Padraig Marrey Rás Storey
Jan 24, 2014, 10:17
Padraig Marrey the Ballinrobe Co. Mayo Postman man is one of the unsung heroes of Irish cycling and his passion for the sport knows no bounds.
He’s had a staggering career, with 12 Rásanna to his name. But a health scare last year has meant he will never race the country’s most arduous event again
The Ballinrobe man never had the distinction of winning a stage – though he came close on several occasions. But his love for the race is deep-rooted.
Here, he tells about his first Rás as a fresh-faced teenager…
Few can forget this image from the 2012 An Post Rás. Marrey and his teammates enjoy some down time on the kerb after an epic stage of the race into Bundoran.
|The Mayo Centra Rás Team|
Growing up, the guys that knew a thing or two about cycling only regarded one race in the country as a ‘must-do’ if you wanted to call yourself a real cyclist and that was the Rás Tailteann.
I didn’t know much about it and had nowhere to go to find out information as there was no internet back in those days.
Through the grapevine I heard the Rás was coming west to Mayo and on a bitterly cold day in May, a Belgian rider and the Irish Road Club’s Mel Sutcliffe had a small lead on the main bunch coming through my home town of Ballinrobe.
That was back in 1992 and that’s when I first fell in love with the race.
The following year I was only a third category rider but I placed in most races that year, so in the back of my head I wanted to give the Rás a go.
I rang the organiser to see could I enter – I was very naïve back then!
|Padraig Marrey On Corribut Gap, Mount Leinser|
I think it was Dermot Dignam on the other end of the phone and he told me I first had to have a team entered. Secondly, I had to make that team.
The wind was taken out of my sails with that news.
It was a case of asking other teams and clubs could I get a ride.
In relative terms I was a complete novice and worse still I was from Mayo – not many took part in the Rás from Mayo back then.
But a few weeks later and about two weeks before the Rás, Dermot rang me back and said if I could get a manager and some matching kit he had a few others that would make up a team. It was massive news for me.
So I called a friend of mine, Johnny Valley, who had been a mechanic on a Rás before.
He was committed to another team so I persuaded his brother Michael to go as our manager.
Mike had no car but his girlfriend at the time had a small red Nissan Micra; that’ll do, I thought.
We put a roof rack on top and made a square box around it to hold our luggage with ‘Garhill Enterprises’ all over it – they would take any ‘PR’ we could provide!
We loaded the car to the gills; two bikes, four wheels, luggage, Bodhrán, and guitar as Johnny and Mike were musicians and there was rumoured to be great sing-songs on the night stages.
Back then the Rás started on a Saturday and finished the following Sunday week.
We met the rest of the team at the West County Hotel in Ennis where a young Bill Moore from Stamullen, Brendan Harte from Bohermeen, Stephen Healy from Dublin but based in France and a sprightly Sean Lally from Dublin – who was 53-years-old at the time – made up our team.
I didn’t know those guys but they were all part of the Meath Garhill team.
We all wore bright yellow jerseys with Garhill Enterprises emblazoned across the front.
We found out there’d be professionals in the race; 1993 was the first year they allowed them in.
The word was that former world track champion Tony Doyle, with his Neilson Tivoli Assos team, would destroy the race…
I cannot remember much from the nine days except that the second stage from Dungloe to Sligo was a sufferfest; especially as I punctured in the first 5km.
And stage six into Blarney was a cold and bloody miserable day.
I was on a good day going to Blarney, however, and likewise the rest of the lads. But little could we have ever imagined that Stephen Healy would win the stage for us.
It was so unreal and just a magic moment for us all.
Later that evening as a reward, Mike’s brother Johnny (also a mechanic) called to our B&B and offered us all a massage.
Stephen Healy took the stage victory into Blarney for the Meath Garhill team he and Marrey rode for on the 1993 Rás.
Other members of the team were B.Harte Bill Moore and Sean Lally
My legs were that sore he could barely touch them but the next morning it was like I had new ones.
The following day was a long stage to Enniscorthy and somewhere before Dungarvan I punctured, got a wheel change and was flying back through the cavalcade.
The gears were jumping all over the place so I was looking down and bang…game over.
I never got to look up. All I heard was the scraping of metal on the road and I was on the deck; my front wheel after coming out with the forks attached, bouncing down the road…
I woke up in hospital in a neck brace. The medical staff did all the usual tests but told me my race was over and to mind myself for a few weeks.
Later that evening Rás organiser Dermot Dignam came and picked me up from Waterford Hospital.
Trying my luck I asked was there any chance of the start tomorrow but needless to say the answer was ‘no’.
But at least I got to see what the night stages were about and I tried my hand at the Bodhrán…