| 9.9°C Belfast

Rugby hero Nigel Carr gears up for trek to help charity fight devastating disease

Close

Nigel Carr gears up for April’s bike ride

Nigel Carr gears up for April’s bike ride

Nigel Carr on Ireland duty in 1985

Nigel Carr on Ireland duty in 1985

Nigel Carr gears up for April’s bike ride

He may have hung up his boots more than three decades ago, but former Irish rugby international Nigel Carr is back in training.

This time it is a very different sporting challenge as he aims to cycle around Ireland to raise funds for the fight against motor neurone disease.

Nigel will pedal his way around more than 1,000 miles of the Emerald Isle over an 11-day marathon in support of former Scotland international Doddie Weir, who is battling the incurable disease.

But the reality of MND strikes a chord closer to home for Nigel, as he watched his own brother-in-law Ian Montgomery battle the condition before it claimed his life 10 years ago.

The Great Rugby Cycle 2020 has been organised to back the My Name'5 Doddie Foundation, set up by the Scottish star to fight the disease.

"I've never been a cyclist," said Nigel, who was capped 11 times for Ireland between 1985 and 1987 before injuries suffered in an IRA bomb attack in 1987 ended his career aged 27. He was travelling in a car caught up in the blast that killed Lord Justice Sir Maurice Gibson and his wife Lady Cecily.

"I knew about the event and what the rugby world was trying to do to support Doddie, but initially thought it wasn't for me," he explained.

"The more I thought about it, the more I came round to the idea it was something I wanted to do, particularly after watching my brother-in-law suffer.

"I've seen what this disease can do, it's merciless, and if I have the chance to do something to fight against it then I'll do it."

Training has now started and Nigel has just over two months to gear up.

"I remember buying a bike off a friend at school in Newtownards when I was a kid, a 10-speed racer. That was 45 years ago and I think it's the only bike I've ever owned," he said.

"I'm not even an amateur cyclist, so I'm feeling more than a little nervous about the challenge I've signed up for.

"The support I've had so far has built my confidence, though, and now I'm determined to do it.

"Last Saturday was my first time back in the saddle. I've been out a couple of times now, but there's a bit of work to do to build up to this."

Nigel, who maintained his links to the sporting world with a role as a presenter with UTV, pulls on the lycra on April 5.

And he will not have to travel far to reach the starting line as he will join the group in leaving from Holywood, Co Down.

"Getting to the starting line is the easy bit," he said. "I'm still living between Dundonald and Comber so I haven't strayed too far away.

"The map is laid out for us. The least distance we'll cover in any one day is 85 miles. We're off to Portstewart on day one, then head to Donegal and after that it's off around Ireland.

"If anyone sees us all struggling past, feel free to give me a push!"

All the money donated to the cycle will be going to the charity established by Weir as he seeks to help fellow and future sufferers of MND.

The My Name'5 Doddie Foundation takes its name from the number five jersey worn by the lock, who was capped 61 times between 1990 and 2000.

Weir announced in 2017 that he had been diagnosed with MND, a condition that affects the brain and nerves.

"Anyone interested in joining can still do so, even for just one day if they like," added Nigel.

"The more people involved, the more we can highlight the charity, and the more we can help current and future sufferers of motor neurone disease.

"Quite a few members of the wider rugby family will be joining in, given the impact of the disease on Doddie Weir, and also high profile rugby league player Rob Burrow."

And when they all make it back, the Easter challenge will be rounded off with a rugby legends golf event at Royal Belfast Golf Club on April 16.

To support Nigel and find out more about the challenge, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/nigel-carr4

Belfast Telegraph