“WE THOUGHT HE was gone.”
When the news of Mike Curran’s accident in France filtered through to the tight-knit community in Waterville, Kerry, they feared the worst.
Waterville’s Mike Curran.
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Curran was cycling in France on a stretch of road between Reims and Paris when he was struck by a speeding car. He was barely 10 metres ahead of his girlfriend Sara O’Shea when the collision took place.
The 32-year-old was thrown into the air and landed on his head, suffering traumatic injuries to his brain.
“He suffered severe head trauma in the accident including five haemorrhages to the brain, bleeding in the lungs, two fractured ribs, a broken nose and broken cheekbone,” said Curran’s friend Eoin Dennehy.
It was a horrific end to the trip of a lifetime Curran had embarked on with O’Shea.
In August 2016, the pair left their jobs and travelled to South Africa, before taking in India, Nepal, Turkey, Iran, Israel, Jordan and Central Asia. They arrived in China in June 2017 and explored the country for two months, before making an ambitious plan to take the scenic route back to Ireland.
“It was on a whim really that we decided we’d look into cycling back to Ireland,” O’Shea wrote on the travel blog, Ar Do Rothar (on your bike), the couple kept during their trip back from China.
“The main reason for the change is that we wanted to make our journey more challenging, adventurous and rewarding and to experience something new,” she continued.
“We did some research, sourced bikes and gear from a Chinese company that specialises in touring bikes and set off on 17 August 2017 from Kashgar in Xinjiang Province, China.”
Mike Curran and Sara O’Shea during their travels.
So they headed off from western China and journeyed through Asia, the Middle East and eventually Europe, making friends and taking in some extraordinary sights along the way. Home was never far from their minds and all the way through, Curran proudly donned his Waterville gear.
They made it 14,500km across the globe and were less than two weeks out from home when the tragedy struck.
“He was only 10 days from home,” Waterville chairman Seamus O’Shea tells The42.
“He was coming home for a local wedding. It was a huge shock. We thought he was gone that first week. We thought he was gone.”
O’Shea has been by his side since the accident, while his family also made their way over to France.
“Only family really have gone over to him, his uncles and his first cousins have been making it over to him. I think they were all over there the first week. Things were very bad that week.”
A talented GAA player, Curran played minor and U21 football with Kerry during his younger days and featured alongside Kingdom legend Declan O’Sullivan with the successful Colaiste na Sceilge school team.
He’d even had planned on lining out with Waterville in the local championship on his return this year.
“A fierce popular fella,” said O’Shea. “Mike was a Kerry minor and a Kerry U21 as well. He was an outstanding footballer and he’d be well known around the county. His girlfriend, she’s from Keel as well so he’d be well known around them parts as well.
“He was going to be playing football with us as well this year, he was going playing our local championship here which is on in two weeks time. He was going to go playing in that.
Had to cut @watervillegaa shorts and T Shirt off during my accident… depressed… #withmefor2years+ pic.twitter.com/VQPNjwk2TP
— Mike Curran (@MickeyCurran) October 23, 2018
“You could play him anywhere from the half-back line to the full-back line to midfield, he was a very versatile player. He’d play anywhere for you. He was a great bit of stuff. Hopefully he still will be.”
After moving to Dublin to take up an accounting job, he transferred to St Brigid’s in the capital and was part of the squad that lifted the Dublin SFC title in 2011. They went on to make the Leinster final, where they lost to Garrycastle to an injury-time free in Tullamore.
“He won a county title with Brigid’s. He was working in Dublin for a couple of years and he found the commute was too much to Waterville. He joined them for a year and he actually came back to us then afterwards. They won the county final that year.”
GAA communities tend to rally around their own during the tough times. Like Dunboyne’s fundraising drive for Sean Cox, and the efforts of the Stapleton family in Borris-Ileigh for Amanda Stapleton, the people of Waterville, Kerry and beyond have shown huge support for Curran.
Let’s go Kerry, bring one of our own home. Every little helps, takes a minute to do and no amount is too small. https://t.co/cZ3lSWVfQ8
— Kieran Donaghy (@starryboy14) October 18, 2018
Terribly tragic accident to our former AFL1 Footballer and friend Mikey Curran @MickeyCurran – Details below.https://t.co/0PMtkiBJW3
— StBrigidsGAA (@StBrigidsGAA) October 18, 2018
Please support! Absolutely heartbreaking. https://t.co/JCXVvFO644
— Darran O'Sullivan (@Darransull86) October 18, 2018
The fundraising page has been flooded with messages of support, including from people they met along their travels.
“Devastated to hear this news,” wrote Joey and Chantal from New Zealand.
“We met Mike and Sara in Skopje, Macedonia and they are the loveliest people. Hearing their stories about their biking travels were fascinating, and their stories about Iran, particularly, inspired us to visit.
“Really saddened to hear about this tragedy. We wish Mike the best recovery possible, and our thoughts are with Sara, and Mike’s friends and family.”
Mike Curran with Sara O’Shea.
Dermot Carlin said: “We met lots of people travelling, Mikey and Sarah are standout people and great friends.”
“I met Sara and Mike in Serbia, lovely couple on an amazing journey,” said John Butler. “Get well soon Mike.”
O’Shea continued: “Everyone would be asking you for updates. We had mass there a couple of weeks ago for him. Talk about a turnout for mass here! Even the priest said it was the biggest crowd he ever had at a mass.”
The National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire is the only facility in Ireland capable of treating Curran’s injuries, but there’s a six-month waiting list for admission.
As early intervention is vital for brain injuries, the family identified a similar facility in England – but it comes at a major cost. The family set-up a Go Fund Me page to help cover some of the costs of the rehab and already they’ve raised over €100,000 of their €300,000 goal.
“He’s supposed to be going to hospital in England hopefully in a couple of weeks’ time,” said O’Shea.
“It is serious support he’s getting. He needs to be there for six months and I think it costs something like £50k a month or something. We’re going to help him as much as we can with the fundraising efforts.”
After initially falling into a coma, the good news is that Curran is awake and talking, although there’s a long road ahead.
Def looking better and feeling better. Just need to start rehab ASAP pic.twitter.com/7eK5eNlm4B
— Mike Curran (@MickeyCurran) October 22, 2018
“He’s awake at the moment. He has his phone, he’s texting people, he’s texting his family. He does be on Twitter as well. A big improvement in the last week.
“He’s still quite confused but that’s understandable the injury he has had.”
Curran thanked everyone for the well wishes he’s received earlier this week, tweeting: “Thanks everyone for supporting… means a lot at this awfully stressful time…”
Earlier today, he indicated his determination to finish the off journey from France to Ireland at some stage in the future: “We will finish it someday! 14,500km done, 1,500km more to go.”
Depressed here – I am injured and cannot finish my cycle journey with @SorchaNiShe #China2Ireland We will finish it some day!! 14,500km done. 1,500km more to go…. #FeckinFrenchDrivers
— Mike Curran (@MickeyCurran) October 24, 2018
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