Downpatrick brothers taking on four-peak challenge for charity

Downpatrick brothers taking on four-peak challenge for charity

14 July 2021

TWO brothers will climb the four highest peaks on the island of Ireland in memory of Downpatrick man John Blaney who died in a road crash two years ago.

Sean and Seamus Branagh, also from Downpatrick, were close friends of the 32 year-old who died on July 19, 2019, in a two-car collision on Ballagh Road close to the Bloody Bridge near Newcastle.

Mr Blaney was travelling to Kilkeel to be with his partner, Barbara Jensikova, after attending the funeral of a friend in Downpatrick shortly before the crash. The couple were planning to engaged before his tragic death.

A former pupil at St Patrick’s Grammar School from the Mearne Road area of Downpatrick, Mr Blaney worked at Camphill Community Mourne Grange in Kilkeel, which provides opportunities for adults with different abilities.

The brothers plan to climb the highest peak in each province starting from Saturday to next Monday — Carrauntoohil in Kerry, then Mweelrea in Mayo, Lugnaquilla in Wicklow and finishing at Slieve Donard in the Mournes. 

IT engineer Sean explained: “Our challenge is in memory of John and the incredibly positive impact he had on so many lives.

“This challenge is significant because John and I had done the smaller version, UK 3 peaks 24 hour challenge back in 2013. 

“Next July we plan to do the UK and Ireland 5 peaks challenge. That is to climb the highest peaks in Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland, North and South, all within 48 hours. 

“The challenge was originally planned for July 2020 but we have been forced to postpone twice now due to travel restrictions last year and quarantine rules this year.

“So unable to do the five peaks, we wanted to do this challenge in memory of John, who was a very close family friend.”

Sean said that he and Mr Blaney became friends over their shared love of hiking.

“John was actually my daughter’s godfather as well and while he was a close friend of mine, he was a very close friend to our family.

“He did a lot for my mother and father before they died and was just one of those people that got along with everybody,” he added.

In total, the brothers will climb 12,054 feet and plan to drive 650 miles in an electric car from peak to peak, camping overnight.

They will be climbing Lugnaquilla in Wicklow on the day of Mr Blaney’s anniversary.

They have already raised just over £8,000 for three charities — Air Ambulance NI nominated by Mr Blaney’s family, Mourne Mountain Rescue Team nominated by Sean and Marymount University Hospital in Cork, nominated by Seamus as he now lives in Cork.

John’s mother, Mrs Anne Blaney, praised the brothers for undertaking the challenge.

She said: “Our family are extremely thankful to the all services, especially the air ambulance, and extremely proud of the fundraising his friends are doing in his name.”

To support the climbing challenge, visit and to follow the brothers’ progress, visit