On Wednesday evening, the Limit/Semi-Limit race was once again dominated by the emerging talents of Sean Murnane, Freddie Stevens and Mark Holland. With a few recent promotions adding extra firepower to the Semi-Limit group Limit were given a generous handicap and worked hard to hold the gap, with John Blennerhassett in particular doing some serious work on the front. However, as the race went past the half way mark, Semi-Limit had begun to make some inroads and had the front group in their sights.

Not content to wait for the catch, Murnane, Stevens and Holland jumped and quickly got a gap on their Semi-Limit companions. Wise to the danger, a small group including Paul Perry, Dave McLoughlin and Stephen Hayden set off in pursuit of the trio and made it across before the catch, leaving the remains of Semi-Limit stranded in their wake.

Some probing attacks by Murnane and Stevens off the front of the combined bunch were quickly chased down, before it was Dave Mc’s turn to take the race by the scruff of the neck, attacking the bunch from the back by riding all the way around it on the grass to go off the front.

With no moves sticking, it was looking like a bunch gallop as the whistle blew for the last two laps but Murnane, Stevens and Holland made one final bid for glory and got a small margin on the chasing group. In the dash for the line, Murnane’s kick was enough to see of a flying Stevens, with Holland following them in 3rd. Behind, the ever-improving Perry took the gallop for 4th ahead of a fast finishing Matt Williams. League debútante David Lowry rounded out the placings in 6th.

Limit sprint finish (thanks to Dan Coulcher)

Chicken dinner (photo thanks to Ian Anderson)

Plenty more photos from Ian Anderson available on Flickr.

It felt like the last days of summer as nearly 30 riders to the Corkagh Park track for the Scratch race, with the numbers fairly evenly split between the groups. A casual chase was conducted, while move of four pinged off the front of Semi-scratch to try their luck.

With gap surely closing as the race approached half-way, and the bunch within reach, a spill at the bottom of the course took down a few of the Scratch big guns. That left a scattered few to tag onto the back of Semi-scratch, and then increase the pace.

A continual game of cat and mouse followed for much of the rest of the night, with Conor Murnane and Brian McArdle trading attacks at the head of affairs, and others like Pat O'Brien trying their chances. Strong chasing by the likes of Liam Rowsome, Stephen Barry and Jamie Busher shut down all attempts to break away, and as the final laps approached, a bunch sprint was on the cards.

Ken O'Neill had other ideas however. Recently returned from a training camp with Stephen Roche, he dived off the front for a late solo effort. McArdle made the most of the grass verge to try to bridge, but was left in no man's land instead. Behind him, Murnane and O'Brien were pushing the pace hard, and swept past both O'Neill and McArdle.

That pair contested the win, with Murnane getting ahead of O'Brien on the finishing straight and holding it to the line, his second consecutive win on the track. McArdle managed to overhaul O'Neill in the closing metres, but O'Neill held enough of his lead to tie for 4th with a fast-finishing Fionn Sheridan.

Brian McNally was the strongman who took 6th, pipping those who had expended themselves in the chase.

Scratch sprint finish (video thanks to Ronan Foley)

That win means Murnane holds his leader's spot in the league, with Seán Murnane moving into a clear 2nd ahead of McArdle. Next week is the first 10TT and the continuation of the BAR competitions, sign up in the forum.

Thanks once again to Dick O'Brien for the report from the Wednesday race. The league will only take place on Thursday nights from now on, but the split night format proved a success for these early rounds and will hopefully be repeated next year.

Orwell League R4: Corkagh Park Crit (22-23/4/2015)

1 Sean Murnane (SL)
2 Freddie Stevens (SL)
3 Mark Holland (SL)
4 Paul Perry (SL)
5 Matt Williams (L)
6 David Lowry (L)

1 Conor Murnane (S)
2 Pat O'Brien (S)
3 Brian McArdle (S)
=4 Ken O'Neill (SS)
=4 Fionn Sheridan (S)
6 Brian McNally (S)