Just Kenny

Out on the bike you get to meet many different types of people and make many different types of friends. The bike is a great leveller, where a doctor and a person on the dole are both just bike riders. You are taken at face value and the only hierarchy observed is how well you can ride your bike, and how friendly you are to the person riding beside you.

One day, I was out with the Carrick dole gang when a new face appeared alongside me. The guy was from Carrick originally, now living in Portlaw and already knew many of the group. He was chatty and friendly but also a ‘no drama’ kind of guy. Heading over the Pike he had to dig in and fight his way to the summit but hung on and was still there as we returned to Carrick. His name was Kenny.

Kenny, Derek, Shane, me, Green shoes of Sean Kelly, Dermot


Over the next few months I got to know him better and he was the type of guy that you would look forward to cycling beside in the group. Then one morning, one of the lads asked ‘Did you hear about Kenny?’. I hadn’t heard anything, but then found out that he was fighting a really tough battle with an aggressive form of Cancer. I felt shocked and a wave of sadness washed over me. Another day on the bike he had mentioned his wife and 2 young kids and now that struck a nerve with me.

Kenny, with the help and support of Mandy and their two kids Ruby and Sennan fought a brave and very tough battle to defeat the Cancer and come out the other side. All the while, when going through Chemo and radium treatment Kenny continued to ride his bike as much as possible. Sometimes that wasn’t very far or very fast, sometimes it was out with the group at 32kph beside many who did not realise just how much effort the rider beside them was putting in, just to be there. Kenny said that the bike kept him going.


A victory line appeared and for a while when the Cancer was defeated and the future looked bright. Brighter than many families futures, as Kenny and his family realised just how precious their life together was.

Then, a check up revealed another dark area on an x-ray. The Cancer was back.

Kenny kept on cycling.

Another battle followed. This time it was even harder than before. Kenny had to go through days and nights that nobody should ever have to go through. Times when an expected phone call for an operation wasn’t received and one of two reasons for not getting the call was a prognosis with a number, the number of days remaining on this earth.

A fighting spirit, a caring family and a supportive community along with two wheels and a carbon frame gave Kenny the strength to fight on and win the battle once more.

How tough was he? Just two weeks after finishing a round of Chemo he sat on the bike in the Giants Causeway in Antrim along with the crew from the Solas 500 and didn’t get off until he reached Tramore Co. Waterford 20 hours later having covered a distance of 500 kilometres.

Kenny leading by example during the Solas 500
Kenny leading by example during the Solas 500

Kenny inspired all who cycled alongside him throughout his battles, but he says that it was the bike and those who cycled with him who actually gave him strength and a sense of normality.

In his own words ‘On the bike I was never Kenny who was sick, or Kenny who had Cancer, I was just Kenny’

After the Solas 500 Kenny had to go for another big operation which thankfully was a success but then at Christmas found himself back in hospital once again. The sight of Ruby (7) and Sennan (4) sitting on their Dad’s hospital bed on Christmas eve would leave a lasting impression on any who saw it.


The following morning at 5am two of Kennys friends raced to the hospital and had him home in Portlaw just in time for Santa to be able to deliver the present that two young children wanted most. Their Daddy home for Christmas, even if it was just for the day.

A fighting spirit that would put Rocky Balboa to shame saw Kenny make another miraculous recovery. Cancer was now in the past and it was time to rebuild a life for the family.

The people of Portlaw rallied around and the ‘Friends of Kenny’ was established. Kenny’s humble fighting spirit had given a life changing perspective to many, and now they wanted to help him and his family. A 12 hour Spinathon and Hurlathon was organised.


I accompanied Sean Kelly down for ‘a few minutes’. A massive crowd was already there to support Kenny and the atmosphere was incredible. It encompassed all that is good about small communities in Ireland where every man woman and child all pull together in the same direction to help one of their own.

Almost 2 hours later we left and as I dropped Sean home, he said that he would go back down again that evening, and so he did for another 2 hours. He was really impressed with the atmosphere and reason for the event.

Screenshot 2016-05-20 10.02.40

Sean and Kenny

On June 18th this year, along with a few other like minded madmen I am going to cycle the length of Ireland in a single day. From Mizen head to Malin head is a distance of 615km but if you have a good reason for doing it, something that is very doable.

Pat Healy , Me, Liam Murray and Trevor Groome during a 12 hour training spin. Davy Cullen was at work that day.

My reason is to play my part as a ‘Friend of Kenny’ and to help raise funds to get this inspirational Irish family back on their feet.

If you can spare any amount at all, it will be very gratefully appreciated. You can donate by following the link below.


Thank you,



2 thoughts on “Just Kenny

  • May 21, 2016 at 12:03 am

    Sweet Jesus, Barry, I love your story, cause I’ve been battling melanoma cancer for two years on my bike. Please give Kenny a big hug from a fellow cancer survivor, and wish him joy on his bike with friends.

    Sean had a great comment at Paris Roubaix last year, and it went something like this, “Torty kilometers when you’ve done two hundred kilometers is a lot of kilometers.” Sean Kelly is one of my favorite pro riders of all time, and now he’s clearly at the top of the list.

    Keep the good writing coming, Barry. Love your blog.

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