Beacon News

Dennis O'Neill, Beacon Team, and Friends Participate in Charity Bike Tour in Ireland

In July, Dennis O'Neill, along with a large group of family members and friends, traveled to Kerry, Ireland to participate in the 41st Annual Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle. This 106-mile charity bike tour takes place every year in Southwest Ireland, one of the country's most scenic areas.

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We caught up with Dennis this week to see how the event went:

Question: First, congratulations on participating in such a great charity event! It sounds like an incredible experience. Were there any specific parts about this experience which you enjoyed the most?

Dennis: There were so many incredible things about this experience. First, I rode with my daughter Jackie who is starting her senior year in college this year. So, it was great to share this experience with her. Second, we had many friends come on this trip who had never been to Ireland before. So, it's always fun to see Ireland through the eyes of someone visiting for the first time.

We had a number of friends and family members riding in the event, as well as others cheering us on. The scenery along the ride was incredible. Most of the riders were from Ireland, with bike clubs participating from all over the country. There were approximately 4500 riders participating this year and more than 1200 volunteers helping to run the event. To top things off, there was a big party after the ride and County Kerry was participating in the Irish football playoffs. The game was being shown on giant screens at the after-party and Kerry won the game.

Question: The Ring of Kerry is pretty long (170 KM / 106 miles) and has some big hills. It can take close to 4 hours to do the route in a car. How long does it take to bicycle and was it very difficult to complete?

Dennis: It took us about 8 hours to finish the ride, but it went by quickly. We also had a nice "food and tea" break about 40 miles into the ride where we stopped at a very scenic town (Cahersiveen), not far from Valentia Island. All the riders gathered on a big lawn at a school with a beautiful view. High school students came around serving us all tea. This was the first time I ever had a cup of tea in the middle of a race. It was a uniquely Irish experience!

Question: You were cycling to raise funds for Critical EMR (Emergency Medical Response). Can you tell us a little bit about that organization and why you chose to ride to raise funds for them?

Dennis: Critical EMR provides helicopter ambulance / medical service to rural communities in Southwest Ireland. Because this part of Ireland has many farms and rural towns, it's difficult to cover the entire area with conventional ambulance service. So, Critical EMR (a privately funded organization) plays an important role in providing emergency medical services in this part of Ireland. It's a great organization.

Question: How did your team do in terms of raising funds?

Dennis: We did fantastic, raising more than $25,000. I would like to thank everyone who participated and/or donated!

Question: What is your connection to the Southwest of Ireland?

Dennis: Both of my parents are from County Kerry, Ireland. In fact, the Charity bike route went right through both of the towns where they grew up—Sneem, where my father is from, and Kenmare, where my Mom is from. I still have many relatives living in the area and keep in touch with many of my cousins.

Question: Did you get to visit relatives in Ireland a lot growing up? (and any particular fond memories that come to mind?)

Dennis: Yes, we visited Ireland quite a few times growing up and would sometimes spend multiple weeks visiting our relatives in Southwest Ireland, especially during summer school breaks. It was always incredibly fun to visit our relatives, some of whom lived on working farms. They lived in a place which is so different from where we grew up in Boston. My two brothers and my sister have many great memories from our family trips as kids, but I have also visited many times as an adult. Ireland is a unique place because of the wonderful, welcoming people, the culture, and the many beautiful places to visit.

Question: Do you envision doing the Ring of Kerry ride again?

Dennis: For sure, we are talking about getting a group together to do the ride again in 2024.

Question: Besides this long biking event, I understand you have also completed the Boston Marathon and the NYC Marathon. How did you get into taking on these big physical challenges?

Dennis: I grew up playing sports. So, I have always liked the camaraderie and physical challenge that comes with different kinds of races, especially charity events. However, the excitement of the experience and the many positive and interesting people (from all over) who participate in these kinds of events makes it especially fun. Often, we are raising money for a charity in the process, which a big plus.

Question: Any races / events that stand out in your mind?

Dennis: This Ring of Kerry Ride was one of the best experiences, but I have had many memorable races. I ran the Boston Marathon 10 times over the years, the NYC Marathon three times, and the Kona Marathon in Hawaii once. That was a very scenic marathon, which takes place every year on The Big Island (Hawaii).

Question: Do you have any favorite spots to visit in Ireland?

Dennis: I think the village of Sneem in County Kerry may be one of my favorite places. We visited (and biked through) Sneem during this trip. This is the town where my Dad grew up and where I still have relatives. It is a scenic town right on the water (the River Sneem, which runs through the town, leads out to Kenmare Bay). Like many places in Ireland, Sneem has warm, friendly people and great pubs. Overall, it feels unspoiled and not that much different from when I visited Ireland growing up. I guess you would say it's a classic Irish town in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. So, I always have fun when visiting Sneem.

Click Here to View Photos From The Event