Kelly in race against clock to keep team on the road
Seán Kelly is in a race against time to keep his cycling team on the road for 2018. The Carrick-on-Suir man has 10 days to secure a main sponsor for his An Post-Chain Reaction team in order to keep them afloat for next year.
Negotiations are currently ongoing with two potential sponsors - one Irish, one international - but after a number of setbacks in the hunt already this year, Kelly knows nothing is guaranteed until a contract is signed.
"For a main sponsor it's the most difficult one we've had since An Post has been with us," he told the Irish Independent. "We'd a great relationship with An Post, they were great sponsors, so we had comfort there. But this is the most difficult one because the main sponsor is always the biggest one and most difficult one to get on board. It's proving more difficult than planned.
"But there's two of them (sponsors) interested at the moment and I'm hoping that we'll get to work out something in the next week, or next 10 days. That's sort of the deadline, because we have to submit our application with Cycling Ireland and the UCI for the licence for next year, so that has to be done and then the riders' (deals) - so that's really put the pressure on."
With An Post's intentions to end their 10-year association with the team made clear last May, Kelly has been on the hunt for a new sponsor for several months, but his search has met a series of dead ends to date. It's left him somewhat pessimistic about his chances.
"I am a bit more (pessimistic) because over the last couple of months there were some sponsors I was negotiating with and it looked like they were going to go for it, it looked promising but in the end they didn't go for it. But I'm still hopeful. It's always difficult and until you get them to sign a contract well then you're never there," he explained.
An Post have a reputation for developing young talent, such as Sam Bennett and Ryan Mullen, and Kelly believes the absence of an Irish continental team would be a significant blow to the progress of young Irish riders.
"There's some very good Irish juniors coming up and it seems to be the best crop to come along in a long time. We haven't had that in the past, we'd like to give them the opportunity like we've done with Bennett and Mullen and all those riders who've gone on to World Tour and Pro Continental level - it would be a pity not to be able to provide that for the Irish riders that are coming up at the moment.
"If we don't continue there's going to be that gap there for them, it's going to be much more difficult to develop."