A HOST of GAA legends will convene for the launch of Paddy Fenning’s fundraiser in aid of motor neurone disease research/support and local homeless causes.
The event takes place at the Tullamore Court Hotel on Saturday, February 1 from 7.30pm and the attendance will include Dublin All-Ireland winning player and manager Pat O’Neill, former Galway star Johnny Hughes and ex-Donegal captain Pauric McShea, along with local hero Seamus Darby.
The four will take part in a Q&A session which will be led by master of ceremonies on the night, Damian Lawlor, the well-known sports journalist, broadcaster and author.
A host of former Offaly stars from Paddy Fenning’s playing days will also be present.
Since being diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) last year, Paddy, an All-Ireland winner in 1971 and ‘72, has mobilised a group of locals to spearhead a fundraising effort with the aim of gathering €150,000.
Two-thirds of the funds raised will go to the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA) to help fund research into the condition and to assist in funding its nursing support services. The other third will be funnelled, via the Society of St Vincent de Paul, towards homeless causes in Offaly.
The initiative will culminate in a walk which will take place along the banks of the Grand Canal in Tullamore on Sunday, June 7 for which sponsorship cards will be allocated and handed out at the launch on Saturday week, with a number of top prizes on offer.
The project has already attracted national attention with Paddy the subject of a widely acclaimed interview with esteemed sportswriter Vincent Hogan which appeared in the Irish Independent on January 11.
Beyond his footballing accolades, Paddy is renowned for his fundraising exploits for a number of local causes over the years and his stoicism in the face of his current plight was lauded by many who read the piece, in which he remarked: “I have accepted it. Like, why not me? Why should it be somebody else?”
As well as star footballers, Saturday week’s launch night will also include contributions from the IMNDA, which is sending a number of representatives to Tullamore for the event.
There will also be a short video on the late Father Tony Coote, who died last year following a heroic battle with MND. Fr Coote, who drove the hugely successful ‘Walk While You Can’ fundraising drive for MND, is the inspiration behind Paddy’s initiative. Additionally, there will be a draw for a very special prize on the night.
Paddy commented: “I’m looking forward to renewing acquaintances with many fine men that I played with and against over the years. The friendships you form from playing football far outweigh any amount of medals in terms of importance and that has been underlined by the support that I have received in recent months.
“I would appeal to the general public to support this fundraiser and to come to the Tullamore Court Hotel on February 1 for our launch. It promises to be a very entertaining evening.”
The participants for the panel discussion were carefully chosen with Pat O’Neill, often Paddy’s direct opponent during Offaly’s jousts with Dublin in the 70s, one of his greatest foes on the field during that era but among his best acquaintances off it.
Johnny Hughes, a two-time All Star, was also an opponent who Paddy came into painful contact with and was on the Galway side that lost to Offaly in the landmark All-Ireland final of 1971.
Pauric McShea was part of the Donegal side which won the county’s first Ulster title in 1972 before losing the subsequent All-Ireland semi-final to Offaly. He captained his county to their second provincial crown in 1974.
Seamus Darby and Paddy both share the distinction of scoring game-breaking goals in All-Ireland finals against Kerry, albeit Darby’s strike in 1982 has commanded a more prominent place in GAA folklore than the Tullamore man’s speculative effort 10 years earlier. He recently published his autobiography, ‘About That Goal’.