Para National Series Gets Underway with John Shanahan Memorial 

The seven-part Para-cycling National Series got underway on Saturday, March 9th, in Co. Cork with the John Shanahan Memorial, hosted by Midleton CTC. 

The late John Shanahan was a great man for the phrase ‘who do I have here?’. His tandem pilots were well used to John’s intuition that there was someone new to talk to, even if it was half-way up a hill.  

The fourth edition of Midleton Cycling and Triathlon Club’s memorial 2-rider TTT, which for the first time hosted the Para-cycling National Series, attracting new riders and old stalwarts alike. 

The race, in John’s honour, offered four categories – scratch, time-bonus, para-cyclists and short course. Scratch and time bonus were on a 28km course, paras on 20.5km and the short course 10km. Not one of these segments are flat, fast or with the wind.

Young Molly Marshall undertook the 10km challenge on her beautiful Bradley Wiggins / Geoff Booker Trike. Whatever about the physical effort, everyone spoke about Molly’s determination and recognised her as rightful junior woman.

The para-cycling league course was ridden by solo, handbike and tandem cyclists. Inaugural leaders of the 2024 league, Cormac O’Callaghan, Declan Slevin and Billy Shanahan with pilot Noel O’Doherty made light work of the course on a heavy day.

Heavy too, were the rather impressive medals that para-cycling commissaire, Denis Toomy, hung around the necks of Ivan Naluswa and Heather Jameson, who finished second and third in the solo, and Ray Murnane and Seamus Wall, who completed the handcyclists podium. Billy Shanahan faced no rival other than mother nature, but it’s Billy’s nature to defy the odds, and his tandem’s nature to defy gravity.  

7.5kms further back on the road, five scratch TTT teams were duking it out for generous cash prizes and more importantly bragging rights. This course rides historic roads of East Cork, and with that in mind, there was a certain Eddy Merckx aspect to this race, as riders were limited, nay warned, ‘road bikes only’.  

Modern technology, such as Strava, was eerily quiet about recon rides of this route’s segment of late, but local men John Aherne and Niek Tijsen (De Ronde van Cork CC) rode the course like they owned it, prevailing over Blarney men Michael Guilfoyle and Ger Cummins in second. Midleton CTC’s honour was maintained by Ronan Organ, joined from London by Jack Kenny completing the podium. 

It was a travelling party from Co. Down who took the spoils in the fiercely competitive time-bonus mixed race. Hazel Smith and Ian Inglis (Kinning Cycles) claimed victory and even with their modest time-bonus had a minute to spare over nearest rivals Sally Ann Lynch and Michael Pietersen, who took the second runner-up spot for Blarney CC. Again, in third, came Midleton CTC, this time it was Sally Drennan and Kevin O’Brien, who came in 45 seconds later, time bonus applied. 

East of Midleton lies Dungarvan CC, a land of dark horses it seems, as proven by Eamonn Phelan and Denis Callanan who put in a sterling performance which made the handicapper happy.  Their time bonus brought them from mid-field to first and they were crowned category winners.  

Next up was Midleton CTC Chairperson – but not the handicapper – Andy Bowen, who made second a family affair with brother-in-law Simon Forrest. In further family affairs, event Commissaire, Anthony Kenneally, was afforded the opportunity to congratulate his sons, Tony (Dungarvan CC) and Cillian (Youghal CC), who came in third on time-bonus, but worth noting their time would have brought them in second before their time-bonus was applied.  Under-age rider Tony may argue the term ‘bonus’, but there’s no arguing his talent.

Speaking of the event, organiser Brendan Hennessy said: 

“The John Shanahan Memorial honours John. His spirit was one of participation and enjoyment.  In 2024, his memorial trophy was awarded to the only women’s team of Anita Locke and Sinéad Gallagher, who may have surprised themselves and the handicapper, but not any of the onlookers nor marshals as they calmly ate up the miles of this distinctive route and unique event.

“Midleton CTC could not have run this event without the support of our sponsors Roca Sports Ireland, Hurley’s SuperValu Midleton, ACS – Air Conditioning Systems,, Southern Tyres Midleton and Moloney Pianos Midleton.  The club, likewise, simply could not run the event without the support of 30 club volunteers, the Gardaí and the local community.  

“Put simply, John Shanahan would have been proud, and maybe he would think, “are ye coming back next year?”. 

Cycling Ireland High-Performance Para-cycling Development Coach, Marcin Mizgajski attended the event. He added:  

“First round of the Para-cycling National Series in Midelton was our first chance to meet this year. The race itself was very challenging for the riders as they had to face the fairly hilly side of the country. 

“We had eight competitors, and we are aiming to double that by the summer. Big shout to Molly Marshall, they youngster’s competitor. Molly was on the tricycle, and she is an inspiration to any young kids in the country with any disabilities to reach out to us and start cycling. This event is not just for performance checks. It has a massive social aspect where we can meet and have fun on the bike. Next chance to meet us on the 6th of April.”

Click here for the full results.