Ard Fhear! A Neighbour’s Inspiration
Two elderly customers prop the counter, their eyes fixated on their settling pints. Applying the crème de resistance is Tomás Mac an tSaoir. Saddle sore, Tomás hands the men their pint of plain. ‘Anois a bhuachaillí’ exclaims Tomás in his native tongue. The young cyclist, after his 3,053 mile exertion, is at his ease manning the bar of his father’s premises in the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht.
Inspired that a 22 year old neighbour could accomplish such an achievement, I have Tomás join me in the snug once his only afternoon customers are, like their pints, settled.
I asked what made him cycle alone from San Diego to Florida’s St. Augustine. ‘’When 16 year old Kerry teenager Donal Walsh tragically passed from cancer in 2013, a charity in his name was established. I felt the best way to turn a hobby into an awareness mission was to cycle across the U.S to help raise funds for Donal’s Live Life Foundation.
For 42 days Tomás battled headwinds and punishing terrain on his epic journey, punctuated by only 7 days recovery.
Departing on October 24th it wasn’t until December 11th that he free wheeled to his finish line having seen California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Tired imagining it, I asked had he any downtime whatsoever.
‘’In Austin I took three days off and had a badly needed night on the beer.’’
As someone who’d get lost in a shopping mall, my admiration for his effort soared. Curious, I asked how he managed those infinite, tumbleweed accompanied US roads.
‘Leaving Ireland I was sceptical, scared about cycling a different country. Yet I’ve met incredible people on the way.’’
His inventory was limited. A bike bought in San Diego, sunscreen, two panniers, two pairs of bib shorts and an Irish team gilet. Two Donal Walsh cycling jerseys, three pairs of socks, runners and a light jacket.
Cycling shoes, gloves, some casuals and a tub of chamois cream completed the list.
Headwinds were a low point. ‘Thinking I’d have a westerly wind at my back I cycled from west to east. If anyone wants to cycle across America go east to west. The wind will be more generous!’’
I asked Tomás about social interaction ‘en-route.’
‘I experienced great warmth and generosity,’’ he said. ‘Familiar with Americans from our family pub, I know they’re great people.’’
‘I was offered food, accommodation and was treated like a king. The American people have been absolutely incredible to me.’’
He called his experience ‘priceless,’ learning much of the diverse U.S. cultures and landscapes, and significantly raising €3907 for the Foundation. For a young man who found cycling after his father banished him from the Playstation, Tomás is an inspiration to us all.
As the old men beckoned our heroic peddler to pull another two pints, a line from their overheard conversation summed up my admiration.
‘He’s a better man than any of us,’
Tomás Ó hUallacháin
Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne
Category: Sport: A Profile of a Sports Personality you admire.