This Saturday sees the sixth annual Pakie Ryan Memorial Event take place and a massive gathering is expected in the village of Newmarket-on-Fergus for the hugely popular event.
Named after the late Pakie Ryan a hugely admired figure all over County Clare, the event includes a 10km run, 5km walk, 50km cycle, 30km cycle and 10 mile run all of which will begin simultaneously at 11:00 on Saturday March 21st outside the grounds of Newmarket Celtic Football Club and is open to people of all ages.
In April 2009 a shining light was taken away from Newmarket-on-Fergus when the beloved Pakie Ryan passed away having been diagnosed with a melanoma eighteen months earlier. At the age of just thirty four, Pakie had so much more to give but in his thirty four years he had given so much to his community and beyond on the sporting field and in everyday life.
Hurling, soccer and handball were just some of the sports that Pakie mastered. In the handball alley, he won a number of Clare county titles, one Munster title aswell as an All-Ireland runner up medal all during his teenage years. While donning the red and white of Newmarket Celtic it was as a defender that Pakie lined out and very few attackers all over Clare would have had an easy outing when assigned to the towering man.
While still playing minor hurling for Newmarket-on-Fergus, Pakie made his debut for the Senior side in July 1992 for the tasty championship outing against Clarecastle. At the time, the Blues were struggling to find form as players that lined out during Newmarket’s dominance of Clare hurling had since retired. Going in as underdogs the Blues totally outclassed the Magpies and caused a major upset to win 4-11 to 2-11. At wing-forward Pakie notched 2-01 from play in arguably his greatest performance in the Newmarket jersey as the side put in their best display of the decade which was no coincidence seeing as Pakie was pulling the strings.
Even though Pakie accomplished so much on the sporting field, his greatest achievement has come since his passing as his legacy has continued to unite the entire village of Newmarket-on-Fergus and beyond on an annual basis. At times, the people of the village have been criticised for lacking a real community spirit but come March each year, the positivity oozes out of the streets as one and all combine to honour one of Newmarket’s greatest sons.
To date, over twelve different charities and organisations have received hugely beneficial funding as a result of the Pakie Ryan Memorial Event. For this year’s event, Clare Crusaders, Laura Lynn Foundation, Bunratty Search & Rescue/RNLI Lifeboats, TLC4CF and O’Regan Park are the chosen charities that will obtain the raised money and as a result will prosper due to the fantastic work of the committee in place.
Speaking to The Clare Herald’s Páraic McMahon, Jason Ryan a brother of Pakie admits that he and the family are overwhelmed by the constant support of the event and heaped praise on the diligent committee. “I never thought in my wildest dreams it would become so successful but the committee are absolutely fantastic. Every person on that committee is working to a common goal which is remembering Pakie and making everyone from the village or is a visitor to the village feel very special on the day. As I’ve seen the event grow and be more successful, the committee are working harder and harder to make it better so, if they maintain that it will always be a success”.
Now a resident in Phoenix, Arizona, Jason says that the day of the event is a really special occasion. “The weekend is so special because it puts family first, the event is geared towards family with the added bonus of any money raised goes straight to a local charity. To see the families walk up on the Saturday morning from all over the village and surrounding areas, is a pretty special moment to watch and maybe for the locals it may not be something special but for us living abroad it fills our hearts with happiness. I think also for us living abroad, we can sample the atmosphere and joy in the event through pictures or posts on social media”.
Losing Pakie at such a young age was a terrible blow for the Ryan family but as Jason surmises, the togetherness of the Memorial Event helps with the coping process. “Being able to showcase our village is a massive plus especially when you live 5000 miles from home. The Minister for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring was just here for St. Patrick’s week and asked me all about the Pakie Run and he was delighted to help promote it when he could. Even though it’s an emotional time of the year for our family, the feel –good vibe from the event has made the grief of losing Pakie, a little more bearable .knowing that his legacy lives on and thousands of people are benefitting from his legacy”.
Promoting fitness and well-being is one of the brilliant features of the event and according to Jason it is the perfect way to preserve his brother’s memory. “Pakie was always about sport and helping people. I remember when we were growing up, he would always be gone either helping our neighbour Mr. Kelly or painting for Mrs. O Donoghue or chatting with Mattie Hillary, these neighbours were old and retired and just needed help, Pakie was always the one they called. It’s a great way of honouring Pakie’s memory and I also think it was important for my own family, my parents as well as Frances (Pakie’s wife) and Abbie (Pakie’s daughter) that his memory was preserved this way through health and exercise which helps people less fortunate than others”.
One of the key elements to the success is the coming together of all the various different organisations in Newmarket-on-Fergus particularly the GAA and Soccer clubs. This is greatly aided by the fact that Pakie’s brothers and sister have such an involvement in the different organisations. Both David and Kieran are trainers to the Newmarket Celtic A and B soccer teams respectively. Jason is hugely involved in the Phoenix Gaels GAA club in Arizona spreading the gospel of Gaelic Games in Arizona. Maria is an avid supporter of all events in the village while youngest brother Johnny has just returned from living in Perth and has immediately taken up the role as trainer to the Newmarket-on-Fergus senior camogie team. Pakie’s father Christy is heavily involved in GAA circles across Clare and mother Christine plays a huge part in the committee’s success.
Essentially the Pakie Ryan Memorial Event promotes the good in life; health, fitness, well-being, co-operation and togetherness to name just a few. On and off the field Pakie was a warrior with such fight and determination that ensured everyone who knew him had instant respect for him. For his wife Frances and daughter Abbie it is the perfect reminder of how much appreciation there is for a legend. For the month of March and prior to it, Newmarket-on-Fergus could be mistaken for ‘Olympic Village’ as the majority of residents can be seen walking, running or cycling on the road in preparation for the event. The success of the Memorial Event shows that Pakie Ryan was adored and cherished by the people of Newmarket-on-Fergus and beyond.
Those interested in participating in the event can register online at http://www.pakieryan.com or on Friday night from 17:00 to 21:00 at Scoil na Maighdine Mhuire, Newmarket-on-Fergus and on the morning of the event from 08:30 to 10:30. The registration fee is €20 for Adults and €10 for Students once they present their ID and it’s free for Children. An Arizona leg of the Pakie Memorial Event takes place this Friday at 18:00 (01:00 Irish time) in Gilbert Arizona.