McNally Swords Grand Prix

A/B Race This years Swords Grand Prix moved from its more usual Ballyboughal -Nags Head -Naul circuit to a circuit most would remember as that used by the Liam Toolin race. Five times up the Nags Head from the more difficult side for the combined A/’B’s was going to be testing enough without the strong winds & driving rain that the riders had to contend with. The race started in Ballyboughal and headed for the old Balbriggan Road, then travelled north to turn at the Five Roads and then left and up the Nags Head from a direction that presented the riders with a more challenging climb that the races more usual route. The A bunch combined well with everyone riding ‘up & over’ and caught the B bunch just before the hit the climb on Lap 1. The bunch hit the climb hard and some riders may have underestimated just how long it was nor known how it steepens towards the top, as the bunch was well and truly split with about fifteen A’s and ten B’s getting clear before the race crested the hill for the first time.

With the day that was in it, all sections of the course presented difficulties, battling into the wind on the decent, crosswind on the next section and a tailwind driving the speed up to 40mph on the main road ……….and then the climb!!!! These conditions caused the break to reduce slightly even before they attacked the hill for the second time and by the time they reach the top it was down to the six A riders who would eventually fight out for the final placings, and two B’s, John Dooras (Sorrento) & Paddy Kelly (Bray). All eight riders worked hard in the break, and they had to, as the bunch were only at 30 sec. The two B riders were still in contention up to the bell, when a surge on the hill saw the six A’s go clear . Cycleways had numerical advantage with 3 riders in the break, Mark Cassidy, Philip Finegan & Aidan Crowley, against Brian Keane (Dublin Wheelers) and Greg Swinard & Shane Baker (Usher). Mark Cassidy attacked & got a gap just before Ballyboughal while his teamates sat on, forcing Shane, Brian & Greg to do the chasing. Mark held them off for quite a few miles but all six were back together before last time up the climb to the finish. Brian Keane (DWCC) forced the pace last time up as he had been strongest on the climb each time before. He stretched out the lads slightly but failed to lose either Cassidy or Finegan. One more big attack from the Dublin Wheelers rider nearly paid off but Finegan got by him with 30 yards to go only to be pipped by teammate Mark Cassidy. Third place went to Brian Keane with Shane Baker (Usher) 4th at 10 sec, and Aidan Crowley (Cycleways), Greg Swinard (Usher) another 30 sec back.

A second win in two days for Mark (and a second r-up spot for Philip!!!) and the ideal was to finish off his racing season in Ireland as he heads off to France to ride with VC La Pomme. A great talent and still only nineteen years of age.

A/B Race (58 miles)
Pos. Rider Club
1. Mark Cassidy Cycleways Lee Strand
2. Philip Finegan Cycleways Lee Strand
3. Brian Keane Dublin Whlrs All Systems
4. Shane Baker Usher Irish Road Club
5. Aidan Crowley Cycleways Lee Strand
6. Greg Swinand Usher Irish Road Club
Unplaced B Daire O’Sullivan Rubex Naas

C/V/J Race After a few attempts on Lap 1 from a lively Brian Cunningham (Stagg Lucan), the decisive move of the day came when Fergus Ryan (McNally Swords CC) attacked on the fast main road section before they turned to climb on the bell lap. This was the fastest section of the race with the tailwind pushing the speed up to near 40mph, such that if you got a gap it would be difficult to peg back. Fergus was then able to attack the climb at his own pace while behind the race exploded on the climb with attacks coming from Cunningham and the Murphy-Gunn duo of Terry Ferris & Martin Thompson. At the top Fergus still held a defendable gap from three riders, Ferris, Cunningham and Nathan Hannigan (Les Jeune), and these were just clear of a five man group which included Martin Thomson, and Swords duo Alan Duffy , & Junior for the day, Michael Daly. When Hannigan punctured , it left Ferris & Cunningham, the task to trying to catch Ryan whose triathlon time trial experience stood to him as all dug deep in the difficult conditions. With teammates up the road, Thompson, Daly & Duffy had to do enough to keep their 5 man group clear of the main pack but not dare risk aiding the Usher & Stamullen rider in getting across. This group stayed clear and Fergus Ryan just held on to take the win by 10 seconds from Brian Cunningham who was a few seconds clear of Stagg Lucan 3 day winner , Terry Ferris. These 3 were about 20 second clear of the chasing five riders with young Michael Daly taking the 1st Junior pot and Thompson getting the Unplaced Vet pot for the 2nd time in two days. Not a bad result for Swords taking 1st & 1st Jun and for Murphy Gunn -2 riders -2 prizes. Special mention for Alan Duffy who all tell me climbed exceptionally well and to Swords newbie ‘No Fear’ O’Dwyer who crashed trying to take the corner on the decent too fast & too wide. He was back racing on wed in the Club League even though his hip only stopped bleeding that morning.

An excellent result for Fergus holding off such formidable opposition or as Nathan put it he ‘did well considering so many Swords riders were riding at the front!!!!’ Now ye weren’t chasing down your own rider, ……nah ye would do that !!!!!

Senior C/V/J Race (34 miles)
Pos. Rider Club
1. Fergus Ryan McNally Swords CC
2. Brian Cunningham Staggs Lucan CC
3. Terry Ferris Murphy-Gunn CC
Unplaced Vet Martin Thompson Murphy Gunn CC
Unplaced Junior Michael Daly McNally Swords CC
1. Caroline Kearney McNally Swords CC
2. Julie O’Hagan Dublin Whlrs All Systems