At the start of the season, Celtic lifted the league flag, on the same day the club launched its 125th anniversary charity scheme “1254125”
Six Members of the Celtic Family decided to make a pledge to raise at least £125 for charity by cycling from the Home of Brother Walfrid in Ballymote County Sligo, to Paradise.
Main organiser Mark Cameron, Robert Campbell, Ali Schulz, Paul Muldoon, Raymond McFarlane and Jim Kelly all signed up.
The Celtic six soon became the magnificent seven when they were supported by Paul’s father; Andrew Muldoon who took the role of Support Driver and chief motivator!
As means to recall this amazing experience the media centre took on the role of recording a diary…
Team members start to arrive at paradise
Weather conditions absolutely terrible, raining cats and dogs
There is definitely a buzz about the place, with dozens of people running around with champion’s league lanyards and special champion’s league passes
Never mind the champion’s league passes, our team bus had VIP approval and was parked proudly at gate two at Celtic park
Very professionally organised, we have spare bikes/spare boots, spare helmets and even spare welly boots (we talk about them later).
I think our co driver must have ram raided a fruit shop and a chocolate shop on the way through to Paradise as the front seat was full of fruit and chocolate bars, when the main driver arrived he had more Percy pigs than M&S
Team bus doubles as a truck carrying bikes on the back and possibility exists to put the bags in the back of truck or even within the cab
In reflection all that was missing was the Blood transfusion equipment for the cyclists (sic)
As it rained and it rained all right, our co driver / leader started to get edgy about our getaway (what’s all this about getaway’s I am thinking are we going to rob the Celtic shop of sweets ?)
One of the many friendly steward’s pointed out that whilst we have a great position next to the super store,
Due to public safety, traffic will be held back for anything from 15 to 45 minutes
On basis that we have 20 minute time window built into get to the ferry. Before 00:01 then executive decisions needed
Could all of our timings be under threat here, missing the boat, getting late into Sligo, cycling in the dark from Ballymote to Blacklion (how appropriate)
There was no panicking…..
Executive Decision, been me up Scotty style the Getaway vehicle is swiftly relocated over into the velodrome
Prime position under the security light
Bikes all loaded up, strapped in tightly, bags and there we loads of them loaded into the Cab, we had Dry bags, bags for wet gear, aqua pack bags and even bags full of spares, banana’s, Percy pigs, more chocolate, inner tubes,
Co driver must have thought he was doing the decathlon by the time he has loaded everything up…..
Rain and more rain followed
Thereafter the team dispersed and look for something to do for the next few hours, some went for a curry, some a beer, some a diet coke and some for some southern exotic wines (just to get the edge off and build up sugar reserves)
Celtic kick off the start of the next 125 years by playing their friends from Barcelona In the champion’s league
So many spectacular things during this match
The 125 display thanks to the green brigade, unbelievable, the noise levels, the atmosphere, could write a book about the game alone
Watt a performance from the team
We were buzzing, it could have been three nil, more nerves in the last few moments.
No time to stand about chatting or enjoying matters; we then had the 1500 meter sprint / hurdles to do to get to the back of the velodrome
Team bus leaves Velodrome next to Celtic park, the getaway driver, our man from the capital of roundabouts, ideally positions the vehicle in an ideal spot at the velodrome
With the co driver’s directions, the back streets of Glasgow are manoeuvred very well
Getaway vehicle joins the M74 and “we are on the one road”
Only 76 miles to Cairnryan, it’s blowing a gale and raining cats And dogs, Ayrshire style
But at least we are not cycling at this stage
And the radio said …,
Chico Young “Barcelona is the best side in the world” “great and Celtic just beat them”
Team bus arrives in Maybole one of our stopping points on the cycle
One of the team members manages to give us a guided tour of the terrain as we batter down to Cairnryan, kindly pointing out a lot of he mountains that we had just sped down,
Great, we are thinking we are going to catch the boat, then the bag of coins drops, oops we have to climb back up these beauties on Saturday afternoon
Mr GPRS then proceeds to tell us how many of them exist and that there is one mountain where it is a constant climb for seven miles! OOps
Team bus rolls into the port of Cairnryan
First challenge out of the way….well that was after the local security team decided that they wanted to give co driver a search and ask lots of questions about what was in the back of the truck Under the tarpaulin.
No time for jokes here,
“We are on the ONE Boat now”
The photo sessions start and we are still on the car deck….
Two huge stevedores are volunteered to take some pictures,
Team picture in the “YMCA High Viz jackets” (cool really as they had the Celtic Charity logo and Celtic cross on them)
Followed by Team Huddle
Then our main driver was seen as a celebrity by Miss Stena 2009 and Miss Stena 2010, where they were asking him for a picture, all great stuff
“We are sailing, we are sailing” Rod could not make it but he was there in spirit with us.
By this time the Boat could best be described as an open plan hotel…..
Lots of people sleeping
Sky sports news on its usual repeat, Celtic were on it constant, I wonder why?
Disco dancing and Party time fiesta style
Lots of fine lagers and fine pizzas from the Stena chef from Bologna near Belfast
Loads of people who looked as if they had just all won the lottery at the same time
Cycle team had some work to do no that did not mean we were to do circuit training on the boat
With pint tumblers, sponsor sheets, pens (lovely one at that purchased in the shop for four pound) the YMCA look a likes where off and running, with their brass neck/s they kindly managed to get around the boat and speak to all of those who were awake on the moving party hotel
This was both great fun with a few cracks made, that you boys will be wrecked in morning and will not be able to keep your eyes open never mind cycle 50 miles
This was truly remarkable and inspiring meeting so many of the Celtic Family who had to take one/two days off their work to make the trip, buses and boats are no cheap these days, many of the Celtic family making the trip most weeks
Whilst telling the story about 1254125 and the cycle from Ballymote to Paradise, our pint tumblers where getting filled up, not with Budweiser, but with coins and notes.
Some of the guys and girls giving their last of the money from their pockets, one such table gave us the last of their kitty which was also their taxi money.
Just incredible, a huge thanks goes to the Irish Celtic fans on the One Boat to Belfast on the Thursday morning.
This was like a scene from Whacky races as all the buses tried to get of the board and down the streets of Belfast Harbour
The main driver is now in control of events at this stage, after a few manual Sat Nav tips, we were on the road again to Sligo.
Junction 14, we decided to stop for a comfort break, near Enniskillen.
Some bright sparks, thought it would be an idea perhaps to catch a few hours sleep, but due to the Blackpool illuminations of the garage and surrounding buildings, it was decided that we should find “a dark lane”
The dark lane (looked suspiciously like a lovers lane!) was found, where the plan was to try and catch some sleep. No chance with all of these smart phones, we had barking dogs, tweet tweet and belly laughs.
I think the attempted sleep lasted no more than three minutes……main driver then suggests that we should belt down to Sligo and try to find some where to sleep.
All of the bhoys agreed…. Next challenge how to get the truck out of the lovers lane, well after a 49 point turn, nearly taking out three gate posts, we were turned round and heading up the lane.
One wonders what the local’s were thinking, just as well we were in 2012 or they may have thought it was a night time secret manoeuvres.
Team Bus arrives in Sligo Town; some of team members actually managed to get one possibly two hours sleep at this point,
Driver Andy had done a grand job, given that due to resurfacing many of the stretch of road did not have white lines
On the basis that our cycle bus did not have a transfusion centre in it, neither did it have on suite facilities neither, so quick stop was needed
First memory of Sligo is that we thought I was in Moscow it was that cold
The team bus arrives into Ballymote
Well done driver…..
Quiet time as driver and cyclists needed some shut eye
Brendan Madden and his friend David meet up with us from the Ballymote Celtic FC.
After some team photos next to the Brother Walfrid memorial statue / Celtic crest, we are escorted over to the ancestral home of Brother Walfrid.
Whilst the support driver is reversing team bus, co driver nearly run over whilst doing sit ups at back of van (putting Wellies) Support driver manages to stop all ok, just as well as we were not carrying any spare cyclists..
Team Visit to brother Walfrid home place, this is where it all started, where brother Walfrid was born in 1840
This is also the same home that the stone was removed from a few weeks before hand, which allowed for the stone to be carved into a Celtic cross.
We then took a trip over the back field from Brother Walfrid house to view the Loch.
Brother Walfrid lived here until he was 15 years old before heading over to Scotland, before heading to Scotland Andrew Kerins would have seen many friends, neighbours die from starvation, with county Sligo being one of the most effected by the famine of the 1840’s.
We then headed back into the main town of Ballymote, where we were served up with a
Champions league style breakfast; during breakfast we were lucky to meet some of the Kerrins family, where we met the great, great grandnieces of Brother Walfrid, Margaret and Frances Healy.
Thereafter we headed over to visit the Brother Walfrid memorial community park, where
Ballymote Celtic play.
On arrival we were permitted access to the changing rooms allowing for us to prepare for the cycle, not before some of the bhoys had an artic shower
Along with our new friends from the Ballymote Celtic we were joined again by Margaret and Frances plus two Celtic family members that had driven over 50 miles to see us off from brother Walfrid home!
The cycle route took us from Ballymote up to Sligo town Area before climbing up over some of small Irish mountains to Blacklion, travelling through three counties, Sligo, Leitrim and Cavan
In the early part of the journey whilst on N Roads, around Sligo some of these roads looked liked Motorways!!!!
Despite the lack of sleep, A few delays caused by three sets of major resurfacing works on the road and two of the team deciding to add approx 3.5 miles on to their journey (dodgy road signs)
The Last of the cyclist arrived in to Blacklion, Co Cavan 47 official miles later at 15:15 hrs
On arrival into Blacklion the team were met by members of the Bhoys of Erne CSC and Brian and Eamon who kindly had laid tables out on the street covered with coffees, teas, crisps, sandwiches, warm Irish hospitality.
The two Bhoys also provided an escort for the last 2/3 miles of the spin into Blacklion, with Horns Pumping and flags waving from the car, this was both welcome and inspiring especially when one of the cyclists had a few miles earlier endured a puncture right in the middle of the road in “no mans land” of the resurfacing work which was being undertaking and was stuck for some time waiting on being given green light to move.
Considering the highs of the Barcelona game, the rush for the ferry, the lack of sleep everyone was delighted to get to Blacklion safely, it was also pleasing that the weather was good to us as well.
After some challenging times some of the cyclists managed to work the showers in the BB, some enjoyed hot showers others did not.
After Carb fest, which was very well enjoyed some of the Team headed to bed early, others managed to coin the phrase “one for the road” and enjoyed a few energy drinks and more energy drinks in McHugh’s pub before heading to bed, some new friends introduced to the Celtic family at the local pub, who would later arrange a collection for 1254125.
A big day is a head of us, (81 miles) alarm bells start to ring, preparations begin for the day, and early bird gets the hot water in this hotel
The plan is to meet for breakfast, most of team turn up sharp, others less sharp, breakfast was a carb fest banquet ranging from the porridge, to the fry up to the mountain of toast.
Great start to the day, that is a part from the mini sausages, which the team felt appropriate to let the proprietress know about, despite having the kid on about the mini sausages, our hostess then proceeded to hand over euros 60 which was collection from the local pub and the B&B for our charity.
Sausages soon became great!!!!!
Big day ahead, 81 miles
The Team are off and pedalling, the destination today is County Armagh,
Concerns about the Enniskillen traffic delaying us were soon sorted, when Brian from the Bhoys of Erne CSC became our point man at the front of the team, with Andy at the back in the team bus, Brian providing great assistance to navigate many of the back roads of county Fermanagh, providing directions at each of the major junctions as we moved from Blacklion to Five Mile Town
Despite the attempts of the many hills in county Fermanagh in giving the bhoys a challenge, the team arrived into Augher in County Tyrone 39 miles closer and last of team in at decent pace of 2 hrs 39 mins at 1109 hrs
Our own Mr motivator Andy the team bus driver definitely helped to get some of the team over the hills early in the morning further encouraged when informing us that our time was really good and only ten miles to the stopping point etc…
Our man Raymond from Fermanagh really done us proud by deciding to take us over the back roads and hills from Blacklion avoiding the really busy town of Enniskillen
At Augher, we could have stayed there all the day as the public toilets where very warm in temperature unlike the A4
At this point the team are pretty happy having blasted 39 miles of the journey, Mr motivator was in his element providing the bhoys with mars bars and dolly mixtures
The Bhoys are really bonding as a team and looking out for each other, supporting with coffees and pain killers for media centres sore knees
The bhoys are off and rolling again, we agree to stop at Quinn’s Corner each of team heading off at their own pace
With all the mars bars, dolly mixtures, the team are really buzzing, we reach Quinn’s corner 16 miles later in pretty good pace,
From this point on the team operated as a pelleton, team is really buzzing knowing that we are 20/25 miles from Lurgan, spirits are very high
Our man Jim from Coalisland, County Tyrone (sure he was in Tour de France) then picked up the role as Sat Nav as he took as through the many back roads of Dungannon, Portadown, avoiding the M1 motorway as we were not allowed on that LOL (unlike Sligo)
The weather was good to us until we reached the top of the hill near Drumcree; we decided to have a wee stop here for a picture, some stating that our all inclusive club would welcome new followers irrespective of colour, creed, religion, size of feet etc
Soon after wards we started to arrive in the main populated areas, we cycled down a very long road named, the Gervachy road, stopping at the garage for some coffee, our recollection is that for these bhoys there was a clear way through that road no problems until we passed under the railway bridge and then traffic was rather busy.
Thereafter some of the bhoys thought they were at home in East Kilbride or Glenrothes as we passed through roundabout 67, 9, 8, 7 and so on all the way up to Lurgan