Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Ulster rugby fan cycling to Twickenham for the Heineken Cup Final

Neil McConkey who has been following the Ulster Rugby Team on their Heineken Cup journey
Neil McConkey who has been following the Ulster Rugby Team on their Heineken Cup journey
Neil McConkey who has been following the Ulster Rugby Team on their Heineken Cup journey
Neil McConkey who has been following the Ulster Rugby Team on their Heineken Cup journey
Ulster fan Adam Brown from Saintfield at the Aviva Stadium
Ulster's Rory Best walks with his son after the Heineken Cup semi final match between Ulster and Edinburgh at Aviva Stadium, Dublin
An Ulster fan during the Heineken Cup Semi Final at the Aviva Stadium
Ulster's Stefan Terblanche celebrates victory over Edinburgh after Saturday's Heineken Cup Semi Final at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin
An Ulster fan during Saturday's Heineken Cup Semi Final at the Aviva Stadium
Ulster fans Harry and Robbie Cooper, eight-year-old twins at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Fans at The Botanic Inn, Belfast cheer as Ulster win Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final match against Edinburgh. Brother and sister Joeseph and Catherine McTaggart
Fans at The Botanic Inn, Belfast cheer as Ulster win Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final match against Edinburgh. Johnny Farrell, Harry Cleland and Mark Branigan
Ulster fans Matthew Davis, Aaron Wilkinson, Chris Beacom and Dave Johnston ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Hannah McAdam and Rebecca Walker at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium during Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium during Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium during Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Sarah and Emma Lewis from Belfast
Ulster fans Adam Nathan Stewart and Matthew Thompson at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Johnny and Michelle Dodds from Armagh during Saturday's Heineken Cup Semi Final at the Aviva Stadium
Ulster fans Simon Corry with his six year-old son William before Saturday's Heineken Cup Semi Final at the Aviva Stadium
Rachel Irwin from Holywood outside the Aviva Stadium
Ella Killeen and Anna Wheeler from Belfast outside the Aviva Stadium
Ulster fans Simon Andrew and Stuart Crozier through the glasses of Rachel Craig from Londonderry
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Ross Dunning, Jamie Friel and Leo Cassidy from Saintfield at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans from Armagh at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Sam Owens and Jack Dickson at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Chloe McIlwaine and Jennifer Swann from Larne at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans Chloe McIlwaine and Jennifer Swann from Larne at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Saturday's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster fans celebrate after the game
Ulster's Ruan Pienaar celebrates with fans after the game
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 28th April 2012 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.Nearly 4500 Ulster rugby fans used TranslinkÕs special rugby train and coach services to travel to Dublin for the Heineken Cup semi-final today. It was a lively atmosphere at Belfast Central Station and Europa Buscentre as fans got ready to cheer on their team. Pictured are Kerry McDowell, Lynsey McDowell and Louise Topping from Glenoe in County Antrim at Central station in Belfast.
Ewan MacDonald and his daughter Elen with Ulster fans waiting on their train at Belfast Central Station
Ulster rugby fans Loraine and Sam Bell pictured in Belfast as they prepare to make the trip to watch Ulster clash with Edinburgh
Kathryn Graham and Neil McCullough at Central station in Belfast
Kerry McDowell, Lynsey McDowell and Louise Topping from Glenoe in County Antrim at Central Station in Belfast
Peter Croan, Chris McIlmurray and Glen Dugan from Newtownards at Central Station in Belfast
Kenny Calladine and Hilda Boyd from Belfast at Central Station
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - Saturday 28th April 2012 - Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.Nearly 4500 Ulster rugby fans used TranslinkÕs special rugby train and coach services to travel to Dublin for the Heineken Cup semi-final today. It was a lively atmosphere at Belfast Central Station and Europa Buscentre as fans got ready to cheer on their team. Pictured are Paula Clendinning, Julie Clendinning and Brian Clendinning from Crossgar at Central station in Belfast.
James Heyburn, Mathew Mitchell and Rory Cahoon from Helens Bay at Central Station in Belfast
Thomas Maxwell from Dungannon, Gavyn Anderson from Belfast and Andy Loughran from Belfast at Central Station
Paul and Jenny Irwin from Belfast at Central Station
Members of Ballynahinch Rugby Club at Central Station in Belfast
Brian McMaster, Karl Ludlow and Steven O'Connor at Central Station in Belfast.
Ulster rugby fans travelling to Dublin for today's Heineken Cup semi-final
Paul Cox from Newtownards at Central Station in Belfast.
Ulster fans wait on their train at Belfast Central train station as more than 2% of the population of Northern Ireland will be in Dublin this weekend to watch Ulster play in rugby's Heineken Cup semi-final
Ulster Rugby legend Simon Best with Ulster fans waiting on their train at Belfast Central train station
Ulster fans wait on their train at Belfast Central train station
Ulster Rugby legend Simon Best with Ulster fans Scott Shannon and Louis Lowry waiting on their train at Belfast Central Station
Carol Graham, Willie Graham, Hall Graham and Kate Graham from Parkgate in Antrim at Central Station in Belfast
Deborah Stringer and Graham McCormack from Belfast
Jane and Christopher Hughes from Belfast
John, Holly and Neill Carson from Belfast
Aaron Stewart and Catherine Bell from Belfast
Ryan Hogg, Stephen Craig,Sam Lindsay and Johny McCreish all from Newtownabbey
Carla Pearce from Newtownards
Alastair and Cameron Hooks from Belfast
Sam and Gerry Burns from Belfast
Ulster fans leave Belfast for Saturday's game at the Aviva Stadium in Dulbin
Ulster fans leave Belfast for Saturday's game at the Aviva Stadium in Dulbin
Sharon and Alison Mairs from Lisburn
Ulster fans leave Belfast for Saturday's game at the Aviva Stadium in Dulbin
Victoria Gibson and Claire Ogle from Dromore travel to the game on Saturday

A dedicated Ulster fan is aiming to raise £10,000 for charity by cycling to Twickenham for the Heineken Cup Final.

Neil McConkey has already cycled 700 miles to Limerick and Dublin and back this year to support the team in their quarter and semi-final clashes.

Now the 43-year-old former banker is getting on his bike again to travel to London ahead of the game against Leinster on May 19.

“I wanted to raise money for Sport Relief by supporting Ulster Rugby during this season’s Heineken Cup campaign, so I thought I could cycle and follow Ulster until it was over,” the father-of-two said.

“Initially I thought I might just have to cycle 215 miles to Limerick, but now that we’ve reached the final it will be closer to 1,200 miles by the time I’ve finished.

“That's the equivalent of cycling the length of Ireland three times.”

Neil said he was persuaded to act by his son, Jos, whose middle name is Mason, after the former Ulster player Simon Mason.

“I was watching Sport Relief with my son who told me I should do something because I’m not working at the minute,” he said.

“We’ve just moved back to Belfast from Jersey so I’m in between jobs and have some time on my hands which I might as well put to good use.”

The Limerick leg of the journey — taking in the match between Ulster and Munster on Easter Sunday — saw the Belfast man cover 470 miles, cycling nine hours a day for five days.

Biking to Dublin and back to watch the semi-final against Edinburgh on April 28 was a little shorter, at around 200 miles, but he said the weather was terrible throughout the return journey.

Starting the next phase of his fundraising campaign, he will make an overnight ferry crossing (donated by Stena Line) from Belfast to Liverpool on Tuesday, May 15.

His aim is to then cycle to London via Worcester and Oxford, which he said should take three days and get him to the game on time.

It’s not the first time Neil has gone cycle-mad for a charitable cause.

Four years ago, he took to the saddle with his brother-in-law John McKirgan and friend Stephen Galway in aid of breast cancer, raising £15,000.

So far, he has received around £2,000 in donations for Sport Relief, but he is hoping more people will contribute in the run-up to the cup final.

“I’m hoping to raise £10,000 in total, with part of that coming from a homecoming party that I’m intending to organise,” Neil said.

“If anyone out there has any donations that I could use as prizes for an auction-type event I would really appreciate it.

“Similarly, if anyone has a function room that I could use to host an event of some description that would help me out, too.”

Donations can be made online: https://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/neilmcc

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