Big Rás boost for the Kingdom

450 bednights for North Kerry as top international riders hit the Kingdom with Rás Tailteann 2018

Dónal Nolan

North Kerry is set for a significant boost with the arrival of the Rás Tailteann to the county next week - an event representing 450 bednights for Tralee, Listowel and Ballybunion.

Stage three of the race finishes in Listowel on Tuesday, May 22, with the first riders expected in at around 2pm having set out from Tipperary.

It's a big occasion for a town with a strong cycling heritage on what is its eighth occasion to host a stage finish since the first back in 1976. There's additional excitement in Listowel given home talent Eugene Moriarty's participation in a record-setting turn for the county - as 2018 will mark the Listowel man's 21st Rás. It's seen as a remarkable achievement in competition at such a high level.

Eugene competes with Tralee Manor West alongside teammates Cathal Moynihan, Cormac Daly, Lee Masters and Paul Kennedy; one of two Kerry teams contesting the race. The other Kerry team is Killarney - comprised of riders Marcus Tracy, Richard Maes, Conor Kissane, John Brosnan and Patrick Clifford. They will be part of a field of more than 180 riders, with pro teams from Britain, Denmark, Austria, Germany and the USA taking part.

The Kerry-bound action begins in Tipp town on Tuesday morning with the field travelling a 140km route via Limerick, Foynes, Glin, Tarbert, Ballylongford, Asdee, Ballybunion and Lisselton to finish in Listowel's Market Street between 2 and 2.30pm.

Wednesday's stage begins in the Square in Listowel with the Rás setting out for a Glengarriff finish, travelling via Moll's Gap and Kenmare and over the Healy Pass in a stunning route taking the action through South Kerry in style.

Listowel is meanwhile pulling out all the stops for a famous North Kerry welcome with organisers encouraging shops and homeowners to decorate their fronts with cycling memorabilia.

"Traders in Listowel are encouraged to put some cycling memorabilia on their shop windows from now up until the Rás leaves town on the following morning," one of the main organisers in Listowel and Eugene's father, Tadhg Moriarty told The Kerryman.

Listowel Cycling Club are also now urging the public to be mindful of the big event when parking in town on stage day.

"The public, traders and residents along the route to the finish are asked to co-operate with the club with the parking restrictions which will be in place from 8am to 4pm on the day," Tadhg said. Stewards will be on hand to help ensure a smooth running - under stage-end director Conor Moriarty and Club Chairman Jimmy Healy.

Expectations among Rás riders and officials are high. Listowel's previous hosting proved hugely-successful with the town making all feel deeply welcome. Charged with finding everyone a shelter for the night is former Councillor Maria Gorman; who has acted as accommodation officer for the event every single year Listowel hosted a stage since 1976.

And for the cycling uninitiated - make no mistake, this is a big sporting event. One of the last men to win a stage in Listowel, Sam Bennett, just this week won the seventh stage in the world famous Giro d'Italia.