The first races of the league saw two strong performances in each, with Seán Murnane and Brian McArdle each on the attack in their respective races. Murnane capped it off with a strong sprint, while McArdle did it the hard way with a solo effort from the halfway mark.

With the early rounds of the league usually featuring short twenty minute races, the committee acted on feedback from last year's participants to put on two nights racing for rounds two through four, and thus allow for forty minute races despite the restricted light in the evening. This made the races more tactical affairs, and both featured plenty of attacking and attempts to break the elastic.

Wednesday night saw the Limit and Semi-Limit groups hit Corkagh Park for the first time, with the race dominated by Seán Murnane who took the win after a swashbuckling display of aggressive riding.

A very large Limit group was given a reasonable handicap and, with some strong newcomers in the mix, it had a fighting chance of going the distance. However, what the group had in size, it lacked in cohesion and it fractured several times during the opening laps. Semi-Limit however failed to capitalise on Limit’s inexperience and never really managed to get a smooth rotation going to close down the gap.

A the head of affairs, Murnane took the race by the scruff of the neck and launched a series of bold attacks that put his companions under serious pressure. An impressive Mark Holland was one of the few people who responded, marking many of Murnane's moves closely. Paul Perry was also wise to the danger, virtually single handedly closing down one of Murnane's more dangerous escapes.

As the race reached its finale, Semi-Limit finally began to make inroads into Limit’s lead but it was too little too late and, despite a late solo bid by Greg O’Donnell to ride across the gap, the placings were all mopped up by the Limit group.

Murane’s final attack saw him distance his rivals but just as it was beginning to look like he would solo towards the line, a tenacious Holland managed to come across. On the finishing straight, the U16 rider still had enough gas in the tank to see off a hard charging Holland before raising his arms. Paul Perry then topped off a strong display to take the bunch sprint for third, followed home by Colin Caesar in fourth. Stephen Rowan crossed the line in fifth, with Richard Cattle rounding out the placings in sixth.

Murnane crosses the line with room to spare - photo thanks to Brendan Culleton

Thursday night it was the turn of Conor Murnane (the elder) to get itchy feet in the Semi-scratch group, where he broke away with newly upgraded Ken O'Neill. The group had been let away with a large handicap on the Scratch chasers, who steadily closed the gap, making the catch by the halfway mark. The combined groups then moved in for the kill on the pair out front, reeling them in.

Several attacks off the front were chased down, until Brian Ahern jumped off with no reaction. He was quickly followed by Brian McArdle, who went past Ahern and on to a long solo struggle against the chase. With no concerted chase behind, McArdle dangled out in front for the remainder of the race, but he committed fully to the move, digging deep to stay away for the win.

Behind, the final attack came from Dick O'Brien's big engine, with a wily Diarmuid Collins getting in on the action. The duo contested the sprint for 2nd, with Collins forcing O'Brien to come the long way round him and into the grass. The sprint for 4th was also a close affair, with Murnane besting Bryan Geary's bike throw, while Valdis Andersons took the final placing after persevering in the bunch.

Downey, O'Brien (2nd) and McArdle (1st) - photo thanks to Sandra Telford

Thanks to Dick O'Brien for the race report from the Limit race, which also resulted in upgrades for the top four placers. Racing resumes in the same fashion next week - two nights at Corkagh Park. See you there!


Orwell League R2: Corkagh Park Crit (8-9/4/2015)

1 Seán Murnane (L)
2 Mark Holland (L)
3 Paul Perry (L)
4 Colin Caesar (L)
5 Stephan Rowan (L)
6 Richard Cattle (L)

1 Brian McArdle (S)
2 Diarmuid Collins (S)
3 Dick O'Brien (S)
4 Conor Murnane (SS)
5 Bryan Geary (S)
6 Valids Andersons (S)