Wild Atlantic Way cycle aims to raise €30,000 for suicide awareness

Cycle is in memory of Gearóid O’Connell’s younger brother Eoin

A campaigner is aiming to raise €30,000 to support the prevention of suicide by cycling the Wild Atlantic Way – from Co Cork to Co Derry.

Led by Clare man Gearóid O'Connell, Ride Atlantic Way (RAW) – which is supporting the charities Pieta House in Ireland and Mind in the UK – split the over 2,000km trip into three sections.

The journey began in Co Cork earlier this year, and the final leg – from Sligo to Derry City – is set to begin on July 29th.

The cycle is in memory of Gearóid’s younger brother Eoin, who took his own life 32 years ago, aged just 20.

According to Gearóid, who is from Killimer, Co Clare, “Pieta House estimates that it costs on average €1,000 to provide an effective service for one individual so together we can provide the means to save 30 lives”.

The campaign has raised almost €8,500 so far, and donations can be made on the RAW website.

Speaking about the cycle, Gearóid said it was "therapeutic" for him. "There's something wonderful about being in the Wild West of Ireland. "

As Eoin was the inspiration for the campaign, Gearóid said he wanted to raise awareness of mental health issues, and to show people “a message of hope”.

Looking ahead to the last leg in the cycle, Gearóid said he was eager to get on the road again, but acknowledged Co Donegal has "some nice hilly bits".

Meanwhile, Fáilte Ireland launched its "Cycle Sportif" this week aimed at bringing more avid cyclists and tourists to the trail. The bi-annual events are set to take place in April and September from 2018 to 2020, and the inaugural ride is this coming September.

The Sportif route, developed by the cycling tour company Ride Wild, spans from Kinsale in West Cork to Muff in Donegal. The Sportif aims to promote the Wild Atlantic Way (WAW) as a cycling destination, both internationally and domestically.

Fáilte Ireland is planning to invest €650,000 in the project from now until 2020, and hopes to increase the average number of cyclists per day from 400 in 2018 to 1,000 in 2020.

The location of a Sportif is a key driver in attracting visitors. Research shows that 81 per cent of potential sports tourists would identify the WAW as having a strong (45 per cent) or very strong (36 per cent) appeal for them.

"We are developing the logistics and events along the route that, I believe, will build a strong reputation for the WAW as an attractive cycling destination," said Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly.

“If we can meet our visitor targets, we estimate that the Cycle Sportif could generate over €13 million and up to 50,000 bed nights. Importantly, we will also be generating significant visitor activity in off-season months which will help businesses stay open longer.”

Alex Connolly, Fáilte Head of Communications, said the intention is to bring people to places in Ireland that aren't "hotspots," and that "it's about spreading tourism activity wider."

Since the projected influx of cyclists will be during off-season months, Mr Connolly said he expected it “to be welcomed by those towns” along the WAW. To him, the initiative is “one of the many things we’re doing to lengthen the tourism season.”

Embracing the Sportif, Minister of State for Tourism and Sports Brendan Griffin said he was "particularly pleased to welcome an event which will attract visitors and increase bed-nights across the full length of the WAW during off-peak times of the year".

The inaugural ride runs from September 13th-29th. Participants get accommodation, meals, official cycling kit and mechanical and paramedic support included in the registration fee.