Ballymote County Sligo to Paradise – Part 2

The sprit of the team was just completely amazing at this point as they could smell the coffee from Lurgan.  A few moments later we are close to Lurgan mid afternoon, the schools are coming out, a few comedians giving the bhoys pelters

We arrive in Lurgan 81 miles later

We manage to get the van parked; we manage to find somewhere to store the bikes

15:3O hrs

Welcome to Lurgan

We are met by a truly amazing lady by the name of Maria Foy outside the Celtic Supporters Club in Lurgan

For Anyone who had not been here, this is a must visit,

The club / property is owned by the supporters, established in 1965

This really is a special place with the community being considered, committee members providing shifts in the bar /club out of their own time, especially one story where on a Sunday the older generation are looked after and they are given their breakfast free gratis

Very Very inspiring stuff…..

On arrival Maria (who never sat down for at least two hours) absolutely spoiled the bhoys with coffee/ tea, sandwiches, more sandwiches, then even some beers

Within the team we had guys who where pretty well experienced cyclists and on the other had we had 2/3 guys who where sheer determined to get the job done, breaking 81 miles in one day for some of these guys was a huge huge achievement

Another achievement is that our team bus driver also informed us that he managed to achieve getting the truck into fourth gear at some spells so he was very happy about that!

Being welcomed by total strangers into the Celtic Club in Lurgan was totally amazing, different class thank you

After some energy drinks, our team bus and chief motivator, informed us that we should return briefly to our hotel to be washed and fed before returning.

Hotel staff looked after us very well, despite the fact that there was approx 16 contestants from the X factor close by.

Some of the team members where exhausted and took decision to count some sheep, some even dreamed of the next day’s cycle, others decided to return to the Lurgan Club, where they had the pleasure of meeting Marie Foy and the rest of the committee , further more they were joined by an unsung hero of Neville Carolan, Neville is young man who works hard along  side Jim Kelly in the AICSC looking after tens of thousands of Irish Celtic fans, Neville played a key role in helping to support Mark in the stone work and was a great motivator to all of the guys.

Whilst meeting up with our new friends from Lurgan, they kindly donated money collected from the travel club and the club.

Such an amazing people and place, we would recommend that a visit to the club as a must.

An earlier night was had by all as the team started to drop like flies.




Another big day was ahead of us, not quite 81 miles, but different given the following challenges the cold weather, the ice on the road, the need to be at the harbour in Belfast for 11:00 to catch the 11:30 sailing plus what was to meet us later in Scotland


Despite early night,

The team are starting to wake up, lots of sore bodies,

Team bus driver Andy, manages to pose for a Pre breakfast picture with his new lurgan Celtic top on, albeit the fact with his eyes closed.


Team arrives at breakfast, appetite today for food is less than previous days, team slightly quieter this morning, well apart from Tour de France Jim, who is fresher as a daisy than others

Just before 08:00 we have the privilege of being joined by Jackie from the Ballymena Shamrock. Jackie is a very keen cyclist covering at least 300 miles per week and still managing to get across to see Celtic most weeks.

It was a rather crisp November morning as we left lurgan, County Armagh, heading up many lanes that took us through county down and into County Antrim.

Tactics in order to speed up the cycle were implemented; such changes forced the back men to the front of the pack in order to push the pace

Our man Jackie then ensured that we got a chance to see some interesting places enroute passing Long Kesh, Andersontown, before stopping at a flower shop, where this allowed for some flowers to be purchased, next stop would be Milltown Cemetery, where Celtic Legend Charles Patrick Tully’s grave resides.

Our Team Bus driver and chief motivator, Andy was given the honour of placing the flowers on behalf of the 1254125 cyclists on the grave and was proud as a “Bertie Peacock”

“No messing around now bhoys” was the message from Jackie as we were now pressed for time to catch the ferry, pace was pushed hard in order to catch the 11:00 am hrs cut off

For a few moments, we were wondering if we may see the ferry, as we approached St Patrick’s, there was around 30 Saracen Vehicle/s and a water cannon, Apparently there was some funny walk about to come down the hill past the Chapel ?

Onwards we kept pedalling, faster and faster to get to the harbour, with minutes to spare, in military fashion we synchronised the loading of the bags and bikes onto the van be fore dashing onto the ferry

Our man Jackie did suggest that if we ran out of time we could just put the bikes on the back of the truck and leave the bags, on this occasion we did not take his advice


We arrive at the Stena check in

The team bus is on the boat, time to get some of the wet and sweaty gear off and into some dry and warm clothes


We are sailing

We are now on the ONE Boat; we meet up with some of the Celtic Family that we had met on Thursday morning

Time for a team meal, which was very well enjoyed thanks to the nice folks at Stena,

The bhoys are feeling rather anxious of what may lay ahead for us, lots of talk about the first mountain range as we come of the boat lasting for seven miles did not help, the other challenge being that we needed to try and get as far up the road before we run out of day light, predictions being that we may only get as far as Girvan, which is 12 miles south of destination Maybole.

Enough speculation, time for some shut eye, some managed to sleep, some did not.


We are in Loch Ryan, we can see the hills


We are off the boat and we are at the bottom of the hill

Executive decision taken on how we should approach the hill, with the 2/3 of the weaker bhoys asked to go up front

With magnificent support from the entire team, we pressed very hard to get up that first range, which was very well pointed out to us on Wednesday night by Robert, all seven of miles it were conquered, we were at the summit

Team are feeling totally amazing at this point, big tick

This would prepare us very well for the short trip along the coast before we would face another long stretch which was cut through the mountain, the new king of the mountains was buzzing and glowing with confidence as he sped up this hill enjoying a rest before the rest of the team came up behind, inspired by the more experienced members of the team who where behind him encouraging all the way up

At the top even,  having some time to take some pictures and time for another toilet break number 1888, The team where still concerned about the lack of day light hours,

Coming up through Girvan, dusk was upon us, aided with  very well with crazy cold winds and plenty of heavy rain, decision was taken to try and press in as much as possible and head to Maybole, which was approx 12 miles further up the road

By this time the weather was absolutely terrible,

At one point at Turnberry we thought we may have been blown off the bikes, we were not giving up despite being soaked, frozen feet and hands

Team Spirit and various chants of “come on you bhoys in green ” absolutely helped, at this point in the afternoon this proved to be one of the bigger challenges to keep going in the dark, not being able to see the pot holes and man hole covers correctly, we kept going….

I think the person who put up the sign 7miles to maybole and 5 miles to maybole, may have got it wrong as those 2 miles in between seemed like 20

5 miles to maybole and we are buzzing despite looking like frozen snotters,


The last of the bhoys arrive at Maybole,

Everyone is freezing cold and wet; job is done 67 miles completed today!

Robert informs us that we had climbed 3600 feet

Our new random text friend even had some text messages waiting for us to wish us all the luck in the world and hope that we got to Maybole all ok, Our Chief Motivator quickly mentions that he just received a text message as well

“Well done Bhoys on reaching Maybole, Barrack Obama ”

Some of the bhoys were rolling about in the puddles with laughter at this point

Time to get back in the team bus as we would head up to Irvine where we would reside for the night


Irvine Harbour

We eventually find the BB, the absent landlord has confused everyone with the messages he left for our rooms, some of the bhoys even find themselves in the wrong rooms, at one point we were in the honeymoon suite of the establishment, with the wet gear getting taken off

Others found themselves taking showers in the wrong rooms

The establishment would make the travel lodge look like the Burj al Arab, the bhoys were just not caring, they just wanted to get the freezing wet gear off and get showered

The cycling shoes where stuffed with news papers and placed next to the heater in one off the rooms, We left the polar bears behind in the rooms and headed out

Not having a clue where we were going we headed for a protein and carb fest and found ourselves in the local KFC with more chicken than shop floor of Marshall’s chunky chicken at Ingliston,

The bhoys were absolutely delighted at this point…..


Next stop Irvine CSC club

After phoning up Anica Rice, we managed to navigate the crocodiles and the river and we were on the other side of the river Irvine.

We are then welcomed with open arms and warm hospitality at the Irvine CSC, we meet up with Adam Elliot, Brian O’Leary, and Pauline.

The members of the supporter’s bus and the club kindly donated to the 1254125 charity

Later we would speak with the Bar Manager Vicky and her staff, who each confirmed that they would make a pledge to 1254125 by agreeing to shave various parts of their bodies if the members would cough up at least 125 4 125

Great entertainment was had by all, time for couple of taxi’s and back to the B&B

After falling over the polar bears, we managed to get into our beds


Cup final day


Some of the guys are not able to sleep at this point, some are chatting very loud,


Team are stating to wake up


The entire B&B is given a wake up call, when singing in the shower reaches new levels, when the rest of the tenors join in, to “come on you bhoys in green” and “Celtic symphony”


Team breakfast, four of the bhoys order scrambled egg, with bacon, Each are given full breakfasts, from seven ordered breakfasts, only one is correct lol


We leave the hotel and head down to Maybole in the van

Great decision to start an hour later this morning as Jack Frost had been out the night before


We are on the road again,

Interesting climbs out of Maybole as we head up towards Ayr, helped by the encouragement of the team we make it

Even more climbs from Ayr up to Kilmarnock and Fenwick, same again

Quick stop at Fenwick, as we’re are not permitted to utilise the M77 we opted for the A77 which also encompasses a cycle path,

After remonstrating a few scenes from dancing on ice, the A77 was opted for as opposed to the cycle path

A flash back from the Saturday, when Robert mentions that there was a few hills on the A77 heading up from Fenwick, probably the understatement of the trip lol, some team members where struggling for a mile or two on this stretch, with great team encouragement, we were picking up pace again and king of the hills forced to the front of the pack again

Coming through Newton means, the bhoys where absolutely buzzing as we flew down the hills, yes yes yes, pay back time down hill!

South side of Glasgow and its traffic lights were navigated, the final stretch through the Gorbals, up through Glasgow green


We had arrived at Saint Mary’s of the Calton

This is where it all started with Brother Walfrid on the 6th November 1887

Time for some pictures with the Brother Walfrid stone/ Celtic cross and the 1254125 flag

We then decide to head to Paradise, not before dressing up the team bus with some colourful tri colours

Being mindful of London road being closed we “eventually “opted to head to Paradise via Parkhead Cross /Springfield Road /London Road

Well if the truth be known we nearly did not make it at all to Paradise,

Dressed in our cycling gear with hi Viz Celtic Charity vests, turning from Crownpoint Road into Fielden Street, our truck turned right into the back of one of those funny walks,

Very fast 3 point turn and a speedy detour ensured thanks to “Saint Christopher” Patron saint of travellers that we managed to escape without any scratches

With nearly 243 miles completed from Ballymote to Paradise, we are stunned with this detour at the last minute, positively we carried on and in no time we were heading up Kerrydale street,


243 miles later the job is done!!

We are welcome by the very nice and friendly people, from Celtic charity fund, Jane McGuire and Ian Hughes, loads of pictures are taken with the cycle team /family/friends next to the Brother Walfrid Statue, with the flag and the Stone

Nice gesture from Jane, where fluffy Towels are organised and we are informed that we can utilise Barrowfield to get washed changed for the match


All seven members of the team meet up at gate one, photo taken with 1254125 Banner

Then the nerves kick in, we are to walk along the track; Paul’s sister and wife catch his attention from the front stand,

We are at the dugouts, we are asked onto the Park, with Celtic TV crew and the cables all over the place, we are on the half way line; we can see our mugs on the big screens, embarrassing stuff

Mark makes the half time draw

With the banner and stone, various pictures are taken

All seven of the team are introduced to Peter Lawwell, hands are shook and polite words of encouragement are shared,

Being very polite Peter asked each of the team some questions, including asking Andy Muldoon how his legs where, Andy replied they as great thanks Peter, I was the driver

Each of the team are given the chance to lift the stone above their head and do a quick spin around

Mark then presents the Stone which we carried from Ballymote to Paradise to Celtic FC, Peter Lawwell accepting on behalf of the club.

The Magnificent Seven are then lead round the Park for a lap of honour, nerves are in full flow at this time as we carry the flag around the Park and try to see family and friends in the stands,

We manage to see Neville in the lower Jock stein stand

At the North stand we mange to see Ali’s wife and kids in the crowd

We could not see Marie Foy from Lurgan in the crowd, but we did manage to put our Lurgan No 1 CSC scarves on before doing a spinning huddle in front of the Green Brigade

We managed to see some friends in the crowd, Nerves getting the better of some, we forget to look into the stands where some of our friends where sitting

The Celtic family in the stands gave the bhoys a great Celtic Reception

Some pictures were taken of the bhoys as they walked round the park, some were smiling and others looked as if they had seen a ghost


Back in the tunnel, the bhoys give each other big hugs/handshakes

Team had pledged to do something for 1254125,

The first part of the job was done

Thereafter we need to keep promoting the charitable aims of Celtic FC and the 1254125 campaign

We were seven snowballs, time to keep the momentum going and make one huge global snowball

New friends were made within the team. New friends were made from Ireland all across to Paradise

Some lovely people from Celtic where introduced to us, Jane, Ian, from Celtic charity and Gerry /Tony and his team from Celtic Media

Tired and emotional bodies

Thank you to Brother Walfrid for this opportunity and thank you to Mark for organizing it.

Media Centre 19/11/2012

You can still donate at

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