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Belfast Strongman aiming to give charity a lift with fundraising event

Michael Downey will be running his third annual Belfast Strongman charity event this Sunday in Dunmurry Michael Downey will be running his third annual Belfast Strongman charity event this Sunday in Dunmurry
By Paddy Tierney

MICHAEL Downey is well-known for his fundraising efforts across Belfast, but the local strongman competitor admits one cause is very close to his heart.

As he prepares to run his third annual ‘Belfast Strongman’ event, Downey says that raising funds for suicide awareness charities is a way of remembering a dear friend.

Just over two years ago, the West Belfast community was stunned by the sudden death of talented footballer James Moore.
Aged just 24, Moore had spells at Cliftonville, Donegal Celtic, Linfield and Larne and was the captain of Willowbank FC where he was also a respected youth coach.

Downey and Moore were old school pals and, in trying to make sense of the tragic loss of life, Michael dedicated his efforts in trying to raise awareness of mental health issues across the city.

“James (Moore) was a friend of mine; we went to Corpus Christi together; we played football together and we worked together,” said Downey.

“He took his life two years ago.

“I’ve done a few fundraisers for different charities – deterMND, the Children’s Hospice.

“Last year, I ran it for a suicide awareness group on the Falls Road. With the money raised, they did a wall mural in Beechmount. It is for anyone who is walking down the road or coming out of a bar and they are feeling down and depressed.

“There are different quotes and things on it with different helpline numbers. That’s what they did with the money we raised last year.”

This year’s event, which takes place on Sunday at the Excel Gym in Dunmurry from 12 noon until 3pm, will also be run for a suicide awareness group, Everglow Health and Wellbeing, as Downey explained.

“This is the third year running it and every year I like to organise a show for a different charity,” he added.

“This year, I am running the event in association with Everglow Health and Wellbeing. It is a charity based on the Antrim Road. A guy who used to play for Beann Mhádagháin, Francis McStravick, took his life and they started a charity to raise awareness of mental health issues.

“We are running the strongman event with 10 athletes with competitors coming over from Scotland, England, all over Ireland. We are also having a family fun day with bouncy castles and everything is free. We’ll send around buckets and people can donate that way.Anything that’s raised on the day will go straight to the charity.”

Quite how Downey has time to organise a strongman event is baffling.

As-well-as training four or five times a week to maintain his own conditioning, the 26-year-old from Divis also works full-time as a doorman. On top of that, two young kids ensure he is always on his toes, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I am going over to Lithuania in four weeks to compete in a strongman event,” stated Downey.

“It is definitely all go at the minute. I work as a doorman six nights a week and I’ve two young children. I also train four or five days a week, so I am always busy. I knew I had this competition coming up so I wanted to have the strongman event run before I headed off.”

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