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'The GAA can't exist without people like him: Enniskillen team-mates prepare Croagh Patrick fundraiser to boost Shane Mulholland's youth hurling legacy

 

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Special moment: Karl Kehoe steps out for Fermanagh in the Lory Meagher Cup final

Special moment: Karl Kehoe steps out for Fermanagh in the Lory Meagher Cup final

�INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Special moment: Karl Kehoe steps out for Fermanagh in the Lory Meagher Cup final

To coincide with the fifth year of the Shane Mulholland Foundation, two former team mates of the late Shane are gearing up to raise funds by undertaking a gruelling cycle ride to Croagh Patrick outside Westport, before they climb the mountain itself.

The idea came from Karl Kehoe, a native of Wexford who settled in Enniskillen and played hurling for the Lisbellaw club and the county.

He won an Ulster Intermediate club title in 2012 along with Shane, and the Lory Meagher All-Ireland in 2015 just a few months after Mulholland tragically passed away after a car crash.

A gifted hurler from Loughgiel originally, Mulholland had won an All-Ireland B with Antrim under-16s, but his outstanding gift was his ability to relate to children and he had secured a post as hurling development officer in January of 2015.

The day after he died, he was due to begin the first training session of an under-10 squad in Derrylin.

In his absence, his wife Vanessa along with his mother Maria and sister Kelly started the Shane Mulholland Foundation that helps with the development of youth hurling in the province, prompting praise from then GAA President, Aogan O'Fearghail.

"Without the passion of people like Shane Mulholland the GAA cannot exist because, for all of us, we trace our DNA as GAA people back to where it all began and the work that was done at juvenile level in clubs where someone invested time in us to teach us how to kick a ball from our hands or how to grip a hurley," he said.

This is not the first time Kehoe has embarked upon a fundraiser for the Foundation, but it certainly is physically challenging as he and four friends will leave Enniskillen on September 12 to cycle to Croagh Patrick, before climbing to the summit.

Like many, he became more acquainted with his bike over lockdown.

"I suppose it was, a bit of time to myself, maybe," he laughs.

"I bought a bike about three years ago, but I never really started using it until a few months back. I wanted to keep in some sort of shape and this is as good a way as any.

"A few of us were sitting over some bottles one day and chatting about things. The idea came up and we took it from there. I texted a few boys to see if they would be interested, they were, so we just set a date to do it then."

Kehoe will have a few people along with him, including Paul McGoldrick who was an accurate free-taking forward with Fermanagh hurlers for many years, along with Darren Thompson, Darren Sweeney and his brother in law Hughie Sweeney.

Last weekend they put in over 80 miles of a training ride to Donegal town from Enniskillen.

He characterises Mulholland as a great friend and believes his loss is felt beyond his widow Vanessa and their daughter, Aisling.

"Especially with his coaching ability," he explains.

"He was brilliant at coaching youngsters, they seemed to be drawn to him. Your playing career is short enough, but when you have someone who can coach, he is worth everything. He was a massive asset to this club and county."

When Fermanagh won the Lory Meagher Cup in 2015, the team photograph had a missing space in the middle to represent their missing team mate.

They stopped at his grave in Derrylin to pay their respects on the way to Croke Park before facing Sligo in that final.

As the year went on, Mulholland's words that the Lory Meagher was their own 'Holy Grail' became a rallying call for the group.

"It was everything, really," recalls Kehoe. "It was something he really wanted and we wanted to go out and win it for him because we were so passionate about it.

"A bit earlier in the year, he called the Lory Meagher Cup the 'Holy Grail' in a team meeting, so we wanted to get it for him."

From a traditional county like Wexford, Kehoe understands that not everyone would appreciate an All-Ireland won further down the ranks, but to the people involved it is their world.

"It wouldn't grasp people like that at all. They wouldn't have a clue, to tell you the truth.

"You go into a county like Fermanagh and you see how small the hurling community is. It is an achievement to put a county team out at all. To win a National title was something special."

Belfast Telegraph