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Results and Reports for May 4-10, 2002
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Noel Hammond Memorial
Ballyboughil, May 12, 2002
Healion Leads Usher IRC Clean Sweep In Noel Hammond Memorial
By Shane Stokes
The action got underway on the first of seven laps when a 12 man break raced ahead and opened up a lead of 40 seconds. The dozen were joined by 16 others on the second lap, from which the decisive ten man selection then went clear. Usher IRC had a clear numerical advantage with five of their team present: Colm Bracken, Paul Healion, Greg Swinard, David Byrne and David Peelo all made the group, as did Stephen 0'Sullivan (Naas Fig Roll) Philip Cassidy (Cycleways Lee Strand), Joe Fenlon (Dan Morrisseys), Stuart Gibson (Orwell Wheelers) and Hillcrest Hire's Willie Byrne.
The ten worked well together, opening up a minute's lead over a seven man chasing group with included Eddie O'Donoghue (Cidona Carrick Wheelers) and Paul Griffin (Earl of Desmond), clearly recovering from his recent tendonitis. Gibson and Cassidy lost contact on the penultimate lap, the latter losing his chances of retaining the title he took last year, leaving five Usher riders amongst the eight still up front.
Healion was determined to improve on his second place of 2001 and took advantage of this numerical superiority when he forged clear with five miles remaining in the race. O'Sullivan, Fenlon and Byrne all tried to close the gap but failed; their efforts then paved the way for successful attacks from Bracken and Peelo which completed an impressive Usher IRC one-two-three.
'It was great to get this win today,' said Healion afterwards. 'I was second last year to Phil Cassidy but was determined to be first home this time and that helped a lot. I am starting to come into peak form but felt a bit sluggish today - however, I wanted this win so much that I just dug in and went for it. I got clear with about five miles to go and was dangling out there in front of the chasers, but held on to get the win.'
'This is a good confidence booster before the FBD Milk Rás. My goal is to win a stage during the week - I don't have any particular one in mind, will just do my best each day to try to get up the road.'
Third placed Dave Peelo was also happy. 'It worked out very well for the team today. Paul went clear and got a bit of a gap. For a while it looked like they might take him back, but he held on. With five riders in the final eight, the pressure was on us to get the top placings but with Paul just in front, we had to time our effort just right so as not to endanger his lead. It worked out perfectly, we went clear at the end and didn't get too close to him.'
Less happy was O'Sullivan. The Naas Fig Roll rider proved he is coming back into form after an-illness disrupted 2001 but was disqualified from eighth place due to the fact that he was wearing the jersey of another club, rather than his current team strip.
By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
Between the Usher and Cycleways team the pace never faltered over the next laps with casualties mainly being eliminated on the approach to the KOH.
On the final lap only eight were still in contention with Peelo, Bracken and Healion the driving force. Unfortunately Cassidy who has the distinction of three wins and a second had succumbed and retired.
On the run to the finish it was Paul who showed that despite his work rate that he had sufficient zip in his legs to win the sprint.
It was an achievement of rare distinction having three occupy the top positions and it was all the more satisfying that it was in a Classic event with all the top competitors in action.
If memory serves me right the only outfit that I am aware of that achieved success in a major would be the Mapei Squad a number of years ago.
Whilst the sponsors of the Usher IRC were in jubilant form, spare a thought for Stephen O'Sullivan who finished eight but was subsequently disqualified for wearing illegal apparel.
1 P Healion (Usher IRC) 2.26.00 2 C Bracken (Usher IRC) 0.02 3 D Peelo (Usher IRC) 4 J Fenlon (Dan Morrissey CC) 5 W Byrne (Hillcrest Hire Kilcullen) 6 G Swinard (Usher IRC) 7 D Byrne (Usher IRC) 8 A Donlon (Dublin Wheelers) 1.12 9 E O'Donoghue (Cidona Carrick Wheelers) 1.45 10 C Sweetman (Stamullen M. Donnelly) 11 J Peppard (McNally Swords) 12 T Hughes (Stamullen M. Donnelly)