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Cricketers get on bikes to raise funds for ex-international Andrew Patterson

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Challenge: Kyle McCallan with Ivor Monaghan, Jonathan Lowe Jonathan Bush and Mark Patton ahead of a charity bike run to raise money for fellow team mate Andy Patterson. Credit: Stephen Hamilton

Challenge: Kyle McCallan with Ivor Monaghan, Jonathan Lowe Jonathan Bush and Mark Patton ahead of a charity bike run to raise money for fellow team mate Andy Patterson. Credit: Stephen Hamilton

Stephen Hamilton

Challenge: Kyle McCallan with Ivor Monaghan, Jonathan Lowe Jonathan Bush and Mark Patton ahead of a charity bike run to raise money for fellow team mate Andy Patterson. Credit: Stephen Hamilton

The idea germinated on a Zoom call. Do a 24-hour bike ride to all 32 Northern Cricket Union clubs and raise money for Andy. The target is £15,000.

Former Ireland international cricketer Andrew Patterson, who was diagnosed with Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia in 2013, was on the call but the idea came from his former team-mate and captain, Kyle McCallan.

“There’s a group of us who went to university together — myself, Ian Latham, Mark Patton, Jonny Lowe and Andy. We would have Zoomed every few weeks and it came up in conversation. Andy stepped back but it grew from there,” explained McCallan, who played 227 times for Ireland.

“Fundraising is the big thing, we want to redo the house for Andy and make everything as comfortable as we can for him but a lot of it was to try and get the cricket community and NCU to show the support for him. And it has just taken off from there.

“Bobby Rao (another former Ireland international) has got involved, he coached Andy, and has organised the North West leg and a group of them are cycling a route taking in all their clubs and they are already well on their way to raising £1,000. It’s just a reminder that it goes beyond bat and ball.”

Spastic paraplegia is a progressive weakness and stiffness of the legs which eventually consigns the patient to life in a wheelchair. For now Andrew is getting around on three-wheel walkers — two in the house, one downstairs, one upstairs and he keeps one in the car — but the money raised is preparing for the future.

The initial cost of adapting his home in Surrey was more than £200,000 but more is still needed to insert a lift to give Andrew access to the bedroom and upstairs, which will also include a new ensuite.

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Andrew Patterson

Andrew Patterson

Andrew Patterson

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“A friend from the local cricket club has already been out, looking to landscape the house and putting in ramps to give me access everywhere,” says Andrew. “We’re hoping the work will start in July.

“With all this stuff in the planning it has taken a huge weight of my shoulders. Down the line I won’t have to worry about the house and just be able to concentrate on the family, which is good.”

Married to Sarah, with teenage children Ella, Brooke and Drew, Andrew is still enjoying a relatively normal life, and although he has had to give up teaching PE, he is still working five days a week in Caterham School, albeit on a reduced salary, in charge of teacher training plus the school’s links with alumni and the Old Caterhamians Association.

A GoFundMe page last year raised more than £60,000 but the Bike Ride is well on way to increasing that by another 40 per cent.

“We have more than £21,000 raised already so we are able to revise our target (of £15,000),” says Kyle, who took up cycling three years ago because “I can’t run anymore”.

“As a means of keeping fit I bought a decent bike on the Cycle to Work scheme and have done a reasonable amount of cycling. So to keep myself semi-trim, 200-250 kilometres a week has been my target for the last 12 months.

“The journey around the clubs is 400 kilometres and I reckon we could do it in 17 hours, so we have planned seven hours of breaks. We will start mid-morning at The Mall, in Armagh and finish on Sunday morning in Greenisland.”

Cricket is no longer played at the War Memorial Sports Club in Greenisland but it is where Kyle and Andrew started their club cricket careers with Cliftonville.

“So there really was only one place we could finish. And you couldn’t get a more scenic place to start than at the Mall,” Kyle added.

It was at Cliftonville in 1996 that then Ireland coach Mike Hendrick selected Andrew to make his debut in a three-day game against MCC at Malahide; he scored 73 in the second innings and played another 59 internationals.

His cricket career then took him to England where he had spells with Surrey County Cricket Club and Sussex CCC before becoming a PE teacher at King’s College School (Wimbledon) and lately Caterham School where he passed on his love for sport and coaching to the next generation.

Andrew added: “I remember about 10 years ago, playing for MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) with my brother Mark and I broke my thumb and lost my balance. I went to different doctors but they all thought it was a balance problem, to do with my ears.

“After two years of tests I went to The National Hospital for Neurology at Queen’s Square, in London, and it was they who diagnosed it as a form of HSP. My mum and dad didn’t have it but it was a millions-to-one chance that they would come together with a dormant gene and after that it was a one-in-four-chance that either Mark or I would get it.

“For the first five to six years I was still able to run around and people wouldn’t know anything was wrong.”

But in the summer of 2019, he was forced to rely on crutches to get about and can now only hope and pray his children don’t inherit it.

Andy has been able to work through the pandemic but Covid has had an impact on the Bike Ride. “The original plan was to start in Monaghan (the one NCU club based in the Republic),” explains Kyle, “but under the current regulations we can’t cross the border and we don’t want to go against any Covid recommendations.”

The route has already been completed in a series of relays by staff from Wallace High, including Ian Latham and Mark Patton.

With two other NCU cricketers also on the Wallace staff, Gareth Kidd and Neil Hinds, it didn’t take much persuasion for them to join the ride which took place two weeks ago, and allows Ian to drive the support vehicle for the main event today.

“Originally they were going to do the relay at the same time as us but it has worked out well because it was a bit of a recce for us and now Ian can lead our support group.”

Before the main ride even starts, though, they are a man down.

“We started with seven, but one of the guys took a bad fall just outside Cushendall and broke his scapula and a couple of ribs,” says Kyle. “He clipped Johnny Bushe’s back wheel and went down hard. So it’s one less for the 24th but it also taught us a good lesson that you can’t afford a momentary lapse of concentration.”
Kyle (45), who is still playing cricket for leading NCU side Waringstown, has already suffered his own accident — “I hit the ground in December and didn’t cycle for three weeks”. He is joined today by another former Ireland international and club team-mate Johnny Bushe plus Neil Cahill, Jonny Lowe, Ivor Monaghan and Enda Marron. Bobby Rao, a former Test cricketer with India but who moved to Northern Ireland and married a local girl in 1988, had no hesitation in offering to bring the North West clubs on board.

“We have to support one another and this is about getting the cricket fraternity in the North West together,” he said. “It’s been a great response and we have someone from every single club involved.”

To donate, go to the Pedal4Patto Go Fund page at uk.gofundme.com/400k-in-a-day-for-andy


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