Home town Heros !

When a young person looks at their sporting heros in action there are two thoughts very often going through their minds  . One – They want to be the hero . They want to feel the experience of crowds cheering them on , all shouting their name . All willing them on to succeed . They unintentionally want to feel the surge of emotion that very few regular people ever get the chance to experience . They want to feel the hairs on the back of their necks rise as the screams of sports fans drive them  on . Two – They want friends , family and people who know them to see them and share the moment with them .

Only the very few ever get to experience such a high at any moment in their lives , but on a warm September afternoon in 1986 , in the country town of Clonmel in County Tipperary , two young brothers got to experience the moment of a lifetime .

Anthony and Dick O’Gorman were two of the best cyclists in the country at a time when Irish cycling was at the top of the World . Kelly and Roche were amassing so many UCI points that amateur races everywhere wanted Irish teams on their start lines . The two Clonmel brothers were regulars on the teams that went to the best races , and gave some of the best performances .

Working side by side in the family bakery , starting at 5.30 am each morning , both taking a half day on Wednesdays to get a big spin in , hard work on and off the bike was never a problem . Saturday too was a workday , and often a morning spent baking bread and cakes was followed by a 2 or 3 hour drive to the start line of a weekend stage race where the brothers often decimated the opposition , many of whom were full time bike riders .

The Nissan Classic began in 1985 and gave the nation a showcase for their very own world number one cyclist Sean Kelly along with the future Tour winner Stephen Roche . Cycling was huge and Anthony was on the Irish National team and got to ride on the day that Kelly broke all records on the famous time trial from Carrick to Clonmel .That afternoon Anthony was at the front of the bunch as it departed his home town .

One year later , almost to the day , the Nissan Classic was back in Clonmel but this time with a full stage finish after traveling from Cork , including two laps of the Ragwell , a savage climb fit to rival St Patricks hill in Cork , on the outskirts of the town . Thousands of people lined every inch of O’Connell street in Clonmel as the whole town along with most of its hinterland came to a complete halt as everyone piled in to see the huge sporting occasion . This time both Anthony and Dick were selected on the Irish team and approaching their home town they went on the attack together . Behind them the likes of Phil Anderson , Eric Vanderarden and Adri Van der Poel not to mention the great Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche were all left in the Clonmel brothers’ wake .

The announcer was giving the huge crowd which was up to 10 deep all the way along  the main street plenty of updates as the race approached  via a plethora of loudspeakers which ran the full length of the street . The excitement was building and even an hour before the race entered the town a mention of Kelly was greeted with a loud roar from the crowd . When the announcement came that they were passing through Kilsheelan , five miles out a relaxed looking middle aged farmer from Clogheen in a well worn sports jacket with tweed looking trousers tucked into a pair of green wellies was shouting at the top of his voice ‘ Come on Kelly , come on Sean , your one of our own , go on boy !’ His enthusiasm was being echoed throughout the crowd but when the announcement came that the two local boys , Anthony and Dick O’Gorman were leading the race and would be the first two riders to cross the finish line on the first lap , a finish line just meters from the front door of their family bakery , the whole Town seemed to rise off the ground , so loud and thunderous was the roar of approval .

Aluminium barriers groaned as everyone tried to catch a glimpse of the two local boys passing their home and family and friends . A jumbo jet taking off would have gone unheard as it would have been drowned out by the encouragement of the local population urging on two of their own . It felt like the whole world was focused for one moment in time on the return home of two warrior brothers on steel horses . The moment lasted about twenty seconds as they raced along the length of the main street and just as it was beginning to subside along came the bunch which had a yellow clad Sean Kelly near the front and the crowd erupted once again .

The bravery of the O’Gormans was overcome by the ferocity of the worlds top professionals on the savage climb of the Ragwell and Kelly went on to show his true grit by finishing fourth on the stage with blood streaming down his face after a dramatic high speed crash on a very narrow chicane bridge , whilst chasing the eventual stage winner Phil Anderson .

The day , however belonged to three men . The greatest cyclist of his time Sean Kelly , and the two O’Gorman brothers from Clonmel .

This is a picture of Anthony and Dick passing O’Gormans bakery on O’Connell street in Clonmel on that fateful day ;



9 thoughts on “Home town Heros !

  • January 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Great post Barry !!! Remember that day like it was only yesterday, great time for cycling in Ireland !!! Am I correct in saying that Anthony finished in the top 20 on G C that year ???

    • January 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm

      You are indeed correct Darren . Anthony finished 19th overall one place ahead of Eric Vanderarden !

      • January 29, 2011 at 10:50 pm

        Hi Barry,
        Bet you didn’t know the other major coup of that week-end by Seamus Downey who managed to get himself and a busload of his friends in Banbridge C.C. to stay overnight at the bakery. I think in all we had about 25/30 staying. I was stewarding up around Knocklucas and he mentioned that Dick and Anthony before they left for the Nissan told him it would be okay if himself and a few of his friends stayed at the Bakery while they were away!!!!!

  • January 30, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    The lads were probably thinking that it would be handy to have a few extra bodies around to help out in the Bakery while they were away Mary 😉

  • August 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Thats a great blog Bar

  • August 2, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Halcyon days………….. Great piece Barry, Its days like that, that got us hooked. Remember that day like it was yesterday. Some buachaills.

  • Pingback: The Nissan Classic - Through the eyes of a teenager - The Cycling Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *