O’Callaghan are stepping out again this year in the Evening EchoWomen’s Mini Marathon for cancer research.

“I’ve been doing the Evening Echo mini-marathon now for 13 years,” says Marie, from Youghal.

“Mary joined me the second year, taking a part in the mini-marathon for Breakthrough. And we’ve never looked back since.”

The duo are pals for four decades. “I married Pat, Mary’s brother, 40 years ago,” says Marie.

“We recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. I have all brothers, so it was great Mary and I became such good pals.”

Together, Marie and Mary have raised in excess of €12,000 for cancer research.

“Everybody has been touched by cancer,” says Marie.

“I lost two aunts, Kathleen and Margaret, to cancer who were both at a relatively young age. That was over 30 years ago.”

But cancer doesn’t go away.

“My cousin was a young mother when she died of cancer,” says Marie. “The children missed their mother always and for special family events like First Communion and Confirmation.

“My sister, Geraldine, lost her battle with cancer as well at the young age of 46 four years ago, last Christmas. Geraldine had a new grandchild in Australia who she met via Skype. They never got to meet the child in person. Breast cancer claimed her. It was very rapid from once she complained of headaches. She went into a coma. Then she died.”

Cancer not only touches every family, it affects them forever.

“It was very hard on Geraldine’s family,” says Marie.

Mary agrees. She lost her mother to lung cancer.

“Cancer not only affects the person who has it,” says Mary. “The disease affects the lives of the whole family. I was very young when my mother passed away. She was only 54. Then, cancer was often brushed under the carpet. We know many, many families in Youghal who have lost loved ones to cancer,” says Mary.

The pair made their pact to support cancer research.

“There are loads of good causes out there,” says Mary. “And people are doing the mini-marathon for great charities. I have grandchildren. I want to do something about cancer. Cancer research is really important. Everything that goes towards research is a help.”

How did the pair start their marathon journey, raising vital funds for cancer research?

“I saw an ad in a local paper,” says Marie. “The ad was looking for volunteers to take part in the mini-marathon for cancer research. It said; can you walk, run or jog? I was always a walker and I thought I’d give it a go. I rang up and inquired about the mini-marathon. There was a bus going from Youghal, so off I went. It was fantastic. Then, the second year, Mary came with me to take part in the mini-marathon. We’ve always enjoyed the whole day out from start to finish. The atmosphere at the meeting spot at the Clarion Hotel is always buzzing. The coffee and croissants are always welcome,” says Marie.

“We still get the bus up to the city where we get into the spirit of the day and we always treat ourselves to lunch after completing it. We never stop talking along the route. It is great meeting all the women around the city afterwards and seeing them wearing all the different t-shirts for the various charities. We get talking to others involved and we have a good old catch up on how we all done. There is a festive feel to the whole day,” she added.”

The sisters-in-law feel very well supported in their home town.

“Our families, our friends and our neighbours are really generous,” says Mary. “People and local businesses never refuse to donate to cancer research. We have our regulars. Everyone is really generous, including my employers, the Laundry Basket here in Youghal.”

Marie goes a step further. She laughs.

“Yes, I go round to my neighbours’ houses on my days off,” she says. “The same people continue to sponsor us. St Raphael’s Centre, where I work, is brilliant to support us. Locals drop in €5 or €10 in the evenings. €2 is as welcome as €20. It all goes to a very good cause.”

Strangers, as well as friends, are on board.

“I remember after doing the marathon last year, a lady tapped me on the shoulder and she handed me €5,” says Marie. “She said that she was going through cancer herself. I often wondered afterwards how she got on.”

The pair firmly believe that cancer research is vital in halting the disease in its tracks, but they also know that for women, regular check-ups are of paramount importance.

“Regular mammograms and cervical check-ups are really important,” says Mary. “There is no excuse. They are free of charge. Everybody should make sure to get regular check-ups.”

Marie has urged others to come on board too: “But you know, anyone can do it. Walking or jogging 4km is easy enough and it is good fun. And all the better if it’s for a good cause.”

Jill Lyons of Breakthrough Cancer Research congratulated the ladies for their contribution.


Breakthrough Cancer Research is an Irish cancer charity focused on research and education and is particularly focused on cancers with a poor prognosis, such as ovarian, malignant melanoma, pancreatic, lung and oesophageal.

They bring scientists and clinicians together to collaborate with the aim of discovering and developing new effective treatments and cures for patients in Ireland, Europe and Internationally.

To support them, call 021 4226655 or go to


The Evening Echo Women’s Mini Marathon takes place on September 24. You can register online at

The race office will be open in Debenhams, Merchant’s Quay, on Saturday, September 16, 10am to 4pm. And again on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of that week, 10am to 4pm and Thursday, 10am to 7pm.

You can also register on the day, provided the places aren’t filled before then. There is an 8,000 cap this year.

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