Sean Kelly – The big big movie !

MGM have recently released a film based on the life of Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree . Whilst Obree’s story is good what would a big budget film about Kelly be like ? It might be something like this ;

Jack Kelly ( played by Gabriel Byrne ) wanders out into a field on a bleak Autumn morning . He approaches his youngest son Vincent ( played by that young fella from fair city who was junior national champion a few years ago ) who is working in the field and says ‘ Where’s Sean , he’s supposed to be out topping mangles and I can’t find him anywhere .’

‘He’s gone off on the bicycle with Joe again ‘

‘That feckin bicycle , sure pedalling a bicycle around Carrick won’t put bread on the table for him , he’d want to catch himself on ‘

Jack then turns and walks back towards the house accompanied by a black and white sheepdog with the sound of crows cawing in the wind echoing in the distance .

The next scene shows Kelly (played by Cillian Murphy) riding along a narrow road beside his coach and training partner , Tony Ryan ( played by Aidan Quinn )

The coach is telling his young protege about the nuances of bike racing and says ;

‘ You have great power and fantastic stamina Sean but you just need to be a bit cute when you’re racing against the sharks from Cork and Dublin . They have more experience , but you have already proven your worth with your two Junior titles . But now you’re in with the big boys so strength alone won’t win you races .’

The young Kelly is listening intently but not saying much . The coach then see’s an Austin 1100 up ahead and tells his young protege to sprint up to it . The car is travelling at about thirty miles per hour with a farmer and his wife heading into town for the mart . They are discussing the price they hope to get for the five sheep in the back of the car when they are startled by the sight of a man on a bicycle flashing past them .

‘What was that Tommy?’ the wife asks

‘It looks like a lad on a bicycle Mary , but it must be some new sort of Motor cycle the speed he’s going .’

‘Well he’d want to take it handy and slow down a bit Tommy , or he’ll end up in a ditch full a briars ‘

‘He would Mary ‘

The next scene shows a group of young lads gathered around a blue Hillman Hunter belonging to Carrick Wheelers chairman Dan Grant ( played by Colm Meany ) . He is milling around the car saying :

‘ Come on lads , get the bags in the boot and the bikes on the roof . Come on lads we should have been gone half an hour ago . Come on lads !’

The car is loaded and just as they are about to pull away Dan’s only daughter Linda (played by Sharon ni Bheolain ) stands in the door and makes eye contact with Kelly who is sitting next to the window in the rear of the car . Kelly gives her a small wave as the car pulls away and she returns a smile .

Next , the start line of The Shay Elliott memorial  race in bray . Over the PA system the announcer is regaling the great history of the race and the fact that it is the most difficult one day race on the Irish calendar . He calls out the names of five or six of the main contenders and in turn they each wave to the small crowd , all except the young Kelly who just keeps his eyes focused upon his front wheel .

The race develops at a dramatic pace going over tough climbs like The old Wicklow gap and Glenmalure . Kelly makes the final selection and in a dramatic uphill sprint from a small group of six riders he wins comfortably . After the race National team director John Lackey (played by Brendan Gleeson) approaches him and asks if he wants to go to the Tour of Britain on the Irish team . Kelly shrugs his shoulders and says ‘ sure I might as well , ’tis better than milking cows ‘.

The morning of the Sheffield stage of the Tour of Britain and team manager Jim McQuaid (played by Pierce Brosnan ) tells his riders that he will give twenty pounds to whoever can win a stage . Kelly looks up slowly , a steely look in his eye .

The stage develops and a group of three get away with twenty miles to go and Kelly is one of the three . The others are the Polish national champion and the Olympic champion , Swede Bernt Johansson . Manager McQuaid pulls up alongside Kelly in the car and says ‘ sit there Sean and don’t do a tap , these are the big guns and use them as much as you can ‘ . Kelly nod’s his understanding .

The sprint into Norfolk park in Sheffield is slightly uphill which suits Kelly perfectly and he darts past the other two in the final fifty metres to take one of the biggest victories for Irish cycling in a number of years .

After the stage a number of journalists have gathered around Kelly when a furious Johansson comes over and grabs Kelly by the jersey . He screams ‘ Yoouu shooood noot have sprinteed ‘

Kelly doesn’t flinch , looks the Swede directly in the eye and says ‘ Fuck off !’ The Swede senses Kellys lack of fear and lets go and walks away . Kelly turns back to answer more questions from the journalists as if nothing had happened .

That evening at the B&B McQuaid and Kelly are in a room recounting the days events when Kelly says ‘ Do you know what Jim , all the way up that finishing straight I was thinking about the twenty quid , there was no way those fuckers were going to stop me getting my hands on that ‘

This result moved Kelly up into third overall but on the final day he runs into mechanical problems , punctures and looses five minutes , thus dropping to twenty fifth overall . That evening cycling journalist Phil Liggett (played by himself) met Kelly and sympathised with what he feels will be a very disappointed young man . However Kelly says ‘ a stage win , third overall for a while , we made a few quid , I’m going home happy ‘

Here too , Kelly is approached by another English talent spotter with contacts in VC Metz in Belgium and asked if he wants to go over there for a few months . Kelly contemplates for a few moments and replies ‘ sure I might aswell’

The next few shots show Kelly winning a number of big amateur races throughout Belgium with the race organisers nodding their approval .

Then in a smoke filled bar in the Ardennes region a distinguished French manager from Besancon called Jean DeGribaldy ( played by Anthony Hopkins ) sits down with a former team mate from his own racing days . The team mate says ‘ There is this Irishman called Kelly who has the suppless , he is something special , he rides like a Belgian . Wind , rain ,cobbles  they mean nothing to him . He fears nobody . He says little but when he does speak it is well thought through . He would be a good rider for your team , no ?’

DeGibaldy sits back and takes a long puff of a gitane cigarette before saying ‘ my friend , you have never spoken so highly of an amateur in all our years of knowing each other . On your recommendation I will seek out this rare talent and give him a try, If he is as good as you say perhaps we will have a new Freddy Martaens on our hands ‘

One week later , on a crisp December morning a private plane touches down in Dublin Airport . Three people disembark, DeGribaldy , Noel Converset (Johnny Depp)- an amateur who had raced with Kelly and was there to identify him , and Bernard Dagot (Martin Sheen) – who spoke fluent english and was also Air traffic controller at Dole Airport .

They leave the terminal and approach a taxi driver (played by Colin Farrell) and begin negotiating a price to Carrick on suir . The taxi driver is bargained down but agrees to the fare sensing a break from the normal humdrum into the city centre .

The car arrives into Carrick and stops in the main street to ask directions to the Kelly homestead . They see a man with a blackthorn stick smoking a pipe and pull over .

The local man (Pat Shortt) stops to consider before giving his directions and answers with a question ‘ is it the kellys a curraghduff , that ye’re looking for ?’

Dagot replies ‘ it is Sean kelly , dee cyclist that we require ‘

The local says ‘sure I know who ye’re on about now . Tis the Kellys a curraghduff . Go on up the street here and turn left at the top . Then straight on over the old bridge , straight on up the hill apast the church. Then straight on again be Jimmy Walls pub and follow the road where it curls around left . Keep on out that road ’til the Comeraghs rear up in front of ye and turn left down a narrow boreen . An thats the Kellys .’

The taxi eventually pulls up outside the house to be greeted by Jack Kelly who tells them that Sean is gone out to Mahon bridge to collect a tractor for Martin and sure if they head out that way they’ll meet him on the road .

The taxi departs with the driver remarking ‘ Jaysus , I’ll need an extra twenty quid for all of this stopping and going on these bumpy oul roads’

A few miles on the Dugarvan side of Carrick the taxi comes upon a Ford 4000 and stops up alongside . Converset , who has been brought along to identify Kelly says that this is not him . A glint in Kellys eye says that he recognises the Frenchman immediately . Dagot asks ‘ Are you Sean Kelly?’

Kelly replies ‘ I am’

Dagot proceeds to introduce DeGribaldy and explains the reasons for their trip .

The foursome along with the taxi driver who is now complaining that he will need extra payment for all of the extra cigarettes he has to smoke coz its’taking so long , head to Martin’s bungalow beside the home farm and discuss the matter .

They sit around the kitchen table and DeGribaldy says ‘ I will give you 40,000 francs per year for the first year and see how you go from there ‘

Kelly replies after a few moments pondering ‘ I won’t give you an answer today . Thanks for your offer but if you leave me your number I’ll call you in seven days and we’ll see then’

De Gribaldy is stunned and says ‘ Most young amateurs would happily ride for free to be on my team but you want to think about it even though I am offering you a fair contract’

Kelly says ‘ Yes’

Degribaldy stands up and grabs a sheet of paper and takes a Mont Blanc pen from the inside pocket of his crombie overcoat . He writes down a twelve digit telephone number and hands it to Kelly before saying ‘ One week , my offer expires after one week , now we shall leave’

The three french men take their places along side the Dublin taxi driver who is trying to scrape some muck from the side of his shoes and the car pulls back out onto the road and heads off in the direction of Carrick bound for Dublin. In the back of the taxi DeGribaldy remarks to Dagot quietly ‘ That Kelly , he has something . Most amateurs would sign immediately , Conversant there in the front seat would ride for free . But Kelly he is aware that he is not ordinary and will not sell himself short . It took balls to defer my offer . Now I want to sign him even more’.

The taxi pulls up outside Dublin airport four hours later and DeGribaldy hands the driver the twenty pounds they had agreed upon earlier .

The driver looks hurt and says’ Aww Jaysus bud , sure amint I out there in the country all bleedin day , gettin muck all over me car . Surely youse could give me an extra tenner for me troubles ‘

DeGribaldy curtly says ‘Non’ . and off they go .

The next few shots show excerpts from phone-calls where Kelly is asking Jim McQuaid , John Lackey and others what he should do . Then he is seen sitting at a table with Dan Grant and Tony Ryan .

Kelly says ‘ I have a choice . Work for Hallys builders in Clonmel laying blocks or give the bike a try and see what happens .’

Dan Says ‘ Go on Sean , you have to do it . There is a fortune to be made over there on the continent . You could be famous . The world is your oyster’

Tony says ‘ Well Sean , you have the talent to make a go of it . It won’t be easy but it is something that you should try to see just how far you can go . I think you should give it a try’

Seven days after the visit Kelly picks up the phone in Martin’s house and dials a twelve digit number . The voice on the other end says ‘ Bonjour’

Kelly says ‘ Sean Kelly here , I’m  looking for Mister DeGribaldy .’

The reply ‘ Wait please ‘

DeGribaldy comes on the line and asks ‘ So have you made your decision ?’

Kelly ‘ I will not be able to sign for what you are offering ,but if you were to make it 60000 francs I would ‘

DeGribaldy  ‘ How do I know that you’re worth that much . After all you are still only an amateur . You do not have the results to justify such a salary ‘

Kelly ‘ You flew to Ireland to see me. You know what I’m worth’

DeGribaldy ‘ Alright , I hope you are as tough on the bike as you are in negotiations ‘

Kelly ‘ Let me know the details and when you want me to come over to France ‘

DeGribaldy ‘ I’ll forward those on next week . Bonjour’

Kelly’ Goodbye’

And now Kelly is a Pro . The rest as they say is history!



9 thoughts on “Sean Kelly – The big big movie !

  • February 6, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks for this. Jean de Gribaldy was my uncle. Good screenplay for sure. What is true, it’s that Jean came to Ireland by private plane, and that Sean still remember seeing a small unassuming man gettin out of a taxi in his home in Ireland…

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  • March 17, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Tony Ryan plays a blinder again- like the day he outsprinted Fran Riordan to win the Harding GP in 1984.That story brought back many happy memories of my time spent with the Carrick Wheelers RC during the 1980’s. Lock up the shop and start on Part 2.
    Slan Ciaran.

  • July 30, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    In 1984 John Mc Cormack now a qualified accountant was getting across to the break in An Ras Tailteann, a break that was to decide the first 8 overall, just onto the last man, Dennis from Cork who used to race in nike runners sits up and forces John to go round him, John inadvertedly hits a hidden rock and that was that. Time to go back to college.

  • May 19, 2010 at 9:34 am

    OK, ad break, back for part 2 soon.
    Great work so far Barry. Presume we will see you featuring later in the story?

  • June 7, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    Excellent Barry, you should direct it !!!!

    • June 8, 2014 at 9:23 pm

      Sure I’d give anything a try Damien 🙂

  • June 7, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    Whats the point in watching the film now Barry? I new it was good when I looked down and my legs were turning in circles.

    • June 8, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      Hope they were still turning in circles and not squares this morning Peter 🙂

  • June 8, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Squares again Barry. Chasing the uncatchable is all part of it 🙂


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