Quitter of the Year won't quit on Sam


SHE has been named as Quitter of the Year, and yesterday said she was "flabber and gasted" when the announcement was made.

"I'm speechless for once in my life," said Mrs Kate Walsh from Ballinrobe, Co Mayo.

She gave up cigarettes on New Year's Day 1996 and hasn't touched one since. She had been smoking 20 to 30 a day for 25 years and had been trying to give them up for 15.

Her two sons, Micheal and Tomas, were her inspiration. She wanted them to see how she suffered giving them up so they would never be tempted to take up the habit themselves. And she wanted to go to Australia.

So far she has saved £1,200 towards a family trip there in 2000. The money comes from the £20 a week she spent on cigarettes and which she has since set aside.

"Can you imagine it, sitting on Sydney harbour on New Year's Day in the year 2000, watching the sun going down?" she asked. Oh, yes.

But she is also anticipating two closer rewards. There's the trip to Lanzarote she won from the Nicorette company, sponsors of the award, for being "an inspired quitter", as Mr Niall Keely of the company described her.

Mrs Walsh also spoke of the Sam Maguire cup, which she believes Mayo will win in September. And even amid the hustle and bustle of yesterday's triumph, she spared a few moments to talk about Meath.

She doesn't like Meath.

Other winning quitters yesterday were Mr Dennis Madden and Mr Simon Farrell from Dublin, Ms Mary O'Grady from Castlerea, Co Roscommon, and Ms Enid O'Driscoll from Galway.

Their prizes, - weekends away, watches, Nicorette jackets - were presented by actress Kate Thompson (Terry Killeen in Glenroe).

She has been off cigarettes for four years. She just got sick of the dirty things. "I was in thrall to them," she said. She couldn't make a phone call, have a cup of coffee, get up in the morning without one.

Now she feels "liberated", and she posed for photographers with Mrs Walsh, a giant-sized cigarette which was knotted in the middle and a man-sized gold trophy which wore a pair of runners and had two bare, hairy arms sticking out the front.

And, did you know that smokers bring their hands to their mouths 200 times a day, 73,000 times a year?

Now you do. (Who counts these things?)