By Cate McCurry, PA
Former rugby player Damian Browne has arrived in Galway to a hero’s welcome after rowing more than 3,450 nautical miles from New York.
Hundreds of people gathered on Tuesday to see him become the first person to row from New York to Galway.
It marked the end of a 112-day journey on his boat, called Cushlamachree.
The journey came to a dramatic end when his boat came ashore on the rocks at Furbo Beach, just short of the port of Galway.
After fighting mother nature for 16 weeks, Browne was rescued by emergency services in the last hours of his journey.
First on the scene were gardai Micheal O Rainne, Vincent Kelly and Eoin O’Malley, who found Browne and Cushlamachree on the rocks and helped him to safety.
He was “gutted” not to be able to row into the port of Galway, but said he was overwhelmed by the large crowd that gathered to welcome him home.
The journey, entitled Project Empower, is part of a fundraising effort for four charitable organisations: National Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, Ability West, Madra and the Galway Simon Community.
Mr Browne said that while the ending did not go to plan, he still accomplished what he set out to do.
“I am safe and uninjured and have had an incredible reception so I am little bit taken aback by it all,” he said.
“Up until three days ago I hadn’t seen a person in 98 days, so I felt a bit of trepidation about this moment as it was so overwhelming after being so isolated from people.
“What has come out of it is gratitude so I want to thank everyone here today and their support.
“When I was at my darkest moments, I got out the phone and connected to people and didn’t feel so alone.
“All I have is words, but thank you.
“The most important message is to follow your inner compass and listen to your gut.
“If you can make a connection with it, it can never set you wrong. Aim high and work hard and don’t give up, no matter how much resistance there is.
“There are so many people here, I don’t know how to absorb it. When last night happened, I thought, what a disaster, I thought today was ruined. But this is amazing.
“By going into this extreme adventure, I deepened and broadened the tool box, so in moments of darkness I have a deep belief that I will get through it, and that comes from rugby and I will always be grateful for that.”
To support the Project Empowers charity partners visit idonate.ie/projectempower2022