The last two rounds of the club league had a eerily familiar feel to them, with Brian McArdle taking a fine solo win at Mondello last week, and Dick O'Brien and Aideen Keenan demolishing their competitors in the 10TT Championships last night. Conor Murnane was also crowned Junior 10TT Champion - the first time that title has been awarded in a quarter-century.

A full handicap affair for the club's second visit to Mondello after last year's Road Race champs, large gaps split the groups at the startline, with Scratch only let off when Limit were in sight on the final hairpin. One hour and two laps awaited the racers.

The Limit riders got the heads down with a strong ride, whittling the group down from 12 quickly, while the Scratch riders' chase efforts were scrappy at best. Semi-scratch made the catch of Semi-limit by the halfway mark. Ten minutes later and the front three groups all came together, and Scratch had them in sight. Ronan Grimes and Bryan Geary were the first to try to bridge, but it was the duo of Eric Downey and Brian McArdle who first made the jump successfully.

McArdle and Downey working together (photo thanks to Aishling O'Connor)

There they found Seán Murnane chomping at the bit at the head of the race, his restricted gearing putting him at a disadvantage, but his aggression compensating nicely. Both Downey and McArdle tried to break away to take the lead, but Murnane was alert to every move.

A group of four got a small gap at one point, but failed to work together and were reeled back in. The rest of the Scratch riders were beginning to infiltrate the group, and Conor Murnane made his way to the front. It was Downey who first got away though, getting about 10" on the rest of the race, before McArdle managed to also escape, and then pass Downey.

Downey jumps away, with Seán Murnane chasing (head down, green helmet) and the rest of Scratch chasing behind

The elastic well and truly snapped, McArdle's move was almost identical to how he won the club champs last year - staying away solo for the final three laps of the race to come home about 20" ahead of the chasers. Downey held his own gap to finish 2nd on his own, while Brian McNally surged forward to nab the bunch gallop from Seán Murnane. The younger Murnane was delighted to pip his brother Conor on the line, with Pat O'Brien taking the last of the points in 6th.

That victory salute means McArdle will be a well-marked man come the Club Champs in July, so it will be an exciting night to see if a dark horse can take advantage of his favourite status to steal the title.

Mondello finish (video thanks to Ken O'Neill)

One set of titles that never looked in danger were those of the 10TT Champions last night. With a headwind out and a tailwind back, pacing was key and many of the early starters set a PB - though not Dave Mc and his 68 toothed monster.

Most improved on the night was Ronan Grimes, who knocked a massive 2'25" off his time to score 15th overall with 24'18". Other notables were the weekend's placer Jules DeMeester (1'51"), Niall Kieran (1'15") and Eoin Byrne (1'05"). Freddie Stevens was tackling his first ever 10TT, finishing under the 24' mark to take 11th overall - the highest placed first timer.

In the Limit group, it was the first time on the scoreboard for everyone bar 2nd placed Barry Mooney. Mooney also came 2nd in the R5 10TT when David Bradley took 1st, but this time around it was the turn of Sean Higgins to take the top spot, by a mere 4". Times were tight across the group, with only 2" separating 3rd placed Luke Potter from Fergal Daly in 4th, with 5" back to Roger McMorrow in 5th. Brianne Mulvihill took the final set of points, with an improvement of 45" on her R5 time.

Dave McLoughlin took the top step of the Semi-limit podium with 24'38", 34" ahead of Richard Cattle on the silver step. Times were again tight, with Cattle only 3" ahead of Alan Duggan, who in turn was only 5" ahead of Kilian Doyle. Just 7" back to Eoin Byrne's time of 25'27", with Daragh Boyd taking 6th from James Crisp by fractions of a second. 

That means 2nd to 7th in Semi-limit all finished within 30" of each other, making it a very competitive category.

Always a strong tester, Jamie Busher won out in Semi-scratch over the similarly strong Ed O'Mahony by 8" with a time of 23'36". That pairing were also 8th and 9th overall, holding off many of the Scratch riders as well. David Maher took 3rd for Semi-scratch, and also 3rd on the (imaginary) veteran podium.

Another weekend placer, Stephen Rowan was 4th ahead of Aideen Keenan, who set a new women's record for the course - bringing it down from her own previous time of 25'43" to the new 24'49". That result was also good enough for her to defend her 10TT Champion title.

Freshly upgraded Seán Murnane showed he's able to mix it with his new peers by taking the final points with 24'51", so all Semi-scratch placers went under the 25' mark.

Scratch occupied the top slots as expected, with Dick O'Brien setting a blistering time of 21'31" - a new course record as well as a PB, taking 23" off his previous time to successfully retain his 10TT Champion title. That emphasises just how much the strongman has come back from his crash, notching up 10th overall in Naas last weekend along the way. He'll be a surefire favourite to defend his 25TT title as well.

O'Brien in action at the Naas CC TT in early June (photo thanks to Sean Rowe)

The eternal 2nd to O'Brien, Brian McArdle had to settle for silver again - as in 2014, he won the early 10TT round, but ceded a 30" defciit to O'Brien in the championship test. Valdis Andersons got the result he's been building to all season - with a new PB, he scooped his first ever club medal, a bronze-worthy time of 22'07".

Liam Rowsome continued his consistent form to beat top vet Gavin Dodd by a handful of seconds, with Pat O'Brien taking the final points in 6th just 5" off Dodd. In 10th overall, Ken O'Neill was out of the points, but can take solace in knowing he was 2nd vet.

For the other (actual) podiums, for the first time in 25 years we had enough under 18s for a junior championship!

The gold medal there went to Junior Conor Murnane with 24'13", who dominated the early Scratch races in Corkagh Park. While he's been a little quieter since, still clocks up results with regularity, both in the club and on the open scene. Silver was earned by younger brother and Duane Delaney Memorial winner Séan Murnane (U16) in 24'51", with Junior Eoin Byrne netted bronze in 25'27" - one of those who posted a great improvement on the night.

When one takes into account the fact that the Juniors' gears are restricted, and U16s' more so, it makes these youngsters' times all the more impressive, so chapeau to them! They'll be even more dangerous when their cassettes are expanded!

The women's podium was again topped by Aideen Keenan, who once again rode the fastest time to set a course record of 24'49" for the senior women. Freshwoman Brianne Mulvihill's time of 26'28" owed much to her triathlon background, but her competiveness on the road racing scene this year has added much to her ability. Racing rep Ann Horan has featured in several race finishes this year, and stepping up to bronze from 4th in these champs last year must be a welcome affirmation of form following her recent spill. Horan also leads the women's BAR competition ahead of Naoise Sheridan and Siobhain Duggan.

The men's podium then has a familiar feel, with Dick O'Brien and Brian McArdle on the top steps, but Valdis Andersons moving up from 6th last year to take the bronze. Unsurprisingly, O'Brienis head of the men's BAR competition, ahead of Eric Downey and McArdle.

Well done to all riders, particularly the women, Juniors and youth who signed on in enough numbers to qualify the competitions for championship status, and therefore shiny medals! And thanks to Dave Mc, Jen Sheridan, Eddy Lane and all the marshals for a smoothly-run and safe night!

Full results available at right.


Orwell League R11: Mondello Crit (11/6/2015)

1 Brian McArdle
2 Eric Downey
3 Brian McNally
4 Seán Murnane
5 Conor Murnane
6 Pat O'Brien


Orwell League R12: 10TT Champs (18/6/2015)

Men's Medals
G Dick O'Brien - 21'31"
S Brian McArdle - 22'04"
B Valdis Andersons - 22'07"

Women's Medals
G Aideen Keenan - 24'49"
S Brianne Mulvihll - 26'28"
B Ann Horan - 26'45"

Junior Medals
G Conor Murnane - 24'13"
S Seán Murnane - 24'51"
B Eoin Byrne - 25'27"

1 Sean Higgins
2 Barry Mooney
3 Luke Potter
4 Fergal Daly
5 Roger McMorrow
6 Brianne Mulvihill

1 Dave McLoughlin
2 Richard Cattle
3 Alan Duggan
4 Kilian Doyle
5 Eoin Byrne
6 Daragh Boyd

1 Jamie Busher
2 Ed O'Mahony
3 David Maher
4 Stephen Rowan
5 Aideen Keenan
6 Seán Murnane

1 Dick O'Brien
2 Brian McArdle
3 Valdis Andersons
4 Liam Rowsome
5 Gavin Dodd
6 Patrick O'Brien