IT had all the hallmarks of RTE’s Saturday Night with Miriam chat show – the glamorous presenter and a top line up of guests, the only major difference was it took place in a county Limerick function room.
Over 500 people made their way to Bulgaden Castle outside Kilmallock recently where top television presenter Miriam O’Callaghan and Munster rugby legend John ‘The Bull’ Hayes were special guests at the fifth annual commemorative night in memory of Lough Gur teenager Cliona Ring.
The foundation was formed in memory of the 15-year-old who passed away in December 2006 after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in 1998.
“It’s a long way to go but when I read about the foundation Terry and Brendan set up I decided I would go down. I have no regrets – it was a wonderful evening and they do such good work. It was actually great craic – I think I must have stood for at least three and a half million photographs,” joked Miriam.
The RTE star was chauffeur-driven to the county Limerick venue and back home again by “two lovely hurlers” Garryspillane’s TJ and Donie Ryan.
“TJ picked me up and Donie dropped me home. God help him, he was sitting at three in the morning in my kitchen eating tea and toast and he said ‘this is surreal’. We couldn’t send him back on the road without a cup of tea and some toast and lots of butter – he couldn’t believe the amount of butter we were all putting on our toast,” Miriam laughed of the former Limerick hurling star.
The popular broadcaster who has become a household name thanks to her formidable presenting skills on Prime Time and her Saturday night show, attended the event with her daughter Georgia, 18, and son Conor aged 10 who was “made up” after being presented with a rugby ball signed by John Hayes. “He brought it into school today so he is very, very happy. But he did say to John that his favourite team was Leinster which is not a great thing,” she remarked.
In a scene reminiscent of her summertime Saturday night show the popular host was joined on a sofa at the fundraising event by ‘The Bull’. “The man spoke so well, in such a positive manner. The interview is to be available on YouTube,” said Cliona’s mum Terry.
“Miriam is one exceptional lady. She was terrific and in no hurry with anybody,” she added.
Miriam was also joined on the couch by Orla Cusack from Ballybrown who spoke of how her son Ian has benefited from the Cliona Ring Foundation.
According to the late Cliona’s father, Brendan, the success of the night – which to date has seen €9,000 lodged in the bank for the foundation, with money still coming in – was “beyond our wildest dreams”.
The Cliona Ring Foundation provides financial assistance to families from Ireland who have children undergoing long-term medical treatment for serious illness. Cliona was loved and admired by many which was very evident by the huge crowd who gathered for what should have been her 21st birthday celebration. “It happened to be Cliona’s 21st the weekend before. There were loads of texts and Facebook messages and I gather that on Twitter it’s just one big happy 21st birthday party for Cliona,” said Terry.
The main attraction at this year’s fundraising event in terms of raffle prizes was a trip for two adults and two children to Disneyland Paris which was won by Margaret Barry from Hospital whose son Kevin featured on the Just for Cliona CD which was released back in 2008.
Miriam meanwhile, made the journey back to Dublin with her own prize - a painting by Lough Gur artist Bobby Ryan.
“He actually donated a picture to give to me, which was really beautiful, of swans at Lough Gur. I have that now up on my living room so I will never forget the people of Bruff and Lough Gur,” said the host who also has family ties to Limerick.
“My grandfather – my mother’s father was from Limerick – he was from Kilfinny in west Limerick, John Cavanagh, and he fought on Michael Collins’ West Limerick brigade,” she explained.