I’ve worked hard to convince friends that cycling is a tough sport and that those who compete at the highest level in the sport are mentally and physically superior to the average human being. I had a few of those friends with me last Sunday and Monday as we completed two stages of this year’s Ras. By now they need absolutely no convincing whatsoever that professional cyclists are as tough as nails. I don’t want to confuse the situation here by suggesting that I was riding with the professionals last Sunday and Monday. Far from it…those guys are in a different league.
Paul Early, the former Roscommon footballer, contacted me last November and asked me to do a stage or two of the eight stages of the Ras. He, Eamonn Ó Muircheartaigh and Declan Darcy had decided to pull a group of former footballers and hurlers together to cycle the Ras route for charity. I didn’t take much convincing as funds were being raised for two very worthy causes. Over the past number of months I had trained fairly regularly and considered myself to be reasonably well prepared for the 95 miles from Dunboyne to Portumna on Sunday followed by the 100 miles from Portumna to Kilrush the following day. I travelled to Dunboyne last Saturday evening where my friend Gerry Fitzmaurice (former Roscommon great ) had arranged accommodation for both of us with his good friend Freddie Preston. Freddie’s wife Anne is from Achill as it happens. She and Freddie were most welcoming and provided us with good food and a bed for the night. When Anne heard we were availing of their hospitality she made sure the Green and Red bunting was displayed about the place.
We started out very early the next morning on the trip to Portumna which was tough – the route, the weather, everything. It was a bit of a reality check for a number of lads as we faced a strong headwind all the way to the finish. I struggled in parts but felt reasonably okay towards the finish. Those involved with organising the charity part of the cycle had arranged for a mobile cyrotherapy chamber to be available at every stage end for our group.
I needed all the recovery aids I could get as the second stage to Kilrush was going to be an uphill battle all the way. It was pretty horrendous, to be honest. The weather conditions were as bad as you could possibly imagine for cycling last Monday, with gale force winds and driving rain our constant companions. However it is in the nature to push to the limit and after eight hours in the saddle and exposed to the tortuous elements we made it to Kilrush in one piece. The various GAA clubs at the stage ends were contacted months ago to provide food and showers for the 50 plus entourage involved with the charity cycle. There is no doubt that the GAA are a wonderful family and are rarely found wanting when asked to assist fellow Gaels for a dig out. Two stages for me were enough.
However about 20 lads continued on in order to complete all eight stages and will be joined along the way by former GAA legends from practically every county.
I had a good chat along the route with Evan Kelly, former Meath footballer, on the Sunday. I was asking him what he thought of Graham Geraghty’s recall to the Meath football panel. He found it bizarre that Meath management felt it necessary to bring back a player who is 38 years of age and hasn’t played inter-county football in three years. It is a fair indication of the state of Meath football right now and it certainly doesn’t say much for the panel of players that Meath manager ‘Banty’ McAnaney has assembled. Graham did about 30 miles of the cycle on Sunday. Apparently he was minding himself for Meath training on Monday evening!
Mayo get their campaign up and running this weekend in London. There is very little excitement around this game and there does not appear to be as many travelling over for this fixture as there were in years gone by. Understandable given the current economic circumstances also I suppose. Mayo will win the match but will learn very little in the process.
London will, more than likely, be feisty for the opening half and maybe for 10 or 15 minutes of the second, but I expect Mayo will be able to pull away comfortably in the end. When you consider that Roscommon destroyed New York a couple of weeks ago, I would expect something along similar lines this Sunday in Ruislip. Also I think that New York is a better team than this London side.
Excitement and interest picking up
It was well after 4pm when I finished the first stage of my cycle, but I was in time to see some of the second half of the Wicklow v Kildare match. Of course I was interested in seeing how our own Austin O’ Malley was doing. He got very favourable mention for his first-half display, which I didn’t see.
I was disappointed to see him being sent off for striking, but the referee had no option. I cannot ever recall Austin receiving a red card before and I know he will be disgusted with himself. While watching that match, I got a text with the result of the Sligo v Leitrim match. It is obviously the first shock of the championship. Well done to Leitrim. They have endured a difficult year both on and off the pitch, finishing close to the bottom of division four. They only lost by a single point to the two teams that were promoted from the division, so their lowly position clearly wasn’t a true reflection of their ability. No one would begrudge them a good run in the Championship. The other matches went as predicted with both Kerry and Cork ambling through their respective encounters, while Longford gave Laois an almighty fright when losing by a single point.