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Galwayman’s Everest trek in memory of stillborn niece



Loughrea man Mark O’Malley had long harboured dreams of trekking to the Everest Base Camp.

A keen hill walker who regularly ascends the mountains of Connemara and explores the plains of the Burren, he finally made plans to do the trip, roping his girlfriend Louise Stevenson into the Nepalese adventure.

During their lengthy preparations for the fifteen-day hike, their family was struck by tragedy.

On September 21 last year, his sister gave birth to a stillborn daughter. Caoimhe was the third child of Joan and Tim Ling, also from Loughrea.

“It was devastating for us all as a family,” Mark recalls.

In the hospital, they were presented with a memory box from Féileacáin, a support group formed by parents who have endured a stillbirth or neonatal death.

“The organisation was so supportive of Joan and Tim; they even visited her workplace before she returned and had a meeting with her colleagues to talk through the best way of responding,” explained Mark.

“They are a small group but they hold support meetings around the country and organise these memory boxes which proved so valuable in remembering their little darling.”

Mark and Louise decided to dedicate their trek in memory of baby Caoimhe and raise money for the volunteer organisation.

They set up a fundraising page, expecting to raise around €500. They also set their sights on a strict training regime.

Mark took to the gym with a zeal worthy of a professional athlete in order to lose body fat, gain muscle and build up leg strength.

Over ten months he lost a phenomenal two-and-a-half stone.

“Louise is a lot fitter than me, she had to put on a stone in order to lose it again. She was eating everything I wasn’t.”

The pair flew from Katmandu to Lukla, one of the most dangerous runways in the world as it sits on a 60-degree gradient.

They joined a tour group of ten from Australia, Canada, England and Sweden. Over the 15-day journey, they walked between five and eight hours a day as temperatures dipped to minus 20 degrees, staying in hostels along the route at night.

“It was very difficult. A couple of days in the centre were really, really long. The cold and the altitude took their toll, there were nose bleeds, headaches, nausea, vomiting. We had only two showers over 15 days. It was tougher than we thought,” recalls Mark.

They climbed to a height of 5,600 metres, and the higher they ascended, the tougher it got.

“The last two-and-a-half miles took ages. You were just shuffling along on the ground yet you feel like you’re running you’re so out of breath.”

When they finally got to base camp, the staggering height of Everest was truly a sight to behold. Any secret notions of ever conquering the Himalayan giant were well and truly discarded.

“The size of the mountain is enormous. It’s beyond extreme.”

He also had to retain another secret for a while longer. Inside his backpack lay an engagement ring. “I was going to do it on the mountain but decided to keep that moment for Caoimhe. Instead I brought her to the Monkey Temple in Katmandu and asked here there on the way back.”

Of course Louise said yes and the couple has set a date for their nuptials next September.

So the trip has been a huge success in every respect. After paying the €5,000 cost of the adventure themselves, they have raised €4,158 in aid of Féileacáin, with donations from friends, work colleagues and strangers touched by their family’s story.

It has given Mark a real taste for further extreme treks and he hopes to do another one on a different summit in Nepal.

Not so his future missus. “The only trekking Louise is doing is up the aisle,” he laughs.

A Féileacáin meeting takes place in the Harbour Hotel, Galway on October 7. Contact 085 2496464.

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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