Orwell Youths One Day race in Corkagh Park

We were promised a heatwave, but the 70 or so children who descended on Corkagh Park on Saturday 7 May were treated instead to cold and damp: the rain held off, so we should be grateful for small mercies! An impressive array of vans arrived from places as far afield as Kerry to Antrim, Donegal to Wexford, and almost every county in between, and included many of the leading underage racers in the country.

The U10 line up (photograph with thanks to Ivan O'Brien)

Once the initial time trials (1.5 laps of the track) got underway it was clear that it was going to be a fascinating day’s racing, with each age category really tight, particularly in the large (26 riders) under 14 group, where the vast majority of the field were within 15 seconds of each other. The winners were Under 10: Luca Holmes (Orwell), Under 12: Andrew Kelly (Moynalty), Under 14: Eoghan Cook (SERC) & Darren Foy (Covey), Under 16: Shay Donley (Ballymoney). So we couldn't separate the winners in Under 14 and the rest all won by a single second!

The Scratch Race was next. The Corkagh Park track has a way of ripping the legs off you, and there was some fantastic racing to watch. The Under 10 race was over 2 laps: Killian O’Brien (Orwell) broke clear early and led through to the finish, with the challenge of Tom Kinsella (Carrick) fading on the finishing strait. The Under 12s had a 15 minute race, with Shea O’Kane (Phoenix) emerging a clear winner, followed by a big bunch sprint. In the Under 14 race, an impressive win by Ryan Geraghty (Bike Worx) was followed by a tight sprint for second place. In the Under 16 race, a solo breakaway by Shane Higgins (Black Rose) at the halfway point grew to a win by over a minute in this 35 minute race, as the chasers gave up and fought for the minor placings.

The third stage and final stage was an elimination race. In Under 10s, Killian O’Brien and Luca Holmes (Orwell) worked over Tom Kinsella (Carrick) to secure a 1-2 for the home team, and overall victory for O’Brien. In Under 12, Andrew Kelly (Moynalty) added a second stage to his TT victory, and won the overall. The size of the Under 14 field meant two eliminations per lap, and the field rapidly whittled down: Orwell’s Tadhg Fitzsimons and Andrew Ryan did well to survive several close calls before succumbing to the pressure. Callum Owens (Bohermeen) gave an exhibition in riding the right line around the final corner, powering his way to survive several close calls to contest the final sprint with Odhran Doogan (Errigal), who emerged a worthy winner. Ryan Geraghty (Bike Worx) won the overall following countback against Eoghan Cook (SERC).

The Under 16 elimination was fascinating, with the width of a rim between those knocked out and the survivors nearly every time round. Shane Higgins paid for his work in the scratch race and was knocked out early, while Shay Donnelly (Balllymoney) added a first to his two second places for overall victory.

All in all a hugely successful event: given the weather, the groups who travelled from Donegal, Galway, Tipperary and elsewhere had a great experience. The format was really well-received, as was the plentiful hot chocolate!

Huge thanks are due to everyone who organised and ran the day, particularly Stephen Ryan, Dave Mc, Jen and Naoise Sheridan. Now, about next year’s event…

The Orwell Youths (photograph with thanks to Ivan O'Brien)