By Andrew Hamilton

Paddy Flannery wasn’t the first past the post at last week’s Dublin City Marathon, but his achievement ranks as high as many a race winner. As he stood on Fitzwilliam Street on a cold Bank Holiday Monday morning, two things drove him forward. One was the wish to remake a journey taken with his sons Howard and Gordon six year ago and the other was to prove that if he could still do it, anyone could. Paddy’s son Howard was one of the founding members of the Clare Crusaders in 2005, and it was in their familiar orange shirt that he walked his first Marathon. Since the tragic death of Howard in 2007, Paddy has wanted to go back and make that journey again.

“I remember both Gordon and Howard both ran the marathon that year. They waited for me after 25 miles, and we all walked over the line together. It was a really nice moment for all of us. It was because of that that I wanted to do it again. I also though it might be good for the Crusaders. Maybe if people saw me doing it, it might encourage them to do it as well,” said Paddy. “The charity needs funding. They need to raise about a quarter of a million every year to keep their work going, so the more people who get involved the better. They have started so many great projects that just need to be kept going.

“But I think the reaction that you get from the people that you meet is great. Like after the marathon, I was in O’Donoghue’s in Dublin and a man, who I think I know to see, came up to me. He said, ‘are you Howard’s father? I heard you just finished the marathon’. I said yes and he handed me a €50 note. That is the way people are, it is amazing.

“I was lucky this year. My son Gordon normally runs the marathon but he said that eh would walk it with me. And as well as that Howard’s best pal, Antoinne O’Looney from Lahinch, heard that I was walking it and he wanted to join us as well. Which was great. When we got as far as Trinity College a big crowd was there to meet us. We had a lot of the Clare Crusaders and the Kerry Crusaders there and they brought us over the line. The amount of people who waited for us to come in was amazing. I was really delighted with it.

“There was a great speech made by Pat Bowe from Clare Crusaders afterwards. He said that that we all had sore bodies after completing the marathon, but that pain would go away tomorrow. There are some children and their pain wont go away. But I’m delighted to have done it and all I hope is that it will help the Clare Crusaders in some little way. That’s all that matters.”

The Clare Crusaders Children’s clinic was open in 2007 in Barefield Village and is run on a voluntary basis by a number of parent with children who have special needs. Since its opening, the number of children attending the clinic has grown from 16 to more then 200 and the number of therapists have grown from one to to four full time and four part time.

Due to lack of services available, the clinic is a lifeline to all the families who attend each week. The Clare Crusaders have now worked through their waiting list and all children are now getting at least one treatment a week. Services provided include physical therapy, occupational therapy, special education teacher and reflexology. In total, the Crusaders provide more then 7,500 hours of therapy annually to 200 children in the Clare Region at a cost of €250,000 per year. All services are provided free of charge.

“The response from parents has been overwhelmingly positive and we are happy to report significant improvement in several children receiving hands-on therapies,” said Ann Norton of Clare Crusaders. This is an expensive commitment and requires continuing support to ensure its long term success. The Clare Crusaders is committed to the long term viability of this project.”

Anybody interested in joining the Clare Crusaders running, walking or cycling club for  2012/2013 can get more information on www.clarecrusaders.ie. The first event on the calandar for this year in the Pakie Ryan Memorial in New Market on Fergus in March which offers a 5k, 10k run/walk and a 30k or 50k cycle.

The Clare Crusaders are also delighted to announce that they have been selected as a nominated charity of Munster Rugby for the 2012/2013 season.

For photos from the Clare Crusaders Dublin City Marathon efforts check out The Clare People or visit our Digital Edition.

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Colin McGann is Deputy Managing Director of The Clare People and has been involved with the newspaper since it opened in 2005.

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