Keeping wheels in motion with the Donamon Dynamos

Your Summer Your Sport – An occasional series with Seamus Duke When one thinks of the sport of cycling, memories of heady days in the 1980’s with Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and Martin Earley spring to mind. Since that time, apart from some TV coverage of races like the Tour de France and the FBD Ras here in Ireland every year, there is not really much media exposure of the sport, especially in this neck of the woods.   However in 2001, a local cycling club was started in the Donamon/Oran area by John Concar who had always taken an interest in the sport, and when he asked five or six people in the local area would they be interested in starting up a club, the Donamon Dynamos were born.   Initially they started off as a leisure club going on ‘a cycle’ every Sunday morning. However now there are up to 35 members who meet at least twice weekly and some of their younger and more prominent members are competing at the highest level in the sport in this country.   I went to see this phenomenon for myself last Thursday night as the members prepared to head off on their weekly time trial which takes place  from the village of Castlecoote into Roscommon town and back. However the most interesting thing of all is the age spread of the members. That ranges from 15 or 16 years old to the oldest member – Mick Harte, who is 69 years old – and who is just as active as any of the other members of the club (more about him later!).   When I arrived shortly before 7 pm there were two Polish lads there making enquiries as to how they could join the club and John Concar and about 20 members of the club were in the carpark beside Cattigans Pub getting ready to go on their weekly time trial.   ‘I was always interested in cycling and in 2001 I asked a few people would they be interested in coming out on the road and it started from there. We used to cycle down from Donamon to Castlecoote Stores on a Sunday morning and that’s how it started really, it’s grown from there and now we have over 30 members’ he told me.   ‘We meet twice a week now, usually Sunday and Thursday, and maybe sometimes on Saturdays. We go on a longer trip – maybaze 60 or 70 miles or sometimes even longer — on a Saturday or Sunday and we have this time trial  every Thursday evening. During the winter we meet sometimes on a Saturday because we have lads racing and competing on Sundays’ he continued.   ‘We have from 15 or 16 year olds to Mick Harte who is from Castlerea and he is 69, so it’s a sport for everyone. Our usual route for the longer run would take us through Roscommon, Knockcroghery, Four Roads, Curraghboy, Ballyforan, Ballygar, etc. It works out about 70 miles or so’ he says.   ‘The competitive season for those who are interested starts in March and continues for about six months. We have all types of standards. We have people who are just members to stay fit and who like just to be out on the  bikes and then we have the more serious lads. For instance we have one member – Simon Coughlan – who competed in the Ras recently. He is a top-class grade A rider’ said John.   I asked John Concar what is required to get started in the sport. ‘You need a fairly good bike which would set you back anything between 800 and 1200 euro and then you have to have a good pair of shoes and a helmet too so I suppose it is not cheap to get started but once you get going there is very little expense involved after that’ he said.   Most of the members go on what are called leisure tours which would be anything up to 100 miles on any one run but at a more sedate pace. ‘Guys like myself and Martin Blighe (The President of the club) are interested in that and we particapate that way’ he said.   John Concar says that the club welcomes new members and anyone who might be intersted in joining can come to the car park beside Cattigans pub any Thursday night just before 7 pm to see what’s involved and to have a chat with the members of the club.   Martin Blighe is a well-known employee of  AIB in Roscommon town who is the president of the club. ‘I am a member of the Donamon Dynamoes since it started in 2001 and I really enjoy it. It is a great way of staying in shape and I really enjoy it. I would recommend it to anyone’ he said.   Three young members of the club competed in the Tour of Donegal (U-18) the weekend before last. Michael Duffy from Ballinagare ended up 5th overall, which was a great result. ‘In fact he won a stage on Friday night and was unlucky to have got a puncture on Saturday morning in the time trial’ said John.   Mick Harte is the oldest member of the club and he loves the sport and the way it keeps him fit. Only two weeks previously Mick had taken part in a 90 mile run in County Mayo! ‘I’m a long time at it and I love it. I was never a great competitor but it is still a great way to get fresh air and keep fit. I come down from Castlerea whenever there is a cycle and there is a great camaraderie amomg the members. I hope to keep going for a good while yet!!’ said Mick who would put many people half his age to shame with the shape he is in.   John Concar wanted to mention the very important part that Jimmy Kearney of Ruby Oil had played in the development of the club. ‘In fairness to Jimmy he was with us from the start as a sponsor and his name is on our jersies and we have to pay him a big tribute for supporting us’ he said. The club have also been supported by The Roscommon Sports Partnership.    The club are hoping to increase their membership and with the chance of competing at a high level, it is an attractive sport for young people to get involved in. ‘We have three young guys – Michael Duffy, Tomas Feely and Sean Moylett – who are competing at a high level and Simon (Coughlan) is at the top level’ he said.   I also spoke to former Cavan and Roscommon Gaels GAA player Finbarr O’Reilly who is also a member of the club. He was getting ready for the time trial on Thursday night and he tells me that it is a fantastic way to keep fit.    John Concar also told me that well-known St. Dominics hurler and footballer and Roscommon hurler Liam Murray is also a member and he goes with the club on their various runs when he can. ‘He finds it a great way to stay in shape’ says John Concar.   So then it was time to go. The riders started the 10-mile time trial just outside Cattigans pub in the summer sunshine. The riders are timed to go at one-minute intervals. The route is into Roscommon town (Convent Road) and back to Castlecoote and the times vary from 20 minutes or so (Simon Coughlan) to 35 minutes or so to the slowest member. The club keep a record of every time and they are recorded on a big chart so members can see what progress they are making.   One thought stuck in my mind as I travelled back into Roscommon town in my comfortable car on Thursday evening. As I passed the riders doing their time trial on the road, I couldn’t stop thinking of Mick Harte at 69 years of age, cycling 90 miles at his ease within the space of a few hours two weeks ago. I’d be tired if I drove, never mind cycled, 90 miles! The Donamon Dynamos Cycling club meet every Thursday evening at 6.45 pm during the summer at the carpark opposite Cattigans pub in Castlecoote. If you think you might be interested in joining or want to see what’s going on, then you are very welcome.