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Giro di Glen leaves lasting legacy in Glenullin

The Irish News Club & Volunteer Awards

GLENULLIN stalwart Gerard O'Kane would readily admit that he had virtually no experience of cycling prior to the club's sponsored bike ride last year.

But after signing up and completing the ‘Giro di Glen,' the former Derry chairman is now a member of the new Agivey cycling club which was formed in the wake of the event.

Asked to list the number of keen cyclists in Glenullin prior to his club's bike ride, O'Kane replied: “There was probably about the three and that's not an exaggeration”.

The sponsored bike ride created a legacy that will last much longer than the funds of approximately £25,000 which were raised.

Speaking at The Wellington Park Hotel where Glenullin won the small club category at The Irish News Club and Volunteer Awards, O'Kane said: “There are 78 people in the new cycling club and it is growing all the time.”

The judging panel was particularly impressed with Glenullin's willingness to create activities and events which reached out to all members of the community.

O'Kane said that the cycling club's outings has provided a new dimension to people's lives. He revealed that even when weekly rides are finished, discussions often continue on the social media network, Whatsapp.

“The cyclists are out three to four times a week and whenever they are not out, they are WhatsApping each other. It's great for the community. Everybody is buying into it.”

O'Kane noted that the cycling club has enabled Glenullin to provide a recreational activity for members and non-members of the GAA club.

“A lot of the 78 members who are in the cycling club were not members of the GAA club. You see husbands and wives out now. The husband will get out on the Tuesday night, the wife will get out on the Thursday, then one will be Whatsapping because they were cross about missing a good night.”

O'Kane insisted that GAA clubs are perfectly entitled to get involved with sports which fall outside the remit of traditional Gaelic Games.

“I remember being at a dinner dance 40 years ago where the late Tommy Mallon said that it's the Gaelic Athletic Association.

“The Gaelic Athletic Association encompasses everyone within the community for every type of sport that the GAA is happy to endorse.

“I have never forgotten that. Just because you don't play football or hurling, it doesn't mean you are not welcome in a GAA club.

“We have walkers in the club. We have cyclists in the club. Every night, there is something at the club for the community.”

O'Kane also takes an active role in the club's table quiz which is held every Sunday night. He revealed that regular readers of The Irish News have a distinct advantage over anyone who doesn't buy the newspaper everyday.

“I do the questions and they all come from The Irish News. All the questions are taken out The Irish News. If you want to know the answers, you have to buy The Irish News. To win the quiz, you don't have to be a genius, you just have to read The Irish News.”

Club chairman Martin Mullan said ‘Giro di Glen' was a great success and he paid tribute to the catering skills of the women who prepared a meal for the cyclists who completed the two routes.

“We never thought it would have created such a buzz. From nothing, we had 300 people who completed the ride.

“They had an incentive to get home because everyone was treated to a sit down dinner when they got home. It was put on voluntarily by the ladies of the club. The spread they put on – no hotel could do it.”

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