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Big Red Cloud is sponsoring Irish paratriathlete Donnacha McCarthy as he attempts to qualify for the 2020 Paralympic Games, which will take place in Tokyo in September. Over the coming months we will keep you updated on his progress on the road, on the bike and in the pool.

As a child growing up in Drimoleague, West Cork, Donnacha was twice diagnosed with cancer, eventually losing his sight at the age of 10 from a combination of the illness and the treatment he had to undergo.

Having played Gaelic football prior to losing his sight, he did not play any sport until university when he became involved in blind five-a-side football through Vision Sports Ireland. Donnacha went on to represent the Irish team in the 2017 European qualifiers and European Challenge Cup the following year, captaining the team in both tournaments.

He started running in 2016, going out with work colleagues from Vodafone during lunch breaks. “I had heard about triathlon but had no interest in competing,” he recalls. “I thought it was something I would never be able to do, mainly because I couldn’t swim.”

The paratriathlon consists of a 750 metre swim, a 20km bike ride (hand bike or tandem) and a 5km run (racing wheelchair).

“A friend who had guided for me on runs – and was a triathlete herself – mentioned paratriathlon to me and I went along to talent-spotting event staged by Triathlon Ireland and its paratriathlon technical director, Eamonn Tilley,” says Donnacha. “Eamonn introduced me to his brother Dave, who became my first guide.”

Fast forward to February 2020 and as the off-season comes to an end, Donnacha is preparing for his first international event of the year – the Abu Dhabi Paratriathlon World Cup in March.

“Three months of endurance training in the pool and on the road was quite pleasant, giving my body and mind a break from the rigors of racing,” says Donnacha. “Now the focus has switched to higher intensity, lower volume work.”

The winter has gone well with highlights include a personal best 5km time in early January and then winning the Paraduathlon National Championships for the second year in a row with guide Bryan McCrystal, with whom he finished sixth in a test event in Tokyo last August.

“While not significant results in the grand scheme of things, wins like the Paraduathlon National Championships are critical on the pathway to success as they reassure you that you are doing the right things in training and keep you motivated to keep moving forward and keep consistent with your training,” says Donnacha.

“The bigger picture of Tokyo is always there in the background, but Abu Dhabi is the first stepping stone in getting there and my first chance to put the skills I have learned over the winter into practice.”

In the next blog we will talk to Donnacha about his experiences at the Paratriathlon World Cup as he strives for the points he needs to qualify for Tokyo.


Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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