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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kerry runner aims for 2020 Paralympics

Pictured at the Charleville International Half-Marathon were (l-r): Liz Leonard, Ross Gallagher, Cllr Ian Doyle and organiser Michael Herlihy. Copyright Sandra Quinn 2016. 
For many people, losing the majority of their sight as a teenager would knock them for six, but Kerry man Ross Gallagher has risen above his visual impairment and is now training in the hopes of gaining a place on the Irish team for the 2020 Paralympics.

The 28-year-old from Castleisland was speaking before the Charleville International Half-Marathon, which is described as the flattest and fastest half-marathon in Ireland. This was Ross’ first half-marathon and in total, he has now covered a total distance of almost 18,000 miles with his running.

Living with a visual impairment is a struggle for many, but perhaps more trying for those who develop the issue in later in life, as they were accustomed to seeing the beauty of the world and suddenly that gift was stripped from them.

“I had good sight until I was 15. Then my eyesight went from 30% down to 5% in one day. It was very hard and tough at first. I did have dark days, but I got over it,” Ross said.

Since he started running twelve years ago, Ross has become somewhat of an inspiration for those in his hometown in Kerry, those among the running community and people scattered all over the world and is fondly known to some as the Kerry superstar.

Liz Leonard and Ross Gallagher captured in action in Charleville by Kevin O'Connor. Picture Credit: Kevin O'Connor. 
Ross is a member of Gneeveguilla Athletics Club and Vision Sports Ireland and said that he wouldn’t be where he is now without the unyielding support from his family, friends and fellow runners.

He uses Facebook every day and said that he has met great people through it, but it also helps him to find guide runners and people to give him a drive to races, as he travels across the country to do the thing he loves most.

“I don’t let it stop me. You can’t, you have to get on with life and live life to the full,” Ross said.

Asked what running means to him, Ross summed it up in three powerful words; “Running, Passion, Life.”

As a pre-cursor to the Paralympics, Ross is aiming to complete his first marathon in two years, to tie in with his 30th birthday.

Ross trains every second day or two or three times a week and he depends on different guide runners to help him through the course and he is always striving for a Personal Best (PB).

He completed the Charleville race with Liz Leonard, who he has known for nearly a year and they had done a number of races together at that point. He also had the added advantage that with Liz working for An Post in Kilmallock and being from Bruff, she knew the course very well.

Liz and Ross celebrating at the finish line in Charleville. Picture Credit: Robert Green. 
Speaking about how you have to be on high alert while doing assisted running, Liz explained what is involved.

“This is my first year doing the running with Ross and it’s a learning curve for me. You have to be on the ball. You have to realise that you are his eyes 100% and you can’t take your eyes off him,” she said.

Liz started out cycling a few years ago and then started running. She is clearly a natural and was born to run, as she has completed 13 marathons and finished her first ultra marathon earlier this year.

“There are things you take for granted, like you could be coming up to something and see an overhanging tree and I’d have to tell him about that and also factor in that he’s on the inside and is taller than me. I’ve got to be careful and watch for a lot of things,” she said.

She added that she will count down the paces when they are coming up to different parts of the road, but she said that you have to be particularly vigilant when it comes to things like loose stones or something jutting out, as these could really damage Ross, if he isn’t expecting them.

While she said that it is great to run with Ross, Liz added that it has made her aware of different things, such as the problems of people parking on footpaths, as this completely throws Ross off and is equally dangerous for people in wheelchairs or people pushing prams, as they have to move out onto the main road.

“I love running and the people you meet. Everyone is helping everybody out on the route. This is like your second family without the complications. Ross is a great source of inspiration for people,” Liz concluded.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Taste the delights The Brush and Spoon has to offer

Gallery Crafts and The Brush and Spoon in Kilworth, Co Cork. Copyright Sandra Quinn, Quinn's Quandries, 2016. 
VERDICT; I would give The Brush and Spoon in Kilworth five stars (read to the end for an explanation of the star ratings). 

I first met Fiona Turley when I visited her exquisite store, Gallery Crafts in Kilworth in North Cork, not long after we had moved to Mitchelstown.

I had just started working with The Avondhu Press and was still getting my bearings and familiarising myself with the area, local people and business people and Fiona turned out to be someone who I would often return to, not only for the perfect gift and now a sumptuous meal, but also for advice and guidance.

Gallery Crafts was heaven for me, filled with quirky items, bespoke gifts and the range varied from items for under ten euro to pieces, which would enhance and add to any home.

From that first day, I, like many others who travel from far and wide for the shop, was hooked and I was genuinely thrilled when I heard that she was expanding and opening up a cafe.

I know some of you might be thinking, a shop and cafe...could one person make both things work and perhaps they should just stick to what they know.

You know, if it ain't broke, why fix it?
The interior of The Brush and Spoon in Kilworth, picture courtesy of The Brush and Spoon Facebook page. 
This couldn't be further from the truth in this situation. Fiona is by her very nature as an admirable business woman and artist, a perfectionist (sorry Fiona) and she would never put a display out if it wasn't perfect and that has come through to The Brush and Spoon. No dish goes out unless it's perfect, everything is checked over and Fiona herself is often on hand to speak to customers, check everyone has what they need and she works tirelessly with the chef and her team in
The Brush and Spoon to ensure that they are up to date and changing and evolving in line with customer tastes and trends.

One thing I love about it, aside from how handy it is, just off the motorway between Mitchelstown and Fermoy (perfect to break up a long motorway journey) is that you won't hear a microwave pinging from the kitchen. Every single thing is home made and everything is locally sourced in so far as is possible and sustainable.
Enjoy a lovely cup of tea or coffee in The Brush and Spoon, picture courtesy of The Brush and Spoon Facebook page. 
Yes, the food might take a little bit longer to come to your table, but while you wait, enjoy the view, take a gander around the shop (if you are anything like me, you will struggle not to buy a few things), sip on your tea or delicious barista coffee or simply appreciate the artwork on the wall and the cool jazzy tones playing in the background.

I for one, would much rather wait a few minutes longer for something that is fresh and made from scratch, instead of having something served for the same price, which isn't fresh and has just been warmed up in the microwave or on a hot plate.
One of the many pretty features outside Fiona Turley's business in Kilworth, Co Cork. Copyright Sandra Quinn, Quinn's Quandries 2016. 
The day I visited, it was with my boyfriend for a slightly special occasion, so we went all out and got teas, coffees, lunch and dessert.

We got amazing vegetable crisps to share (these were so tasty that I bought a few bags to take home and they were a great alternative to a salty or unhealthy snack while watching a film) and I had a tartlet with fresh salad, while my boyfriend had a pie.

Both were amazing and we did that very daggy thing of passing forks of food across the table so that we could taste each others. It is safe to say that we both had food envy, but also were not willing to hand over our own dish. Hilariously, I got a bit distracted while one forkful was being passed and accidentally plopped it into my glass of water (there's a conundrum solved by the kitchen staff who must have been curious about the soggy lump of food in my glass after we left).

To go with the meal, my boyfriend had water and as it was a little chilly, I opted for a tasty and refreshing apple and mint tea (served in an adorable teapot and again I bought a packet to take home).

Even though we were stuffed, it was a special lunch, so we went all out and got dessert.

I got a cheesecake, which was sublime, and my boyfriend opted for his staple favourite - apple crumble. Both were really tasty, fresh and had that wonderful taste of just coming out of the oven or being made fresh that day.

Overall, we really liked it and almost didn't want to leave. We were going away for a romantic weekend and it was the perfect start to our few days of pampering.

The staff were amazing, Fiona herself came over a few times (not just to us, as she knew I would be penning this very review), but to every table, to make sure everything was alright and Marco was so polite and lovely to everyone.

I really enjoyed it and have been many times since for tea in the morning with a fresh scone or bite to eat, a light lunch, business meeting or a treat with a friend.

The area around Mitchelstown is already rich with delightful culinary offerings and has a lot to boast in terms of cafes, so it would be great to think that people could start to think of having a foodie tour in the area, with places like The Brush and Spoon in Kilworth, O'Callaghans Delicatessen, the newly opened Blueberries in Mitchelstown and Thatch and Thyme in Kildorrery.

They are all amazing and even if you are not local to you, they make coming down this direction worthwhile for any time of the year or any occasion. Your wallet and palette won't be sorry.

Quinn's Quandries star rating; 

***** So tasty, I didn't want to leave.
**** I loved it and could see me as a regular feature.
*** I liked it, but there are a few things I would change.
** It was OK, but nothing to write home about.
* Did not like it and would actively avoid returning.

Read all about Gallery Crafts and The Brush and Spoon here;

* Please note that the for the purpose of this review, one lunch was complimentary, but I have aimed to give an honest and helpful review.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Rare majestic bird spotted in Kildorrery, Cork

Courtesy of Gerard Casey. 
Seeing a cool looking bird is unusual, but not all that noteworthy for many and most of us will look up and think 'wow, that bird looks amazing' and then go about our day. 

Luckily, Fr Gerard Casey is not one such individual and when an unusual bird was spotted, which could have been a common buzzard or a rare eagle, he was part of a group who acted immediately, much to the delight of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. 

The unusual bird was spotted in Meadestown, Kildorrery on August 14, 2016 and Dr Allen Mee the Project Manager for Eagles Trust Ireland provided the identification. 

The very pretty and striking look bird was in fact a white-tailed sea eagle - a 15-week-old chick no less and was one of only six born in the country this year. 

On his social media account, Fr Casey reported that the bird was 'disorganised and disorientated'. 

Locals were quick off the mark and immediately set up a group to protect the bird and keep it local, while attempts were made to rescue it. 

This was not, however, merely a group of local people pitching in to help a distressed bird, Dr Torceir Nygard, the world expert on the white-tailed eagle travelled from Norway to assist in the operation.  

Dr Nygard and Dr Mee kept a daily watch on the bird while attempting to re-capture him and a local feeding routine was established. Talk about a stellar local operation with volunteers pulling out all of the stops to treat the bird as professionally as possible. 

The efforts to bring in the best from the field didn't stop there - they sought advice from Canada.

"A truly international event was taking place secretly in Kildorrery, to protect the presence of the unique visitor," Fr Casey said.

Courtesy of Gerard Casey. 

Fr Casey was afforded the privilege of being asked to photograph the bird and he did this by gently driving a farmyard jeep and using a Nikon Coolpix P520 bridge camera (for the tech heads, it had a 42X wide optical 4.3-180mm fixed lens) and the stunning photos can be seen throughout this blog post.

The majestic bird was captured by Dr Mee and Dr Nygard, was tagged, fitted with a tracker and returned on the same day to Portumna.

Since then, the tracking device has tracked its flight South past Nenagh to Silvermines, back up to Lough Derg near Mountshannon, back to Portumna and then along the Shannon River, North of Banagher in Co Offaly.

Fr Casey thanked all who took part in what he described as a "wonderful saga", including Dr Allen Mee, John Reidy, Dick Lillis, Sean Reidy, David Lee and Dr Torcier Nygard.

On an aside, but related tangent, years ago a female hen harrier made its way into my parent's garden in Rockchapel, North Cork. 

Unlike others who may have just glanced at it and moved on, Da was quite taken with it and immediately fetched his binoculars and got out the bird book (yes, we had a bird book on the shelf to call upon in these very instances). 

The hen harrier hung about in our garden for about a day and a half and was not perturbed by the presence of my parents. She even perched on the top of the lawnmower while my Mam was collecting the grass, after cutting it. 

Da took a number of photographs of the bird and initially, they thought it was a kestrel, but the trusty bird book proved it to be a female hen harrier and with its full wing span, it looked pretty immense and spectacular. 

Speaking to my Mam about the bird's visit, she said that at first they simply thought they were blessed to have this bird in the garden. 

When the cat Sooty, who had just had kittens, was on high alert and perched herself at the vantage point on top of the shed roof to watch the bird, Ma and Da realised that the bird, which was a predator, was probably biding its time until it could get to the four-week-old kittens who were all tucked away in a box by the back door. 

Da was so taken with the bird that he created a stunning picture of the bird using the good old fashioned paint programme on the PC, so it was painstakingly created, literally pixel by pixel. I must check if we still have it at home. 

Courtesy of Gerard Casey.