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On May 1st 2012, The Kilkenny Fat Cats set off on their longest tour so far, Mizen Head to Malin Head Cycle Challenge.
Club co-founder and cyclist, Michael Brennan recounts the trip day by day. Enjoy!

Mizen Head to Malin Head Cycle Challenge

Kilkenny Fat Cats at Malin Head

Fat Cats celebrate at Malin Head

Tuesday  1st May : 
The group met up at 12 o clock, had tea/coffee and biscuits in the Cave Bar before departing for West Cork and Mizen Head. Ahead lay a five day cycling journey through the entire length of Ireland. Patrick Manwell from Albania driving the bus with 17 cyclists on board and me driving the hired van (to give Mick a break) we set off in the rain at 1 o clock. About five miles from Mizen Head the rain had stopped. After unloading the bicycles, a quick view of the wild Atlantic, the rugged rocky cliff coastline and a photo shot before the off at 6.15pm.  With a cold northerly wind in our face we traversed the hilly rugged West Cork countryside. After 10 minutes we were viewing Barley Cove beach in the evening sunshine, portents of the week ahead. At 8.15 we were entering the West Lodge Hotel outside Bantry. A shower, change of clothes and then to our first sit down meal together.  It felt good, we were on our way.  The first cycle had been brisk with the party breaking up into smaller groups, rotating in turn and avoiding obstacles as a unit.  All the training was coming to fruition.

Fat Cats at Molls Gap

Wednesday 2nd May :
An early breakfast of porridge, scrambled egg and toast and we were out on our bicycles by 9 o clock, stocked up with water, energy drink, energy bars and the loved bananas.  Through the streets of Bantry and out towards the very scenic Glengarrif.  In the broken sunshine the cycle was enjoyable.  Past Glengarrif the road was closed for resurfacing but after a little persuasion we were allowed through to scramble up a high climb towards Kenmare. This brought us to new heights. Mountain views and tunnels and then the quick decent to Kenmare.  What time Damien lost on the climb he made up on the down slope.  James had his first mishap when his pedal crank loosened. Onto the spare bicycle and into Kenmare.  In Kenmare we had a refreshing bowl of soup and a cup of tea in a friendly cafe to replenish used energy.  A chat with a friendly local took a little of the wind out of our sails when he told us of a local man in his seventies who had completed the Mizen to Malin cycle in three days. Kenmare to Killarney provided a steady climb beautiful mountain views around Moll’s Gap.  Cycling gave us an opportunity to view the Macguillycuddy Reeks and the Lakes of Killarney.  Through the shady cycle along Muckross with Liam, Aidan, Joe and Damien, then into Killarney in the sunshine. A brief stop and then on the road to Tralee.   By 8 o clock we were in the Manor West Hotel, again conveniently located on the outskirts of town. After dinner, Peter and I drove to Tarbert to check the layout of the road and distance, as we were scheduled to get the 9.30 ferry the following morning. All being well we returned to find most of the lads lounging in the lobby of the hotel, everyone very happy. Paul compiling the photographs for posting the Facebook Page.

Wiped out after 'that' hill up to the Cliffs of Moher

Wiped out after 'that' hill up to the Cliffs of Moher

Thursday 3rd May : 
Early breakfast and a start of 7 am we were out in a light drizzle which cleared a few miles out the road.   A brisk steady cycle brought us to Listowel and past the statue of John B Keane.  On the way to Tarbert we met a native of Muckalee and as we chatted James made contact with the kerb and ended up on the roadside.   Not injured he continued on the second spare bicycle. On the ferry we left Kerry and entered Clare. On to Kilrush where we turning north through Cooraclare and on to Quilty.  We were now on roads that reminded us of home. Familiar farm layouts and friendly people.  On to Spanish Point and up the coast to LeHinch, into a pub, good food and friendly service. The climb up to the Cliffs of Moher left us with the need of a rest and a gathering of the group. As we rested Patrick Manwell arrived with a bus load of tourists. No room for tired cyclists.  From there we cycled on to Lisdoonvarna, an ice cream stop, photos and a chance to reminisce on old memories.  As we cycled the high road towards Ballyvaughan I broke my chain.  Down Corkscrew Hill we flew through Ballyvaughan and on the road to Kinvarra we were entertained by the song of the cuckoo.  With the sun shining on the barren rocks of the Burren it was great to be out on the bicycle.  A steady trek on, brought us to Oranmore.  The conveniently located Maldron Hotel was a welcome sight.

It had been a long day on the bicycle first person to greet me was my brother in law, Jimmy.  A soak in the bath for me, the rest availed of the leisure centre and then to dinner. After dinner the lads surprised me with a birthday cake, what a way to spend your 57th birthday. A few pints of Guinness and the pressure was suddenly off, we were a long way up the country.

Cork / Kerry Border, Bantry to Kenmare

Cork / Kerry Border, Bantry to Kenmare

Friday 4th May :
After breakfast we decided to get the damaged bicycles repaired and also collect some spare parts. Peter, Martin and I, let off the rest of the group to tackle the long N17 in a light drizzle. By the time we got on the road at 11 o clock the weather was fine again. A very steady cycle (to me it was fast) brought us to Knock where we caught up with the group. A quick lunch and a quiet prayer and we were off on our bikes again. Our next stop was in Tubbercurry in a pub called Killinaskully. There we had tea or coffee at no charge.  The N17 continued into the Clarrion Hotel in Sligo.   A welcome shower followed by a good dinner and I was glad that day was behind us.

Saturday 5th May : 
fter breakfast (a full Irish this time) we had a photo shoot in front of the hotel and then out on the road by 9.15.  The mood and spirits of the group was much brighter. Again we had broken sunshine and light northern winds.  Cycling on towards Bundoran we had the sea to our left and majestic Benbulbin to our right. This was new country for me. In Donegal town we found a very busy  town centre.  We had a quick lunch before heading for the high road towards Ballybofey. On this road I rode alongside Nicky, who was a great help.  On a newly surfaced road we cycled through Burnesmore Gap up into Ballybofey. With spirits high this climb was not as hard on the body as may have been expected.  Still rising we passed through Drumkeen and then we had the very fast decent into Letterkenny.  The Mount Errigal Hotel again on the right side of town was a welcome sight. A shower followed by dinner left us with a feeling of near completion and so let the celebrations begin.   A few pints and a great session took place.

Fat Cats in the hills of Donegal

Fat Cats in the hills of Donegal

Sunday 6th May:
A tired arrival at breakfast but still we were on the road by 10 o clock.  On a good road surface we felt good heading towards Londenderry.  Tom had the misfortune to break his chain but a spare bike was on hand. We turned off to Burnfoot before heading for Buncrana with Lough Swilly to our left.  With Joe for company we traversed the hills of Donegal.  On up the Inishowen peninsula through Carndonagh to the Malin Hotel.  After a friendly welcome we settled down to watch the League Final.  Finger food into us we were ready to tackle the final leg to Malin Head as a group.  Counting down the 14 kilometres was great and we felt we were about to achieve our almost impossible dream.  The last climb took the last bit of energy from our bodies but once up there, taking in the beautiful scenery in the evening sunshine, made it all seem worthwhile.  It felt very close to Heaven. Congratulations all round, more pictures and then back to the Malin Hotel.  We were soon ready for the final banquet, soup, main course followed by bonoffi pie for desert, (as if we did not have enough bananas all week), presentation of certificates and plaques, congrats and a well deserved pint. A good night’s sleep followed by a good breakfast and it was back on the bus with Patrick Manwell as our driver, heading back for the Cave Bar, where it had all begun the previous week and yes it was rain all the way.

Arriving at Malin Head

Arriving at Malin Head

Review:  It was hard to envisage how 18 cyclists, with varying degrees of experience and fitness levels, could get on so well together.  To produce so much support and encouragement for each other.  To have got such good weather to view the beautiful countryside and what a wonderful way to see it.  The mountains, the lakes, the sea shore and the farming land. Different farming on such a varying quality of land.  The variety of house designs and gardens the friendly people we met on our journey and the numerous cyclists we met on the roads.  We could have picked a more direct route but it would not have been as enjoyable or scenic.

    Very well done to the organisers, the supporters and the cycling Fat Cats who took part.

Thank you all for the great memories, the camera can only pick up part of the picture.

Michael Brennan

May 8th   2012

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More about The Kilkenny Fat Cats and old news

Kilkenny Fat Cats


The ‘Fat Cats’ are a group of local amateur cyclists who got together after the untimely death of Kevin Kealy, on 5th August 2010. Kevin was only 44 years old when he succumbed to cancer.

Happy Fat Cats

Fat Cats, Nicky, Liam and Mick join other riders at Clough

The Group cycled from Kevin’s grave in Mothel to Croke Park on September 4th 2010.

In cycling the 120 kilometers over €6000 was raised for Cancer Research and the Carlow / Kilkenny Home Care Team.

On September 3rd next we hope to repeat the cycle and in doing so we hope to double the money raised last year.



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Images from 2010 cycle

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