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By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent/Evening Herald/Sunday Independent
Yet again, the sprinting skills were very much in evidence at the end of the Carraig Challenge with Eddie O'Donoghue leading the pack home after a very testing 60 miles held in atrocious conditions yesterday in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary.
Admittedly, Eddie had to be at his best as he reversed last week's placings when Philip Cassidy was the winner. For O'Donoghue who was on his home patch of Carrick this win was all the sweeter.
The large entry had to contend with buffeting winds on the outward journey, but inwardly they had a tail wind which gave them some respite but not from the incessant rain which obviously was a feature all over the country on Paddy's day.
For three of the five laps, originally scheduled for six, the main group stayed together. With two laps remaining a group of six moved ahead and for the remainder of the race they held the chasers at bay. Into the headwind they moved ever so well because they shared the pace but once past Piltown and heading back into the Carrick the chasers were much more active.
Up front, Phillip Cassidy had to contend with thee members of the promoting club, Cidona Carrick (O'Donoghue, Timmy Barry and John O'Shea) and the newly formed club which was launched in a blaze of publicity in early February, Earl of Desmond/Tralee Bicycle Club (Thomas Hogan and Kieron McMahon). Still on balance Cassidy's efforts were always going to be challenged because of the numerical order of the Carrick lads plus they were on their home patch which ultimately went in their favour.
In the end it came to a sprint between the break with O'Donoghue keeping the trophy for yet another year in the town.
"Dropping one lap off the scheduled six did not upset the continuity of the event. It was sheer hell out there for the competitors and I also had to think of the officials who were drowned to the skin, including myself. I'm off home now to change for the presentation in the Carraig Hotel who kindly sponsored the event today," said Paul Lonergan organiser of the event.
One onlooker in the finishing area was heard to remark; "the conditions were similar to wins that the great man carved out in his illustrious career." Another one pepped up and said, "who are you talking about?" "Sean Kelly of course, he would have revelled in those conditions."
The great one is never off the lips of the townspeople of Carrick-on-Suir. Long may it continue?
1 E. O'Donoghue (Carrick Cidona) 2 P. Cassidy (Cycleways) 3 T. Hogan (Earl of Desmond/Tralee Bicycle Club) 4 J. O'Shea (Carrick Cidona) 5 T. Barry (Carrick Cidona) 6 K. McMahon (Earl of Desmond/Tralee Bicycle Club)