The eight strapping Rigney brothers from Portlaoise are the stuff of sporting legend, winning over 70 inter county GAA medals, and excelling in rugby, golf and every other sport they turned to.
The eldest of Mick and Kathleen Rigney’s sons is former Portlaoise GAA and rugby player Mick, aged 50. He is now experiencing his toughest physical challenge ever, as he struggles to recover from a serious stroke, which has left him wheelchair bound and needing constant care.
As the family come to terms with the shock, and the repercussions for Mick’s future, they are looking to their friends and community for support, and have organised a trio of fundraisers to this end.
On November 1 last year, Mick suffered the stroke while at work with ESB. He spent a long period in Beaumont Hospital and then in the National Rehabilitation Hospital, but three weeks ago he was finally transferred to Portlaoise hospital, meaning he is finally able to go home at weekends.
His wife Linda has been overwhelmed by the support and good will of friends, neighbours and colleagues.
“Everybody has been excellent, really supportive, without them it would have been so difficult,” she said.
She reports that Mick is in good form.
“He is coping the best he can. He hopes to get another spell in the Rehab hospital, and he continues to get physio in Portlaoise, we are delighted about that. The future is uncertain but we will see how it goes,” she said. The couple’s children are Orla aged 14, Eimear aged 17 and Mark, 20.
The realities of the cost of making his life wheelchair accessible made fundraising inevitable. Mick’s brother Brian says they were reluctant in the beginning to go public.
“As a family we were in a tailspin, not knowing in the critical stage of Mick’s illness, what to do. As any proud family, we wanted to keep to ourselves and deal with it. Thankfully he is making progress in his rehab, and when we sat down and thought about the practicalities, a wheelchair car alone costs in the region of €40,000,” he said.
With Linda’s blessing, Brian set up the ‘Friends of Mick Rigney’ fundraising committee.
Events begin on July 22, with a 100km cycle from Portlaoise Rugby club to Carlow and back, organised by Des Rigney, and led off by Mick Galway. A shorter 60km run is on offer too.
On July 27 the sporting theme continues with a major Golf Classic at Portlaoise GC, where Mick is a popular member. A special evening of sport, music and chat will round off the day in The Heritage Portlaoise, with an auction of sport memorabilia by special guest RTE commentator Michael Duignan. Sporting greats such as Eddie Brennan, Mick McCarthy, Brian Cody and Daire O’Shea are all coming to show their support and make it an unforgettable night for Mick and his family.
Tickets for ‘An Evening with Mick and Friends’ are on sale from The Heritage Portlaoise, Graham’s Newsagents, the Parish Centre or by contacting Brian Rigney at 086 8034678 or Ciarán Reilly at 086 3258547.
See www.friendsofmickrigney.com for more.