AFTER running 230 lengths of 23 different GAA pitches in Fermanagh in 15 hours on Sunday, in memory of his lifelong friend Shane O’Brien, Ciaran Smith was ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘full of pride’ with the support that he received.
In December 2020, the Fermanagh community was rocked when former Erne county footballer Shane O’Brien, an employee with the United Nations, lost his life in a tragic road accident in South Africa.
A few days from his second anniversary, Belleek man Smith, embarked on a staggering fundraiser, running 10 lengths of the 23 GAA pitches in the county.
The Erne Gaels coach started his fundraiser at Roslea at 1am on Sunday, and he concluded his challenge at his naive Belleek at 3pm.
Large crowds turned out at every venue, much to his shock and surprise
“The amount of people who came out from every club was amazing,” recalled Ciaran.
“On my original post I didn’t ask anyone to come, but people came out themselves to support the cause and show their support to Shane [O’Brien].
“Every club had their lights on, they had tea and coffee, a hot shower, whatever I needed.
Football rivalries were put to one side for Sunday’s fundraiser.
“As I was coming back to Garrison, Devenish, our main rivals who we’ve had some ding-dong battles with, I couldn’t believe the amount of people there to support me.”
The final leg of Ciaran’s fundraiser was in his home club Belleek. It was an emotional end, as locals ‘came out in droves.’
“I knew my family and Siobhan and Tommy, Shane’s parents, would be there, but when I looked up I saw a load of cars. Jesus when I pulled in the main gates, I just broke down,” said Ciaran.
“I could see Siobhan and Tommy standing over facing me, along with my wife Ciara, my children Caoimhe and Joseph and my own mum and dad.
“Everything kind of hit me, exhaustion, lack of sleep, the overwhelming achievement, pride, friendship from people, the sense of community that we have in Belleek and in neighbouring clubs. The Aodh Ruadh team and management team came, the whole [Erne Gaels] boys were kitted out in their gear and loads from all over.”
Ciaran feels that the response from the Fermanagh public was a proper testament to the late Shane.
“He will not be forgotten in any part of the community, and we wanted to show Siobhan and Tommy that we will always be there for them.
“Everybody turned up who was either a friend, someone Shane was at school with, someone who he played with at Fermanagh, a former teacher or parents who would have known Shane indirectly. It was a pleasure to see them all.”
Earlier this week £16,000 had been raised for the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, a non-profit organisation which helps repatriate bodies of the deceased back to Ireland from abroad.
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition