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Dillon Corkery My Name Will Always Be On The Trophy
By Irish Independent
May 21, 2024, 22:02

Dillon Corkery
Although I took the biggest victory of my career at Rás Tailteann last year, I have to admit coming back to defend my title wasn’t initially part of the plan.

Shortly after winning the Rás last year, I signed a pro contract for this year with French third division team St Michel-Mavic-Auber 93 and have spent most of my time since on the road. As a first-year pro, I was keen to race at the start of the year. So when my new team-mates got sick or injured I put my hand up to fill in. I have more than 30 days of racing in my legs already, a lot more than I usually have at this time of year.

After a hectic early season, a big block of training took me into the week-long Tour de Bretagne at the end of April before Tro-Bro Leon, the Tour du Finistere, Boucle de l’Aulne and last week’s Four Days of Dunkirk.

While Sam Bennett stormed to four stage wins and the overall victory in Dunkirk, I pulled the pin on day four and skipped the last two days of the six-day race due to fatigue.

So when Irish team manager Martyn Irvine rang to ask me to return to the five-day Rás this week, it took a bit of arm-twisting.
Dillon Corkery St. Michel-Mavic-Auber

Two things made my mind up.

The first was that I know I have no race days in June, bar the nationals, so even if I finish May in a bag, I know I can take a week off, recover and hopefully come out of it fitter.

The second thing that persuaded me was my family. Everyone involved in cycling in Ireland knows my family. They are my own personal mobile supporters’ club and have been turning up at my races every week since I was a kid. They bring posters, banners, bunting, you name it, and they cheer me on like lunatics in thick Cork accents.

When I was younger, people used to take the piss out of me because of all this but now everyone expects it. It’s the Corkerys. I’ve always loved it.

Although we have absolutely no prior sporting history in my family at all, my dad reckons it’s good genes that got me where I am today.

I was born and bred in Banteer, probably the best village in all of Ireland if you want to do sports, and I have always been surrounded by 12 cousins on my mother’s side and another half dozen on my father’s side. We’re no angels and, like everybody else, we have our good days and our bad days but we are a close-knit family and we all do our best to help each other out.

When my family come to a race they come full guns blazing. The year I rode my first Rás, my father was up until 2am one morning with my sisters putting up banners and posters all around Banteer, Mallow and Doneraile.

That all stopped when I moved to France, so after speaking to Martyn, I spoke to my grandparents and family and that’s the second reason I’m back.

Dillon Gets The Jersey
While winning the Rás last year didn’t make much difference to my cycling palmares abroad, people still come up to me in the street whenever I’m home to congratulate me.

Yesterday, I was out on a spin with local legend and Jayco-AlUla pro Eddie Dunbar and there were people coming up to me saying they were excited to see me back at the Rás again this year.

This time around I’ll line up on the Irish team alongside Liam O’Brien, Dean Harvey, Odhran Doogan and Liam Crowley. I know Liam O’Brien quite well. I raced with Dean in Dunkirk and know Odhran since racing with his brother when we were 11

The only lad I don’t know is Liam Crowley but I’m pretty confident in the team we have and, although I’m the defending champion and will line up with number one on my back, I don’t think there’s any pressure on me at all. I’m not a major winner. I’m no Sam Bennett. But I am super consistent. I don’t win week-in, week-out but consistency is what teams look for.

A guy who can be there on a hard day or an easy day. I’m always there or thereabouts.

Things may not work out for me over the next five days as well as they did last year but, no matter what I do this week, I will have my name etched on that famous Rás Tailteann trophy for ever more.

Dillon Corkery Team Ireland Winning Stage Four Into Monaghan 2023

Stage 1 – Tullamore to Kilmallock

While this kind of attention is something I’ve seen with big riders like Sam Bennett or even my own team leaders in France, I’ve never had it before. Even on the continent, where fans collect team cards and try to get all the riders to sign them at every race, I can hide away and nobody notices. I didn’t have that luxury on the Rás this morning but I may not have this opportunity ever again so I’ll bask in it while I can.

While the welcome was warm in Tullamore this morning, the start was cold and damp. By the end of the 6km neutralised section, however, I had taken off the extra gilet, overshoes and leg and arm warmers I had grabbed at the start and was ready for action.

After a lot of pot shots off the front early on, three riders got up the road sometime around 30km in today. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you exactly when because, unlike the bigger pro races, we’re not allowed race radios in the Rás. This means that it takes a while to find out who exactly is up the road and how much of a gap they have. It also takes a bit longer to round up your team-mates to do anything about it if you need to.

Instead of getting information into your team earpiece or speaking into the little mic tucked into the collar of your jersey, it’s all hand signals, gesticulations and most of the time, good old-fashioned roaring.

British duo Alex Pritchard and Dom Jackson were joined by Paul Kennedy up front and the trio put the heads down to open a decent gap, with not much of a concerted chase going on behind for a long time.

As usual, I saw my family a few times on the road today, cheering me on. My father doesn’t normally shout anything other than encouragement, or a time gap, to me during races. Today when he gave me the gap to the leaders with around 40km to go, however, their advantage was around four minutes and his tone suggested it was a bit of a bollocking rather than pure information.

My team-mates and I wanted a bunch gallop into Kilmallock today, as did a few other teams with decent sprinters, but in the end, when the shit hit the fan and the lead trio needed to be brought back, the commitment wasn’t there.
Dillon Corkery With His Grandfather Before Stage 1

It was a half-arsed attempt from other teams and because of that we all lost out on a chance for a stage win as the three leaders dangled clear to the end.

I had ridden on the front with my Ireland team-mates Liam O’Brien and Dean Harvey until 5km to go, where other teams started to come over the top of us.

Here, I drifted back a few places and was maybe in the top 20 with 3km to go. The next 2k flew by and in the last kilometre, I had Dean in front of me while Odhrán was where I call ‘the top of the triangle’, the place where everybody is lurching over your shoulder, and I think he just lost the wheel in the finale.

We came into a big left-hander at about 60kph and Dean took it up with me on his wheel. I came around him in the sprint, expecting Odhrán and a few others to go by me, but nobody did and I took fourth on the stage, 23 seconds behind stage winner Pritchard and his two fellow escapees. Afterwards, the first three on the stage were awarded the yellow, green and mountains classification jerseys.

As they can only wear one at a time, and I was next in line on the stage, I was called up to the podium and was awarded the stage winner’s jersey to wear tomorrow. Across the road, I could see all my family waving and cheering and it was nice to be on the podium again, especially as the race approached some familiar roads. With stage 2 starting close to home in Kanturk, the Corkerys and Kellehers will all be there again tomorrow, apart from my granny Kelleher.

She’s heading to Knock to light a few candles for me. Read Dillon Corkery’s Rás Tailteann diary exclusively in the Irish Independent this week. Stage 2 of the five-day race is from Kanturk to Sneem

Stage 2: Kanturk To Sneem

When it comes to jerseys, there is a hierarchy in cycling. National championship jerseys take precedence over your team kit, European champions take precedence over nationals and the world champion’s bands are over Europeans.

On a stage race, however, the classification jerseys rule, with the yellow of race leader trumping all others. The U-23 leader’s white jersey is often next, followed by the green of points leader, the mountains classification, stage winner and the intermediate sprint classification if there is one.

As only one person can wear any of these at a time, if you finish in the top two on the opening day of a stage race you are likely to go into either green or yellow.

Yesterday the guy who took third also amassed the most points in the Irish Independent King of the Mountains classification and took that jersey so I donned the red jersey of ‘stage winner’ this morning by virtue of finishing fourth yesterday.

I also had a new haircut, courtesy of my cousin Eolann, from the Barber Chop in Kanturk, who visited the team hotel last night and cut not only my hair but my room-mate Dean’s [Harvey] as well. In fairness, Dean didn’t really have much choice in the matter as Eolann started shearing him before he had time to protest.

While my new haircut and red jersey stood out from the rest of my team-mates in Kanturk this morning, I found myself standing out for another reason. For about 20 minutes, I was the only one going around in my socks, as I couldn’t find my cycling shoes. With the start brought forward a quarter of an hour because of a funeral in the town, panic was setting in. I was all set to send my cousin back to Mallow on a motorbike to see if I’d left them under the bed in the hotel until I found them just ten minutes before the off, exactly where I’d absent-mindedly dumped them earlier – under the back seat of the team car.

Dillon Corkery Stage 1 Ras Tailteann 2024

Although I’m from Banteer, I went to secondary school in Coláiste Treasa, Kanturk and spent most of my youth in today’s start town and it felt like the whole place was out to cheer me on today.

There were banners, posters, bunting, signs, shop window displays everywhere. I couldn’t believe the amount of people calling my name. Eddie Dunbar even arrived in his Jayco-Alula kit, alongside his girlfriend and my former school friend Niamh. I asked him if he wanted to swap jerseys for a day and take my place but reckoned everyone would know it wasn’t me when he started ripping the legs off everyone from the flag.

Early on the stage, my team-mate Odhran [Doogan] crashed when someone shut the door on him as he was trying to go up the left to float into one of the early moves. He got up though and seems OK now.

I attacked and went clear in a group of about 20 lads, including three teammates, after about 100km. If we had ridden together we would have stayed away for sure but when people see a few Irish jerseys in the group they just don’t want to ride.

Liam Crowley did 5km on the front on the windswept first category Ballaghasheen, putting everyone in the gutter bar us and towards the top I kicked and went clear again with Dean, Liam O’Brien and five or six others. Again, no one wanted to ride with us and about 20 more came across. With no real cohesion though, the attacks started flying. It was like a junior race.

After we crested Coomakista, with about 40km to go, I told Liam to try and follow the moves. I only had the words out of my mouth when he went clear with Conn McDunphy. I followed a Chinese guy later but couldn’t ride with him as I had Liam up the road. He didn’t understand the Banteer dialect though and was getting angrier and angrier as I sat on in the hope he’d drag me across the gap. Back in the chase group shortly after, all eyes were on me but I was content to have Liam up the road. One of the English guys started poking the bear.

“What’s the story mate?”


“You look tired.”

I thought I recognised him from last year. “You know well I don’t get tired boy!” I answered. “You learnt that lesson last year. Five days of racing and I put two-and-a-half minutes into you!”

He wasn’t too impressed, but at least he shut up. Up ahead, the experienced McDunphy took advantage of Liam’s strength and youthful exuberance, sitting on him for the last couple of kilometres before winning the sprint for stage victory.

George Peden from England jumped away from our group with 2km to go and everyone looked at me. I won the sprint for fifth and was on the podium for a jersey swap again after the stage, this time as new leader of the points classification.

Liam is now second overall, level on time with new race leader Dom Jackson of the British Foran team, and also leads the U-23 classification so we still have a few cards to play tomorrow. Read Dillon Corkery’s Rás Tailteann diary exclusively in the Irish Independent this week. Stage 3 of the five-day Race

Stage 3: Kenmare To Cahir

When I pulled back the curtains of my room in Kenmare Bay Hotel this morning, I was met with a scene reminiscent of the start of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Dean [Harvey] took one look at the dust and debris swirling around outside, covered his eyes and decided he wasn’t getting up.

At the start, I was greeted by Paul Kimmage with a handshake and a few nice words about this diary. He suggested I might have a future as a writer, but I’m having enough trouble trying be a bike rider at the moment. I hadn’t met Paul before but I’ve read his book Rough Ride and he’s a legend of Irish cycling. He told me he was in Kerry to ride the Ring of Beara Sportive and it was cool to be able to put a face to the name and have a chat about France, bikes and the Rás

Dillon Corkery (second right) and the Irish national team with Paul Kimmage in Kenmare before Stage 3 of the Rás On my ride to the start line, my bottom bracket, the centre axle where the cranks are attached, felt a bit loose. I panicked a little bit but had a little bit of time as the race did a ceremonial loop of Kenmare town before we started racing.

Within seconds I had guys from Sliabh Luachra, Richie Maes from velorevolution and a few others offering help and it was tightened just before the race came around and I was able to jump in and start with everyone else. Cyclists are notoriously uptight about their bikes. If somebody moved anything a millimetre out of place on my bike, I’d feel it straight away. I wasn’t always like that and could hop on any bike if I needed to but after a bad few crashes in France, I can’t do it anymore. Dillon Corkery's review of Rás day 3

After a flying start where we averaged around 50kph in the first hour, we headed towards familiar roads. At Lombardstown Cross, all my family were there with banners and flags but didn’t see me because I was on the far side of the road trying to move.

After a flying start where we averaged around 50kph in the first hour, we headed towards familiar roads. At Lumberstown Lombardstown Cross, all my family were there with banners and flags but didn’t see me because I was on the far side of the road trying to move.

In Mallow, there were people on the railway bridge cheering me on. My cousins were on the roundabouts in Mallow and schoolkids lined the streets in New Twopothouse. The next village was Doneraile and I knew the nasty little kicker there could do some damage.

The bit you can see kick up in front of you is bad enough but it’s the bit you can’t see, that goes on for another kilometre, that’s where the damage can be done. My Ireland team-mates put the hammer down on the climb and myself and Liam O’Brien went clear in a four-man group alongside Ewan Scanlon and British race leader of four days last year, Conor McGoldrick, who had no interest in riding and was looking for mountains points instead. With a 30-second lead, McGoldrick led us across the climb of Kildorrery after 110km, before promptly sitting up, having accumulated enough points to take ownership of the Irish Independent King of the Mountains jersey.

For the last two days, it seemed the bunch couldn’t organise a p**s-up in a brewery but today, when I got up the road with Liam, it was a different story. Today, they somehow managed to organise everything like a pro race and every team had their own little line going trying to bring us back. When they did, a group of 10, including Odhran [Doogan], went up the road in Mitchelstown, with about 30km to go, and nobody chased it.

Cormac McGeough soloed clear from this group in the last few kilometres to take the stage win, with John Buller of Spellman Dublin Port beating Odhran to second in the sprint. We finished 18 seconds later so not much changed overall, with Englishman Dom Jackson still in yellow and Conn McDunphy and Liam filling the top three on the same time as him.

I held onto the green jersey of points leader for another day and as the podium was packed with sponsors and riders, I stood to the side chatting with Alice Sherratt, one of the stalwarts of Irish cycling, ahead of the presentation.
Paul Kimmage With The Irish Team

Talking to Alice brought back memories of the time myself and a few lads from my Kanturk team found the supply room in one of the hotels we were staying in on the Junior (U-18) Tour of Ireland. Giddy at our discovery, we built two massive floor-to-ceiling walls out of cardboard boxes, blocking the hotel corridor.

The hotel were fuming and the next morning we were called in front of race organiser, Alice, and Kanturk team manager Dan Curtin at breakfast. “Which one of you did it?” Alice asked sternly of chief suspects, myself and Conor Murphy.

Conor looked at me and answered that we’d need a few minutes to discuss something. “You have two seconds!” Alice replied.

Conor reckoned that whoever owned up would get thrown off the race and, as I was leading the points classification, he wanted to take the blame. Alice and Dan watched on po-faced as we argued in whispers for a minute or so before Conor walked up to her with his hands outstretched..

“Arrest me,” he said. “I did it.”

Alice could do nothing only burst out laughing and we were both allowed start the stage that morning. I ended up crashing and losing the green jersey. I often wonder if it was karma paying me back.

Stage 4: Horse And Jockey To Kildare

On most race stages, riders only leave their hotel room for breakfast, dinner or a massage in another room. Rest is a priority and the only socialising you do is in the bunch during the day.

On the Rás, however, it’s not uncommon to see fellas sitting around in the team hotel or race headquarters in the evenings having a chat in the lobby or even discussing the race over a pint in the bar. Last night there was an ABBA tribute band playing in the Talbot Hotel.

I was raised in a pub so I love all kinds of music, especially ’80s and ’90s and myself and Dean [Harvey] were thinking about purchasing a couple of T-shirts and heading to the gig when team manager Martyn Irvine nipped that idea in the bud.

Instead we went back to our room, lay on our beds and had a bit of a laugh before going to sleep.

It was windy enough as we left Horse and Jockey this morning and I knew there could be trouble in the crosswind sections of the route.

In Ireland the peloton reacts to crosswinds differently than they do abroad, where the bunch splits into lots of diagonal echelons across the road to maximise the shelter from the wheel in front. Here, only a few lads know how to do it properly, or want to ride into it, so as soon as it gets to someone who doesn’t want to be on the front, the line swings over after him and everyone’s on the wrong side of the road, suffering.
Dillon Lost His Green Jersey Today

Within five or six kilometres of racing today, I was up the road in a group of six alongside my roommate Dean, Marcus Christie (Isle of Man), Lyndsey Watson (Cork velorevolution), Paul Kennedy (USA Skyline Cadence) and Ciarán Maguire of Carlow Dan Morrissey.

Myself and Dean were doing a lot of the driving in the group and although we got a gap of one minute 40 seconds, I knew that between kilometre 50 and kilometre 80 we’d lose time as there were five categorised climbs in that section.

Tom Martin of the UK Wheelbase team winning yesterday’s stage of the Rás Tailteann. Photo: Lorraine O’Sullivan The first one was grippy enough, about 5km long and got gradually harder near the top.

The problem was that if myself or Dean rode too hard on the climbs, we’d blow some of our breakaway colleagues out the back door, so we rode them at a controlled pace, eased up after the top of each one in the hope that everyone would ride together again in between the climbs.

Dean led across every single climb today and took enough points towards the mountains classification to go home with the Irish Independent KOM jersey this evening.

Even when the gap came down to 25 seconds after the last climb of the day, I thought we’d be fine. But the peloton had other ideas.

From what I heard later, British race leader Dom Jackson was isolated with just one teammate back in the bunch.

While wily veteran Kennedy policed our breakaway group for his teammate in second overall, Conn McDunphy, the rest of his team were on the front of the bunch chasing hard behind us. But instead of closing the gap just enough to let McDunphy jump across to us and then sitting up, leaving the yellow jersey stranded, they dragged everyone back to us, including Jackson.

Then, when we eventually got caught with around 40km to go, the next group went and even though it had British GC contenders Will Perritt, Tim Shoreman and Jim Browne in it, they could do nothing.

Perritt was virtual race leader on the road at one point and finished second on the stage behind Tom Martin of Wheelbase but the bunch closed the gap enough to see

Jackson hold onto yellow for tomorrow’s final stage. Perrett, McDermott and Shoreman all leapfrogged me in the overall standings today but I’m still only 32 seconds off the race lead in eighth place.

I lost my green jersey of points leader today, but my teammate Odhran [Doogan] now leads the classification, while Liam O’Brien is best Under 23 and still third overall on the same time as the race leader. Dean is now King of the Mountains.

There are now 10 riders within 32 seconds of the race leader as we head towards the finish in Bective Stud tomorrow, so there should be fireworks from the off in Maynooth. My Ireland team has every jersey on the race apart from the big one, the yellow jersey.

We have one more chance to change that tomorrow

Stage 5: Maynooth to Bective Stud

Although we were within a whisker of overall victory, there was no real team talk last night ahead of today’s final stage. This Irish team is really an U-23 team, with me here as the experienced elder, so it’s all about learning for the younger lads and Martyn [Irvine, team manager] has a great way of keeping everything calm and relaxed. After dinner, I even met a few friends and family for one quick pint in the hotel before bed.

After breakfast today, though, we checked out the roads, the wind, the weather and made our plan for the day. We executed that plan but it just turned out that others were stronger than us.

We did nothing until the Gaybo Howard Memorial King of the Mountains prime after 40km. Here, the Richardsons-Trek team took it up early for Conor McGoldrick but I knew they’d made a big mistake and led Dean [Harvey] up the side behind them for the sprint. We knew his lead in the competition was big enough that if he took any points at all on the climb he would go home with the Irish Independent King of the Mountains jersey. He took second behind McGoldrick, ensuring his place on the podium in Bective that afternoon.

The last KOM of this Rás came with about 60km to go. Here, Dean led me out and I kicked over the top, hoping take a couple of guys away with me. Instead, I was out front by myself heading onto the circuit in Bective so that was a bit of a balls-up. Eventually 10 or 12 lads came across, including the yellow jersey Dom Jackson, second-placed Conn McDunphy and fifth-placed Will Perrett. I don’t know why they didn’t commit to the move but with all three riding away from my team-mate Liam O’Brien in third I wasn’t going to help them.

They all started to look at each other on the next lap and the gap closed to about ten seconds, so I hit it just before the bunch caught us with a lap to go and went away in a split that included a team-mate each of McDunphy’s and Jackson’s, who weren’t going to ride with me and open the gap on their team leaders.

I gave it everything I could but we were caught on the last 14km lap. With about 5km to go, the plan was to lead Liam out on the small climb off the main road, in the hope that he’d go over the top and gain the second he needed to win the Rás on the run-in. I gave it one more go here but I think Liam lost the wheel and I ended up out front alone again.

I was caught with 2km to go and as the bunch floated past, I saw Odhran [Doogan] near the front. I gave myself a breather for about 30 seconds and started to weave my way back up to lead him out for the sprint. Odhran shouted that he was on my wheel but I think he got bounced off it with a shoulder on the last corner, just before the gallop to the line started. To be honest, I’d left absolutely everything out on the road and didn’t have much kick left anyway.

As British rider Tim Shoreman of Wheelbase sailed to victory, I crossed the line fourth and shattered. I don’t think I could have given any more today. We set out this morning with the aim of trying to take the yellow, similar to what I did last year, but things just didn’t work out.

In fairness to Dom Jackson and his Foran team, they rode a great race. There was obviously a lot of pressure on them during the week, so credit to them and to Wheelbase today for another stage win. The English boys were very impressive this week and my young Irish team-mates did a great job too, taking home the U-23 and climber’s jerseys.

After a tough early season in France, I came back here on my holidays initially, with no intention of riding this Rás, but it’s great to see the race back to where it used to be, so all credit to race director Gerard Campbell and the crew, and to Bective Stud who obviously put a lot of effort into the finish today.

I saw a bit of the country this week alright but it was definitely no holiday. It was a pretty tough five days, but all my family were here all week looking after me. That’s the main reason I came home from France, because I wanted to be with family again. They’re a big part of my life and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today, so it was nice being back home.

I’ll probably go for a few pints in the big smoke tonight before flying back to France tomorrow, where I’ll take the week completely off the bike. I’ve an apartment to renovate though, so I’ll probably be plastering and painting instead. Still, it’ll be nice to get back to the real world and forget about cycling for a while. I’ll be back on June 23 for the national championships in Athea though. Hopefully I’ll see some of you there.

Dollon Corkery At The Finish Of The 2024 Rás Tailteann, Dillon Finished in 10 Position 32 Sec. Down On Winner

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