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Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019
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'Letterkenny to Ballydehob': Documentary follows one priest's battle with Motor Neurone Disease on his walk around Ireland

Fr Tony Coote completed his journey in his own modified wheelchair.

Father Tony Coote
Father Tony Coote
Image: RTÉ

BY THE TIME Father Tony Coote started his country-length journey, the Motor Neurone Disease he’d been diagnosed with five months previous had left him unable to walk. 

Coote, a priest in Dublin’s Mount Merrion parish, had committed himself to raising awareness and funds for MND sufferers by walking the length of Ireland.

He carried on regardless and his story – in which hundreds of people joined him on his now-famous walk at various points – has been captured in a new RTÉ documentary airing tomorrow evening at 10.15 p.m.

Walking the Walk follows the 54-year-old priest’s journey from Letterkenny in Donegal to Ballydehob in Cork across 550 kilometres of an “absolutely amazing journey” Coote’s youngest brother, Pat, says. 

“When we got up to Letterkenny, the starting point, I was expecting 20, 30 people. When we got there was 100 to 150 people.”

“There were people from Letterkenny, people from Ballybofey, a man from Derry. People had come because they’d heard of him and wanted to join in.”

Throughout the 27-day journey local communities gathered to greet the priest, says Pat. 

That’s the way it was all the way along. It’s a real Irish thing.

As word of Coote’s efforts spread, his condition was worsening, though.

To undertake this epic journey, Coote used his own “rugged, modified wheelchair”, says brother Pat. “That became invaluable really. It meant that Tony was at the head of the walk and everyone behind him.”

In the end, Coote raised €250,000 for MND research. Walking the Walk, airing tomorrow evening, has captured his story in a subtly inspiring way. 

“The director, Maurice O’Brien, has made a brilliant film out of hours and hours of footage, says Pat. “He’s really made a good story.”

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