Friday 22 November 2019

Who just missed out?

Fergus Slattery during the 1974 Lions Tour
Fergus Slattery during the 1974 Lions Tour
Shay O'Hanlon

Shay O'Hanlon is widely regarded as one of Ireland's greatest amateur cyclists. He is best remembered for his four Ras Tailteann wins in 1962, 65, 66, 67. In his book on the history of the race, Tom Daly estimates that O'Hanlon spent about six months of his life riding this race.

Having travelled with the race selling programmes and so on in 1958, he entered it the following year still a month short of his 18th birthday. His first Ras title in 1962 was achieved by exerting utter dominance over the field, taking the yellow jersey on the second day and never relinquished it, winning by over 19 minutes.

In 1965, on the first stage from Dublin to Monaghan, he moved ahead and crossed the line first to take the yellow jersey on the opening day. It was the beginning of a remarkable spell as O'Hanlon retained the yellow jersey for the entire race, and for the entire race in 1966 and again in 1967. This remains, according to Daly, "his most outstanding achievement".

Fergus Slattery was quite simply a brilliant openside forward who had an outstanding 15-year career for Ireland between 1970 and 1984. He was capped 61 times, no mean feat when international games were less plentiful than they are now, and was Ireland captain on 17 occasions. At the time he was the world's most capped flanker.

He also went on two Lions tours, in 1971 and in 1974, and on the latter, played in all four tests on the great Lions team which went unbeaten in South Africa.

Sunday Independent

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