Saturday 17 March 2018

Wee County will be pretty in pink for Giro 'Big Start'

PINK will be the colour of the day as the Giro d'Italia makes it first ever visit to Ireland and the Wee County next weekend.

The second biggest cycling race in the world kicks off in Belfast and Antrim, but it's our turn on Sunday as the 190km second stage takes the riders from Armagh through Dundalk, Castlebellingham, Dunleer, Monasterboice and Drogheda en-route to the capital.

The race will enter the county from Keady and Forkhill, coming down the Carrickasticken Road through Kilcurry and turning at the Lisdoo for an intermediate sprint at Dundalk's famous Green Church in Church St. The riders will have picked up some serious pace on their descent into the town so the dash for the coveted Red Jersey points promises to be an exciting occasion.

The rest of the route basically follows that of the old Dublin Road and will give Louth's sporting fans the opportunity to come out and cheer on 200 of the world's top riders. The tour comes into Drogheda down Tullyesker, entering the North Road and George's Street, crossing the Bridge of Peace before leaving the town out the Dublin Road.

The Giro attracts a worldwide TV audience in the hundreds of millions and is one of cycling's 'Big 3' which also includes the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain.

Although the sport has been dogged by scandal and controversy in recent years, it is nonetheless a huge coup for the authorities on both sides of the border to have landed the 'Grand Partenza' ahead of strong international competition. Darach McQuaid, a brother of the former International Cycling Union president Pat, has been credited with most of the plaudits for bringing the race to Ireland.

The McQuaid family have been synonymous with cycling in Ireland since the 40s and 50s and indeed Pat was credited with bringing the ill-fated 1998 Tour de France to Ireland which was marred by several doping scandals.

Recent years have seen a bit of resurgence in the sport in Ireland and perhaps it may develop further on the back of the Giro start. Ireland are not without hope in the race as we have three home riders in the field. Dan Martin has a realistic, if outside, chance of success while his cousin Nicholas Roche and Letterkenny's Philip Deignan will be targeting stage wins. It would be great boost for the local support if any of the three could leave their mark on the race over the Irish leg.

Bronx beating

The 2014 football championship season got under way in the sunny surrounds of the Bronx last weekend with an emphatic 22 point win for Mayo over the exiles. It is questionable whether this annual Connacht championship fixture is of benefit to either participants.

London are a perfect example of a team who have improved with more matches in the Qualifiers but the long term future of New York's participation has to be questioned. The one-ff nature of this fixture and lack of competitive opposition for meaningful preparation means they are extremely ill-equipped to tackle teams like Mayo.

Bowed out

Louth minors bowed out of the Leinster championship with a four point defeat to Longford last Thursday evening in Drogheda. This was a much improved performance from the last day and but for the width of the post and some fine saves from the Longford keeper Louth could have progressed.


Dundalk powered their way back to the top of the table with a 4-0 over title rivals and previously unbeaten Cork City in Oriel Park last Friday and followed it up with a 3-0 win over Bray on Monday night in the quarter finals of the EA Sports Cup. Stephen Kenny will be hoping for a similar performance in Tallaght Stadium on Monday evening when they take on Sligo Rovers in the Setanta Cup final. As a result Dundalk's league tie with neighbours Drogheda which was due to played this weekend has been postponed.

Comeback king

I kept an eye on the World Snooker Championship final between Mark Selby and Ronnie O'Sullivan over the Bank Holiday weekend. Five time champion O'Sullivan raced into a 10-5 lead early on Sunday only for Selby to win 13 of the final 17 frames to claim his first world title. It wasn't close to Denis Taylor's epic comeback against Steve Davis but it was probably the best final since that 1985 decider.

Last word

And finally, we give the last word to Liverpool and their crazy 'Roy of the Rovers' season. Brendan Rodgers side were three up at Crystal Palace with 11 minutes remaining only for Palace to score three times amid scenes of sheer bedlam in the Liverpool defence, which probably ended their title chances.

The Reds have conceded seven goals in their last three games dropping five crucial points. It may be some time before Liverpool get themselves into a similar position at this time of the season.

The players looked devastated at the final whistle in Selhurst Park on Monday evening but Luis Suarez in particular was inconsolable. But there's still another week to go. Don't rule anything out – it's been that kind of season!

The Argus