Buncrana's iron-men driving it on for two great causes 3 months ago

Buncrana's iron-men driving it on for two great causes

Tearing after footballs in Buncrana GAA pitch has given Oisin O'Flaherty a fair grounding.

He still has nightmares about losing the Ulster junior final against Monaghan side Blackhill last winter, when as club captain, he was inches away from lifting the Ulster title.

GAA training is tough and mental strength is a must, but not even a gritty Monaghan bunch could have prepared the Donegal man for the mammoth undertaking he's eyeing up on May 31.

But with determination creaking through his voice and a giddy enthusiasm about him, you get the impression that the 32-year-old is fit for the challenge, no matter how gruelling it becomes.

On the last day in May, O'Flaherty and his friend Conor Mulkerns are taking on an almighty challenge at O'Flaherty fitness, where they will row a marathon (26.2 miles,) cycle 112 miles and ski 2.4 miles, all between the four unforgiving walls of a gym, and all taking place over the course of what he estimates will be 13 hours of pain.

For Mulkerns, there's a precedent to the challenge. He has completed an Ironman before, and has experience of overcoming the mental test that it poses. For O'Flaherty, it's somewhat new.

A gym-owner, he and his fellow fitness instructors were planning on rowing a marathon last month before the Covid-19 restrictions came into play. Mulkerns and O'Flaherty completed their row, but as he began to lend the various pieces of fitness equipment to his members over the last few weeks, he decided to hold onto a few machines, just in case.

"The only thing I said to myself as I was giving out the machines and equipment, I just knew I was going to plan a mad one," he tells SportsJOE.

Enter the ergo meter Iron-man.

"It's going to be some slog in fairness.

"We got the rowing marathon done and we were in great shape, we said we might as well keep it up and maybe do something for charity.

"ICare and Whiteoaks, they're two charities that are very close to my heart. ICare is a charity supporting individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities in the Inishowen area. They receives very little government funding and they're dependant on donations, as are Whiteoaks, a Rehibilitation centre who are committed to committed to breaking the destructive cycle of alcohol, drugs and gambling related harm.

O'Flaherty himself, spent a period of time in the Whiteoaks centre and the care he was provided with will serve as an extra drive and motivation for him, ahead of his latest task.

"I ended up in there myself a number of years ago so that will give me great motivation to drive it on for them.

From Whiteoaks to a gym that started out with a shed, to what is now a state of the art set-up in the north west of the country, represents quite the journey for this spirited individual.

"Even like mentally, if I break down on the rower - I know like that I can stay going, but the cycling, I haven't done much of that before. I went for a few spins the last few days and my ass, honestly, it's killing me, building it up on the bike for the next while. I think 80% of my training is going to have to focus around that and getting ready for that - it's going to be an eight or nine hour spin."

"All the lads in the GAA cub and everyone around has been very supportive as well!

"We're thinking of putting a laptop a few metres away, setting up a zoom then so those people can drop into have a chat with us, have a cup of tea on the day and tip on then.

For O'Flaherty, it's a month until D-day. One of the most gruelling months of his life.

"The lad that's doing it with me, he has a bit of background, he's done an iron-man before. I'm not really built for massive power and that's why the next month is such an important one. There are a few gruelling training sessions ahead - starting tomorrow and that'll be the most important part.  I'm hopefully going to be able to cross that pain barrier again!"

Nothing you would put past him.

Support Oisin and Conor's great cause here.