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Galway adventurer tackles world’s highest peaks for charity



It takes a special mental fortitude and bravery to scale some of the world’s most desolate mountains, but these are attributes that Killererin native Peter O’Connell possesses in spades.

He has climbed the highest peaks for good causes – most recently for Jigsaw – and while mountaineering started as a hobby, it has now clearly turned into a huge passion in his life.

Most recently, on June 1, Peter set off to tackle the 20,310ft Denali Mountain located in Alaska, United States. With only a 23kg backpack of supplies on his back and another 50kg on his sled he would have to make do with only these items for the next three weeks.

With little to no comfort or luxury items, every item needed to be carefully selected because he would be hauling this weight up steep slopes and peaks.

Although, he did manage to take along both Galway and Killererin flags which he was happy to say he, “wasn’t going home without getting both to the top.”

On this expedition, his days consisted of 6am starts at minus 15 degree temperatures and he was usually in his sleeping bag at 9pm.There were many challenges for him and his crew which they needed to overcome.

“The toughest part is the temperature changes, from minus 20 to plus 20 in the space of an hour; it’s hard to keep the clothing and sun protection correct. One morning I didn’t have goggles on and the wind was blowing, my eye lashes started frosting and sticking together,” he said.

Peter O'Connell plants the Galway flag on the summit of Denali Mountain.

Peter O’Connell plants the Galway flag on the summit of Denali Mountain.

His climbing group contained seven “enthusiastic and positive” Americans and himself. The mountain, which has only a success rate of 18% from attempted climbs, is something which motivated the Galway business man ever further.  But the actual climb wasn’t the biggest obstacle for him.

“The tough part can be dealing with team members and trying to keep everyone happy. Sometimes I wish I had more patience, a psychology degree could be handy,” he joked.

His preparation was quite meticulous before he even began his ascension.

“I always keep fit throughout the year, but the training increased substantially since Christmas. The training involved regular trail running in Connemara, long days of hiking with a heavy backpack along with strength and conditioning classes with In2fitness in Salthill. I usually train every day. My diet is sensible; an avoiding alcohol is preferable but not always practical.”

While he agrees physical fitness is an absolute necessity he stated that mental toughness is just as important.

“You need to be able physically, but staying positive and staying motivated is what will get you where you want to go. I find it easy to be motivated when I’m surrounded by such beauty.

“The mountains are so spectacular that I find it hard to ever complain, I just appreciate how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be in such a special place,” he added.

While Peter is a keen climbing enthusiast, there is another more pressing motivation for these climbs. These bigger climbs are used as an opportunity to raise funds for selected charities.

In this particular case, the charity he has chosen is Jigsaw Galway, a free and confidential support service for young people aged between 15 and 25 living in the city and country.

Even more admirable is the fact all donations will be matched by both his companies OCC Construction, Sweet Spot Capital and

Mental health is something which is very close to Peter heart, with suicide having affected his family.

“Mental health for young people is a huge issue and I think small things can make a big difference. I sometimes get depressed myself and I can see how people without a good support network in place could suffer. For me, getting away to the mountains is a great escape from everyday life,” he said.

This isn’t the first major charity driven climb that Peter has undertaken, in 2013 he became the first Galway native to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain which raised an over €50,000 for the Pieta House charity.

He has plenty more plans on the horizon and his mountaineering goal is to eventually complete the seven summits which are the highest point on each of the seven continents. Another would be to take an Irish expedition to Antarctica.

“I would like to organise an Irish expedition in Antarctica. Maybe ski to the pole, I know one or two guys crazy enough to go, so watch this space. I’m pushing on now too, so I’ll need to find someone to tolerate my gallivanting,” he says with a smile.

Justin McDermott of Jigsaw Galway described Peter as “one of our most wonderful supporters.”

“We are so proud of Peter for what he has achieved in summiting Mount Denali. He has been an incredibly passionate supporter of our work for a number of years now and the fact that he uses this expedition to again raise awareness and vital funds for Jigsaw Galway is a small indicator of his commitment.  He is a very, very proud Killererin man and Galway man and a true hero in our eyes,” said Justin.

Jigsaw Galway is located on the Fairgreen Rd, Galway City. Their opening hours are 12pm-6pm Monday-Thursday for drop in hours. Friday’s office hours are 9.30am-1pm and 2pm-5pm. Saturdays are for first time visits, by arrangement from 10.30am-3pm. Their telephone number is: (091) 549252.

■ If you would like to donate to Peter’s campaign please CLICK HERE

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

Get the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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