Why we will all be back in 2021 –
A Sports Reporters Story of his love of the Ras Mumhan!
(*All views in this are my own)
In this life if you can find something you love and get paid (even a little!) for it then that’s something to celebrate. And for all those out there who are worrying about the Leaving Cert yes it is important and you must do your best BUT it will not define your life. That will take various pathways before you end up where you want to be.
What you are now probably asking has this to do with the Kerry Group Ras Mumhan! Well for those who don’t know me I started off my career working in hotel management for a number of years and then managed the Tralee and Killarney Omniplex cinemas before working as tour and box office manager for international musician Liam O’Connor.
So where is the cycling connection? Having always been involved in sport – as a reporter, PRO and administrator in soccer including working with the FAI – I was asked to start covering sport for Radio Kerry and to write on sport for Kerry’s Eye and the Tralee Advertiser. Hence the piece above about finding that thing in life you love that might not be exactly what you think it will be when doing the Leaving Cert or even when you leave college.
Covering Cycling: As someone who never spent much time on a bike – apart from pretending I was on a cross country course in the old wood behind the Pretty Polly factory that was across from my house in Killarney and one time cycling the Gap of Dunloe and down the Kenmare Road where I got a real insight into what descending is all about! – I never thought that I would come to love covering cycling for the media.
But now the Ras Mumhan are the first dates that I put into my diary every year. Little did I know in January when I did this that on Easter Sunday I would be at home instead of making the much anticipated trip to South Kerry for the always memorable Stage 3 or the Queen Stage as it is known!!
My first big cycling event to cover was the 2009 Tour of Ireland and particularly Stage 2 from Clonmel to Killarney. That Tour had a star studded field including a then idolised Lance Armstrong. But for someone who the fans wanted to see he disappeared at the end of every stage into his Astana team’s bus but from what transpired since I don’t think too many will regret not meeting him.
Mark Cavendish won the stage into Killarney and was a gentleman with this novice and nervous reporter recording an interview me after his win.
And that stage has given me my outstanding sports moment. And this is from someone who has travelled the world supporting the Irish soccer team including far -away places like Turkey and Iran.
The moments I will never forget was following Mark Cassidy – An Post M Donnelly Sean Kelly team down the Musheramore descent – between Ballydaly and Rathmore on the Cork Kerry border. He and Dennis Van Winden (Rabobank) had gone over 14 minutes clear and when Van Winden pulled away on the climb Cassidy had to chase on the decent.
I was in the Press Car (note for the Ras Mumhan organisers I didn’t have to drive myself!!) driven by an Australian. And Sean Kelly was driving his team car – a big Volvo as we both followed Cassidy UNTIL he was going too fast for us on a gravel forest road!! It was an incredible decent and while both himself and the Dutchman were caught inside the last 20km on the run into Killarney it was a sporting feat that has always stuck with me.
From there I was lucky enough to cover the Ras na mBan when it was based in Sneem (again been driven in a Press Car!!). And of course we in Kerry have had a number of Ras finishes in the county.
Over the years I have also covered the Lacey Cup – thanks to Sean (arguably Kerry’s greatest ever cyclist and that’s a big statement when one looks back at the huge number of top class riders this country has produced from the time of Gene Mangan and even before that) and the Laceys, the very enjoyable County Road Race and Time Trial Leagues – events that will be of greater importance this summer once sport returns.
And I have had the pleasure of interviewing some of the legends of the sport including the aforementioned Gene, Louis Moriarty and Paudie Fitzgerald – if you can interview him as it’s hard to get a question in!!
My connection with Ras Mumhan: Five years ago the boss of Radio Kerry Sport Joe O’Mahoney asked me to cover the Ras Mumhan at Easter. And shamefully I will admit I did not know much about the Ras.
However from the first moment I turned up I was made feel part of the set-up. In those early days there was a Press Car (the organisers know I am joking about this as I enjoy the freedom of driving myself and doing my reports from whatever part of the stages I think is best).
The Organisation: But that first year gave me an insight into the work done by those behind the Ras Mumhan. From Tadgh Moriarty, Mary and Michael Concannon, Kieran, John Breen and many many more too numerous to mention these volunteers ensure one of the biggest races in the country goes off like clockwork.
Having access to race radio and what goes on behind the scenes and the expert work of the Commissars makes the four days of the Ras Mumhan four of the most enjoyable sporting days of the year.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the Kerry Gardai, the County Council and the huge number of volunteers who work on the race every year and sometimes in weather that is not the best. The Kerry Group Ras Mumhan could not run without all of these people.
The Riders: But all this would be nothing with the riders. From the locals, the Irish riders and the overseas visitors each and every one of them and their teams and to the sport of cycling, And they return year after year because of the organisation of the Ras Mumhan, the roads they can race on and the crowds that come out every year to watch the race.
The Sponsors: And the final part of the jigsaw the sponsors. Having a business as internationally successful as Kerry Group headquartered in our county is something we all take pride in. And to have them associated with the race gives it a status that goes beyond their financial contribution.
The Ras Mumhan received another great boost when the high profile VeloRevolution business, led by Aidan Crowley, came on board to sponsor the jerseys.
Kerry Group and VeloRevolution are joined by a large number of other sponsors including stage and prime sponsors on each of the four days.
We will come back stronger and better than ever: I have only had the pleasure of being involved in Ras Mumhan for the last five years while many of those involved have been there for many many more years.
And they do this not for the want of any praise or financial gain but because of the pride they take in putting on one of the countries greatest sporting events. Remember RTE Sport send a camera to for its television sports news. And of course all the local media cover the Ras and some of the national media run results and short pieces from the stages.
Do they get enough support for their efforts? No is the answer.
From a financial point of the view sporting events likes this should qualify for grants to cover most of their big costs. Most people reading this will have an idea of those costs from insurance, ambulance, marshals and officials expenses etc. They can put on the race because of the generosity of the sponsors but think of what else they could do with a grant from the Department of Sport or Sport Ireland!
And with the changing world that 2021will see the whole financial aspect of the Kerry Group will be looked at by the organisers. And maybe everyone will have to do that little bit extra and make whatever contribution we can and I know no one will be found wanting.
The Kerry Group Ras Mumhan is more than just a sporting event in a Kerry town. It is an international sporting event that brings hundreds of bed nights to the Killorglin area and to a town that is always hugely supportive and thankful for this. It brings some of the best riders at this level of the sport to race on the wonderful Kerry stages. As I said it sees hundreds of people giving up their Easter weekend to be part of the Kerry Group Ras Mumhan family.
The Covid 19 shut down has given us all time to contemplate what sport means to us. Maybe some of us took it for granted. When someone asked me at the start of the year was I busy I said sure there will always be sport!!
And once we get past this pandemic – and we will because of the sacrifices of everyone – sport will be even more important.
And I know that come Easter Sunday 2021 the Kerry Group Ras Mumhan will be on the roads of South Kerry. Good Friday 2021 is only 50 plus weeks away.
Remember how short the last years seemed since we were all on the Ras last year. The next 12 months will also fly. ROLL ON THE 2021 KERRY GROUP RAS MUMHAN!!