Meet our Mizen to Malin recruits

Thursday, 25 August 2016


As our Mizen to Malin team set off on their cycling expedition which will see them cycle the length of Ireland in just 6 days, Dr McAleer gives us an insight into our recruits.















Dr Seamus McAleer



Seamus is an old Oncologist and this is his 7th cycle tour on behalf of the Friends.  He gets involved very readily, as he tends to claim credit for all the fundraising of the entire group.  Two years ago this led to his winning the UTV Fundraiser of the Year Award for Northern Ireland.  However he was beaten in the National Final in London by a man who ran marathons with a fridge on his back.  He is described as the most improved cyclist, but he points out that this is greatly helped by the very low point from which he started.  Seamus organises a lot of the preparatory cycles which allegedly get people up to fitness (or drive them to despair).

It is clearly understood that he does this so that he doesn’t have to travel in the morning. When the people come to his house and he can mutter about them being 10 seconds late, while he spends 10 minutes faffing around pumping up his tyres.


Jason Johnston



Jason has been one of the prime organisers of this expedition and his profession as an architectural draughtsman means that we can expect some great maps to be produced.  He has brought in important sponsors and undertaken many unusual sponsorship events.  This has included cycling from Larne to Stranraer and back (on a turbo on the ferry).  He has also secured the van and drivers and our bicycle mechanic.  We have asked him to advise the bicycle mechanic that very little maintenance has been done to any of the bicycles and therefore he may have a slightly busy time.       


Dr Paula Scullin



Paula, another medical oncologist in the Cancer Centre, is a veteran of the Pyrenees where she won many awards for her style (giving Gillian a run for her money). Like Princess Diana, she wears items of clothing only once.  This has worked very well for Vicky who is now sporting a lovely pink Giro jersey (having some Tyrone heritage means Vicky would never have actually shelled out for this herself).Paula studies extensively the training and physical maintainence habits of all the top teams including the GB Olympic ladies team and occasionally even puts some of the tips into practice.

Paula bought a new bike this spring, but unfortunately found that it was poorly set up.  Given the limited time available, she has reverted to her old bike and is now simply flying (as in much faster than walking) up hill and down dale!


Geoff Hill



Geoff “Marco” Hill is a veteran of many tours and his most renowned moment is playing the Lambeg drum in the Pyrenean challenge.  His cycling idol was Marco Pantani and he resembles Marco in many regards, though his medication intake may be more limited.  Geoff, with his knowledge of cycling, thanks to his Pantani connection, and his considerable style attributes, has been appointed as a judge for the daily prizes (together with Aideen).

He is very popular with the ladies, due in no small measure to his generosity in issuing chocolate fudge bars to all female participants before we set off cycling.  He has caused mayhem on several occasions by giving extra bars to some of the ladies who have then grassed him up!! Geoff intends to ensure total equality on this trip.


















Dr Vicky Coyle



Vicky is a Consultant Medical Oncologist in the Cancer Centre and this is her first cycling challenge.  She is new to the racing bike, having acquired her bike only a few months ago.  She is, however, an exercise fanatic in the gym and has shown incredible turn of speed especially uphill, where she appears to defy gravity.  Known as the “Duracell bunny” she just goes on and on, and this trip will be no great problem to her.  She is also an expert on Strangford, providing advice on the best locations in that city.

Vicky has shown amazing cycling performances, but was the subject of a Court of Arbitration of Sport enquiry, as she was found have 4 skin puncture marks on her abdomen at Spa on one of the Sunday runs.  She pointed to a dead wasp and alleged that she had been stung, but no-one was very convinced.  However, the case was discontinued due to lack of evidence.  Sadly, on Sunday past, she had a new a skin puncture, again alleging a wasp sting and she attempted to distract those around her by stripping off. Her case is back with the Court of Arbitration of Sport. Vicky is convinced this is all envy-related.

For the moment she is still allowed to cycle, especially since she is a superb fundraiser.


Gillian Traub



A Senior Manager in the Belfast Trust.  She brings her methodical approach from work to her cycling.  As in work, she consults with, and takes advice from, the best.  She consulted with David “9 bikes” Stewart and she is now is Gillian “2 bikes” Traub.  A veteran of the famous Pyrenean challenge she has always scored highly in the style stakes.  She will be under severe challenge from Vicky and Paula on this tour.  Gillian is aware of the significance of having the tyres pumped.  She is quite clear as a manager that it is her role to identify people who carry out the function rather than to risk making a rude noise with a bicycle pump. Likewise carrying around trivial equipment like pump, tubes etc.


Damien McAuley



Damien is a long, rangy cyclist, who is a founder-organiser of a massive cycling sportive called the FROG.  That run leaves from Martinstown and does a tour in the Glens, raising tens of thousands every year for cancer charities.  He has a very flashy Trek bicycle and actually owns about 10 different iconic models of Treks.  Everyone assumes that he can cycle very fast, but no-one has actually seen him cycle.  He is expected to be in the fast group with Leighton.


Leighton Bradgate




This antipodean super-athlete has an illustrious palmares (CV to you).  He is a former swimmer for his native state of New South Wales and, in that role, he swam against Ian Thorpe, the renowned Australian Olympic gold medallist.  In more recent times he has knocked off Iron Man performances which involved swimming for a very long time, cycling 112 miles and then running a marathon.  His time is around 10 hours which puts David Stewart totally to shame.  More recently he has gone on a 2-week surfing trip to the Far East, explaining to his wife that this was solely to help him lose weight for the cycling trip. Jolene, his wife, readily accepts this explanation.

He has been reassured that he should not feel threatened by the performance of the other cyclists, as it has been reported that he is prone to call in a “sickie” if he feels he will be out-performed.  Leighton is a rather “hunky” Physiotherapist and many of the “girls” are already developing sore muscles in anticipation of his ministrations.

Betty Stephens



Betty is a Consultant’s Secretary in the Cancer Centre and this is her 3rd major cycle tour for the Friends.  She is also a runner and has a very interesting past in that she was a former Irish diving champion.

Betty organised a fund-raising coffee morning in the Cancer Centre (jointly with Christine), and her daughter Siobhan produced highly regarded and very numerous cupcakes and other such decorative pastries, explaining in part their success.  Betty is a very steady cyclist, on her third challenge, and is expected to float her way through the challenge.

With Christine, she is another member of the “lost tribe”. After we finished the Silver Camino at Santiago, some cyclists arranged an extra 2 days cycling to visit the coast at Finistaire, known in medieval times as “the end of the earth”.  Unfortunately, their navigation was suspect, and as dusk approached they discovered that they were on the wrong headland, looking across the bay at their correct destination.  However, rather than do the extra 60 miles of cycling in dusk/darkness, a high-powered speedboat, normally used for drug trafficking, was hired to whizz them across the bay.  They have not been offered navigation roles this time, but have had GPS trackers fitted to their ankles.

Betty did some very intensive early season training, including 4,500 feet of climbing up the Hautacam in May (14km with an average gradient of 8%) and 75 miles with 4800 feet of climbing in the Medio Fondo in June!

Colin Rodgers



Rathfriland man Colin has been a keen cyclist in the past but it’s something that he hasn't really had time for in recent years. Colin's daughter has been treated at the Cancer Centre so when he saw Friends of the Cancer Centre was running the event he thought it was the perfect opportunity to get back in the saddle to raise funds for a charity close to his heart.


Aideen Campbell



Aideen was involved in the recent Silver Camino tour in 2014, cycling with her husband Gavin.  His cycling gear and hairspray were taking up too much room in the suitcase, so she has ditched him and this time she is cycling with her sister-in-law Clare.  Aideen always has a smile on her face, despite having 3 children, and is a phenomenal cyclist. She went on a sneaky week in Majorca for early season training.   She has been appointed (without informing her) as one of the judges for the daily prizes.  Her legal degree means that she will be expected to provide legal advice pro bono for any little contretemps along the way















Clare Campbell



Clare is sister-in-law of Aideen and has been talked into the cycle by Aideen.  Since she was taking up cycling she was advised to go out and do 20 or 30 miles, so she ran the London marathon. She has now taken part in a few of the group cycles and appears to have enjoyed herself.  She had previously been spotted out doing secret solo runs around the hills of Drumbo, and therefore it is felt likely that she is a secret grafter and may surprise everyone on the cycle run. She is a former nurse, has four children and shares with Gillian a keen interest in nature.


Larry Sheeran



A renowned raconteur and originally from Tyrone. Larry is a retired Civil Servant and, given that his post before retirement was in quality control, he very readily gives advice on gear usage, pedals, cycling position, safe group cycling (very most of which is well-received. Larry is a veteran of many previous marathon cycles for Friends including the renowned Blue Ridge Parkway cycle of 2003.  Of a good age, he still shows a good turn of speed and is renowned for settling everyone down.  He has been known to tell off revered oncologists who have stepped out of line and sprinted away from his organised team plan.  He has an endless series of “true life” stories, and Seamus is glad that he has early Alzheimer’s, because he can still never remember the punch line in the stories until he has heard them yet again.  Larry also knows everyone and on the preparatory cycles through Tyrone, he was forever chatting to people whom he recognised and accosted along the way.  His reputation was somewhat tarnished last Sunday in Strangford, when close observation revealed that the man whom he accosted in Strangford turned out to be entirely unknown to him, and we now have serious concerns about his motives.

Christine McGranaghan




Christine started life as a Consultant’s Secretary and then moved up in the world (although Betty would dispute this) and is now MDM Co-ordinator which is a very important role in the Cancer Service.  It does mean that she has to interact with the Surgeons, but no job is perfect.  She is an all round athlete being involved in swimming and running as well as her cycling and she is already on to her 2nd bicycle having worn out the first one.  She is on her second challenge, having done the Silver Camino from Seville to Santiago in 2014.  She as one of the “lost tribe”, of which more later.

She and Betty recently organised a very successful coffee morning at the Cancer Centre to fundraise for the trip and there were 2 important highlights.  Christine’s was to be the star of a cake made by a colleague, which showed Christine at the roadside touching up her makeup.  This was seen as quite insightful by some observers.

Vivian Harty



Vivian is a solicitor in Belfast and is quite tall.  Vivian took up the bike about 4 years ago, has a very nice Cannondale bike and has done many sportives, but not yet a multi-day tour. He was roped into the challenge by his cousin, Willie Hunter.   He took part in the Phoenix sportive for Friends and seems likely to go well on the tour.  He will be especially valued into a headwind.

A former partner in his company, the late Damian Breen had been a valued Trustee of the Friends for many years.

Stephen McKeogh



Stephen is a retired Bank Manager, a fairly seamless transition.  In view of his financial acumen on previous trips, he had been appointed kitty manager, but there were some concerns over exchange rate fixing.  However, due to lack of competition, it is quite likely that he will be appointed as manager of the kitty again.  He has joined the last few cycle training runs, is showing excellent form and should have little difficulty being a cycling star.

William Hunter



Willy is another banker who retired recently on a special package.  For a banker that probably means zillions.  He is a veteran cyclist and has been on a couple of training cycles now with the group.  He performed well but it is unclear whether he will  ever return since he is thought to be suffering from PTSD after he stopped to check on the welfare of a distressed cyclist last week who had a run in with a rogue wasp when Willy was treated to the shocking spectacle of clothes being stripped off and flung to the ground in front of him.  There is a rumour that Willy has been in a home for the bewildered ever since.








View all News Stories

We’re always in need of volunteers to help in our office, at events or in their own local community, so if you have time to spare and would like to get involved, please get in touch to find out more.