Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: Guest Post: RECALLING A YOUGHAL ROAD RACE OF TWENTY YEARS AGO - John Walshe

Thursday, July 12, 2018


 Guest post from John Walshe of Ballycotton recounting the Youghal 4 mile and Tour de France of 1998...

(Youghal News, July 11th 2018)

With the annual road race promoted by Youghal Athletic Club taking place this week, it might be an opportune time to look back at a similar event of 20 years ago which was held in conjunction with probably the biggest sporting occasion to hit the seaside town, writes John Walshe

Anyone in their mid-twenties and upwards can no doubt recall the summer of 1998 when the Tour de France came to these shores. The excitement and hype hasn’t been experienced since but will hopefully be replicated on a similar scale next June with the staging of IRONMAN Ireland, Cork, in the town.

For months beforehand the arrival of the greatest bike race on earth was eagerly awaited, but it didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts. Willy Voet, a soigneur in the French Festina team, was stopped by French customs agents as he tried to cross the French-Belgian border and in his Festina team car the agents found large quantities of syringes and controlled substances including narcotics, EPO, growth hormones, testosterone and amphetamines

The full impact of the drugs scandal which would later discredit that Tour (only 86 riders of the 189 would make it to the finish in Paris) hadn’t yet impacted on the general public when the race set out from Enniscorthy to Cork on the third stage on the Monday morning of July 14th. However, just as the mass of cyclists reached the outskirts of Youghal, tragedy struck the man in the Yellow Jersey, Chris Boardman, who crashed heavily into a wall and had to be airlifted to hospital.

Boardman had won the prologue the previous Saturday and was one of the favoured sprinters in the race, having won an individual pursuit gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games. So, if you ever need a trick question for a table quiz or the like, you could always ask the participants to ‘name the Olympic champion who hit the wall in Youghal!’

Both Youghal and Midleton towns had built festivals around the Tour and on the previous Thursday evening Youghal AC played its part with the promotion of a four-mile race. Held on the same circuit that will be used for two laps on Thursday night, on that occasion it consisted of three times around the town plus four hundred metres.

As can be seen from the attached results (below), numbers taking part compared to the present day were comparatively small, with just 72 runners plus the man in the wheelchair, Jerry Forde, who will no doubt be there again on this occasion. The winner was Roy Fahy of Leevale in a time of 20:10, just three seconds ahead of his clubmate Jason Foulkes. Fahy later joined the East Cork club in whose colours he would go on to win the Cork City Marathon a decade later. 

Eric Meade (East Cork) finished third in 21:23 ahead of James Murphy of Grange-Fermoy (21:41) with local Youghal man John Malone fifth in 21:51. It was another local runner, the legendary Mary Sweeney, who won a closely fought women’s race, her time of 24 minutes flat giving her six seconds to spare over Catherine Hennessy from New Ross with Joan Hough (St Finbarr’s) third in 24:20.

An interesting finisher in 47th place in a time of 27:16 was one Robert Heffernan. Then aged 20, the Togher athlete’s international walking career would begin in earnest the following year when he finished 13th at the European U23 20km in Sweden.

Of those 72 finishers, at least a dozen will probably toe the line again on Thursday evening. However, as they say, a lot of water has passed under Youghal Bridge in the past two decades and sadly for some their times for the 5km will probably be a lot slower than what they ran for four miles on that July evening back in 1998.    

Results below...


John Holland said...

Thanks for the memories....sadly, at least one has passed away...11th place finisher, Dan Byrne, Marlow AC

Anonymous said...

great to see old results, think i ran that race in 1992 or 93.Love to see those results if anybody has them?