There were emotional scenes in Ratheniska last Thursday night, as Claire Davies-Kelly appeared around the bend, onto the final strait of her epic ultra-marathon and through the gates of Park/Ratheniska GAA. It was the culmination of a mammoth journey, which had taken Claire from Aberdeen in Scotland to the quiet little corner in Laois, racking up over 340 miles in the process.
Claire had an incredible desire to pay tribute to her late uncle, Domo Byrne, who passed away in 2015 from Motor Neurone Disease. Domo was a former footballer, hurler and member of Park/Ratheniska GAA Club. When the club were contacted by Claire's cousin, Sharon Byrne, about the possibility of staging the final leg of her epic journey, they hadn't a moment's hesitation in helping Claire complete her journey.
It was Park/Ratheniska's pleasure to be able to welcome the extended Byrne family to Ratheniska, and they were joined by current members of the club, including former teammates and friends of Domo, as we awaited Claire's arrival. The excitement grew as reports came through of Claire and her support teams whereabouts, as she traveled from Tullamore to Ratheniska for her final leg. She passed the magnificent Rock of Dunamase, before reaching Dysart Hill to make her way to our village. Thunderous cheers and applause greeted Claire as she passed Ratheniska Church and appeared around her final bend, and there were incredibly emotional scenes as she reached the clubhouse gates to be greeted by her husband, young children, family and friends.
There were hugs, tears, champagne and general delight for Claire as she reached the climax of a number of years of hard work, never mind the past 12 days of mental and physical effort. Refreshments were set up in the clubhouse, a building that Domo himself volunteered his talents on during construction, and Club Secretary Brian Ramsbottom took the opportunity to praise Claire and the Byrne family for their hard work in raising funds for Motor Neurone in both Ireland and Scotland. He discussed the fact that Domo's memory and spirit were still alive, before making a presentation on behalf of Park/Ratheniska GAA Club to Claire's fundraising efforts.
If you wish to contribute to these efforts yourself, you can do so by clicking this link here:
It's a magnificent cause, helping to aid those suffering from this awful illness.
Park/Ratheniska GAA Club would like to pay thanks to Claire for allowing them to be part of her incredible feat. They are in awe of the strength in character of the woman and they hope she enjoys the next few days and appreciates what she's achieved.