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Club Spotlight - Cork BMX Club

Club Spotlight - Cork BMX Club

BMX, or bicycle motocross, is an increasingly popular sport in Ireland right now. Pioneering a new wave of BMX enthusiasts is Cork BMX Club. Since 2015 the Munster club have been recruiting a younger generation to take up the sport. With one of few BMX tracks in the country, the club has managed to revive the BMX following here in Ireland. We spoke with club PRO Barry O’Keefe about the power social media had in recruiting members and how far the club has grown since opening to the public nearly three years ago.

Speaking briefly about his own involvement in the sport O’Keefe said ‘I was drawn to BMX Racing in the early 80s, a time when the sport was quite new and had a high profile. I was 10 years old before I was brought to an actual BMX Track, which was at Vernon Mount in Cork. I had already been building ramps and jumping my bike prior to that.’. BMX wasn’t always as popular as it is now, as O’Keefe remarks ‘The popularity of BMX Racing declined around 1988’.

He describes BMX as ‘an extreme sport. It is a highly skilled Bicycle Race, involving 8 Riders over a distance of approx. 350m, in which riders must negotiate challenging obstacles such as jumps and berms.’ Unlike other cycling races, O’Keefe explains why ‘Protective clothing must be worn due to the high speeds, the big jumps and the frequent crashes that occur.’ He goes on to detail the skillset required to complete a lap of the track, which include ‘Powerful sprinting, controlled manualing, jumping, cornering, pumping and competing in a tight space.’


Members at Cork BMX are trained in these skills from day one, ‘Our youth members are repeating these skills week in and week out on the same track and their rate of improvement is staggering’. Speaking about the skill sessions O’Keefe revealed ‘Our Saturday sessions are about 2-3 hours, of which coaching is only about 30 mins. The rest of the time the kids are just sessioning different sections of the track with their friends, pushing each other on and generally just hanging out on their bikes.’. While under supervision of course, O’Keefe explains how as youth members of the club ‘they have a lot of freedom at the track. It is my hope at least that they making great childhood memories and are developing a life-long passion for cycling, which really is a valuable life skill.’

The Club’s history dates back to 2012, when a dinner conversation about ideas and dreams turned into a reality three years later. At a dinner with Derek Jolly O’Keefe revealed that ‘The idea for Cork BMX Club came about… In 2012, there was a resurgence in BMX Racing, as a result of it being included in the Olympics in 2008, and a BMX track had already been built in Ratoath in Co. Meath…, we got talking and said “wouldn’t it be great if there was a BMX Track in Cork?”. That Monday I rang my contact in the City Council and we went from there.’. O’Keefe went on to inform me that both Jolly and Jolly’s twin brother Andrew had actually represented Ireland ‘at the BMX World Championships in Florida in 1987’.


After contacting the council, the club needed a site, O’Keefe describes how ‘timing is everything and we got lucky- a former landfill site on the edge of the City was about to be capped and used for Amenity purposes. At this very time, Cork City Council were launching the master plan for the site and were aiming “to provide family focussed adventure activities that are not currently catered for in the region”. We couldn’t have written it better! A BMX Track was exactly what the City Council were looking for -they just didn’t know it yet!’. With a site secured the council would go on to build the club’s track and the Cork BMX Club was open in June 2015 as O’Keefe recalls how it was ‘just in time to host a National Series event on our first day! It was quite a baptism of fire but the BMX Ireland crew made it all work.’. Since opening to the public O’Keefe says ‘we have been building our club, getting our coaching structure in place and introducing a new generation of riders to the excitement of BMX Racing’.

So how many members has the club got so far? O’Keefe tell us ‘At the moment, we have 88 registered members, but we get a lot of people calling by every week and trying it out. On a fine dry day at the track, we might have up to 50 riders on bikes.’. For a club that is still in its infancy, it has gathered a following. How have they managed this? Through social media. O’Keefe explains that the club ‘use(s) Facebook as our primary means of communicating with our members, the wider BMX Community in Ireland and the public. We ensure all content is relevant to our club so that anyone who is interested can immediately see what we are all about.’ As for those snazzy videos and snaps O’Keefe reveals that ‘We are lucky too, as many of our members have skills with photography and video editing so there is never any shortage of great action footage. All of this helps to promote the club and keep new members turning up.’

But what are the benefits of BMX as a sport? O’Keefe believes it ‘is the development of advanced bike skills at a young age.’ He goes on to mention successful athletes such as ‘Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish and pretty much every professional mountain biker- even Irelands current U21 Enduro World Champion Killian Callaghan spent a lot of time at the Ratoath BMX Track!’ who have all had a background in BMX. One of the advantages of the sport O’Keefe says is the lack of time restraints ‘we are not bound by time restrictions, such as “this is your hour of swimming, this is your hour of tennis”. It is a lifestyle sport and I see this with the kids at the track who are spending more and more time on their bikes - their speed and insane jumping skills are starting to scare me!’


Speaking about BMX O’Keefe said ‘BMX is a fun, exhilarating & social way to keep fit and develop a love for cycling. It is family focussed and an ideal way for all cyclists to share their passion with their kids.’. So for those interested in joining signing up is easy, ‘. Just turn up to your nearest track with a Cycling Ireland Licence, which is only €10 for under 14s. There are tracks in Cork, Ratoath, Lucan, Courtown and Lisburn and there are a few more in the pipeline too. All of these tracks have bikes and protective gear to suit all ages and sizes and the volunteers here will be happy to give you an induction and answer specific questions’.

So, what are you waiting for?

Report compiled by Aileen O'Leary

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