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STRONGER TOGETHER - 27/04/2017

Club Derry have unveiled their programme of events for 2017, and it all kicks off with a special showcasing of ‘Club and County’ at Owenbeg on Thursday 18 May.

The inaugural event, which includes the eagerly awaited draws for the 2017 adult club championships in hurling and football, will be hosted by BBC Sports Journalist and Magherafelt club man, Thomas Niblock, and comes just ten days before the Ulster minor and senior football quarter final meeting of Derry and Tyrone at Celtic Park.

“It’s a chance for all Derry Gaels to come together in anticipation of the championship season ahead at both club and intercounty level” said Paul Lupari, chairman of Club Derry.

The following month sees the county’s training base at Owenbeg play host to the inaugural Man of Sperrin cycle sportive on Sunday 11 June. Aimed at cyclists both novice and experienced, the event comprises two routes which the organisers have dubbed the ‘Five Peaks’ and ‘Two Peaks’.

The event has already attracted widespread publicity with RTÉ pundit and former Derry footballer Joe Brolly recently declaring his interest.

Speaking to the Irish News, Brolly quipped:

“If any cyclist has ever wanted to give me a good, tight beating, they’ll get their chance on June 11.”

Of the five mountain climbs facing participants in Man of Sperrin, Benbradagh, which provides the backdrop to Brolly’s hometown, is undoubtedly the toughest. Brolly has warned entrants not to underestimate the difficulty Benbradagh will pose.

“Cyclists don’t know about Benbradagh because the road up to it doesn’t lead anywhere. During World War II, the Americans built a Naval Base on it.

“But I’ve been on a bike in the Alps and I’ve climbed Mount Ventoux. Give me the Alps any day,” said Brolly.

“Of course the Alps are much longer, but the gradient is much more forgiving as it usually ranges from five to seven per cent and you can develop a rhythm.

“Benbradagh just sucks the life force out of you. By the time you get to the bridge, where the gradient is 27 per cent, it’s a struggle to turn the pedals.

“Paddy [Heaney] organised a trial event for this last year and he said more than half of the cyclists had to dismount at the bridge.”

Brolly has encouraged Derry’s GAA cycling enthusiasts to get behind Man of Sperrin (manofsperrin.com). The former All-Ireland winner believes the event provides a chance for for ordinary people to support Derry GAA.

“Derry people are obsessive about the GAA and a lot of people would have no problem supporting the county if they could. This bike ride will provide the opportunity for them to do that,” he said.

Regulars at the hugely successful Club Derry Golf Day won’t be disappointed with the announcement of the return of the event to Moyola Park Golf Club on Friday 7 July.

As well as the annual player development draw, Club Derry will also host ‘A Night at the Races’ at Owenbeg in October, rounding off an event programme designed to cater for a wide range of interests.

Since its formation Club Derry has raised over £1.5 million for Gaelic games and culture in the county, returning a 30% increase in income during 2016. The efforts of the fundraising committee – designed to bolster all aspects of Derry GAA – appear to be set to continue with support from Derry Gaels in 2017.