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Galway Cycle passes through Westmeath today

Story by Tom Kelly

Sunday, 25th March, 2012 8:00am

Galway Cycle passes through Westmeath today

Several Westmeath companies are providing major support to hundreds of charity cyclists in their attempt to raise thousands of euro for Down Syndrome Ireland this weekend.

Rochfortbridge-based John Healy Coaches, Rathowen-based Green Farm Foods and the Grand Hotel in Moate are playing their part in the Galway Cycle, an event that is celebrating its 25th anniversary and which has raised almost €750,000 for worthy causes along the way.

John Healy Coaches has been a long-time friend of the Galway Cycle, and Killucan man Mick McLoughlin has been driving the buses for many years.

Similarly Green Farm Foods has been of great help, supplying the hungry cyclists with good food.

It's the first year for the Grand Hotel in Moate. For many years the hungry cyclists, who make their way from Maynooth to Galway and back over the course of the coming weekend, would stop at the Ould Shebeen, this year it will be staff at the hotel who will fed the estimated 250 cyclists early on Friday morning, and will feed them again on Sunday afternoon.

Every year since 1987, a group of students have left NUI Maynooth and made the trip across country from the college to Galway's Eyre Square on the Friday of the last weekend in March.

They rattle buckets, juggle, sing songs and generally brighten up the city centre all day Saturday, before climbing on their bikes again on Sunday for the return trip.

It's a 400km round trip and participants have been in training since before Christmas.

The money raised this year will be used for an early development program across the country, which has already been piloted successfully.

But it's a far cry from 1987 when 12 cyclists made their way across the country to raise funds for the ISPCC.

Since then almost €750,000 has been raised for a variety of worthy causes, some of them Galway-based, such as Headstrong's Jigsaw Project and the National Breast Council Research Institute, based in UCG.

On Sunday March 25, at about 5.30pm, 255 cyclists will arrive at the square in Maynooth.

Preparations are already well under way to celebrate their arrival, with bands, a champagne reception and lots of other festivities.

"We're very grateful to the people and companies of Westmeath and of the midlands generally for their generosity to us over the last 24 years," said Galway Cycle president Donnacha Gayer.

"We're especially delighted with the support of John Healy Coaches, the Grand Hotel and Green Farm Foods, and of course the ever generous Mick McLoughlin, who have come forward to help us celebrate our 25th anniversary as well as raising funds for Down Syndrome Ireland.

"It's a great weekend in aid of a great cause,!"

The cyclists passed through Westmeath on the old N6 between on Friday morning and return between 1pm and 4pm on Sunday March 25.

"We'll be hoping for people's patience and beeps!" Donnacha said.

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