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Michael Downey hopes to help by going in search of Belfast's Strongest Man

Pictured at the launch of the Belfast’s Strongest Man competition are Shankill road strongman Steven Harrison, artist Ken Maze, Joan Fryers of Suicide awareness, Michael Mallon of Mallon funeral directors, Philip Bannon of the Beehive bar, Kenny Andrews of Dampproof NI and west Belfast strongman Michael Downey with Christopher Mallon and Glen Black of Blaze FX. Picture by Mark Marlow
Neil Loughran

IRELAND’S strongest man Michael Downey may have his sights set on making it to the world stage next year, but his short-term focus is a little closer to home.

For the second year the west Belfast man has organised a Belfast’s Strongest Man competition, and this time around it is in aid of Suicide Awareness and in partnership with the Suicide Awareness support centre on the Falls Road.

The event will take place at the Blackstaff Complex on Sunday, August 19 and, quite apart from the heavy lifting on show as competitors from across Ireland and the UK go head to head, it will also be a day for the whole community to enjoy, with free car parking, free entry as well as bouncy castles and balloons for children.

All funds raised will go towards a mural wall by artist Ken Maze, who has designed a special piece of artwork that will include a 24-hour helpline number for those in need.

“A friend of mine lost his life through suicide this time last year so this is something very close to my heart, and it’s the same for a lot of people,” said Downey

“A lot of the local business owners have come together to help promote suicide awareness as it is a growing problem that has devastated so many families in the community.

“So this is a day for everybody to hopefully come out and show their support.”

Downey was crowned Ireland’s strongest man last year, following in the footsteps of former World’s Strongest Man competitor Glenn Ross.

And he hopes to showcase his talents on the world stage in the near future – a journey that starts at the Britain’s Strongest Man competition in January.

“I won Northern Ireland’s Strongest Man in June so that qualifies me for Britain’s Strongest Man in Sheffield,” said the 25-year-old.

“That will be televised on Channel Five, and then the top six in Britain go straight to the Worlds so that’s my aim. I’d love to get there and put Belfast on the map and show people you can still do well no matter where you’re from.”

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