Daire’s burgeoning coaching career has seen him work with his father Noel, the well-known coordinator of Roscommon Sports Partnership. Feeley Snr. was understandably proud of his son’s Rás an Tailteann victory when speaking to Roscommon People earlier this week.
“It’s been an absolutely phenomenal experience. He had the first big gap made on the Friday doing what he does best…attacking. He kept attacking and had a lead in the bag while I was driving around in the car trying to get the best vantage point,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a surreal experience. If you’re involved and fixing bikes or cleaning up bikes it’s a distraction but sitting in the car on your own you’ve more time to think about what can go wrong”.
While Daire reached a career high on Sunday by winning the Rás, Noel knows more than most about the blood, sweat and tears that are part of the fabric of the leader’s jersey.
“While cycling is very much a team sport there’s no hiding place. You can be having a bad day at corner-forward but kick the ball over the bar twice and you’re the best thing since sliced bread,” he said.
“In cycling you could be getting ready to climb up onto the podium and have the rug pulled from under you. Sunday was unreal because we knew exactly what was ahead. On Saturday the race was at a mental speed so no matter how good a support crew you have, if you get a puncture at 65km per hour, the rest of the pack is four kilometres up the road before you get rolling again.
“Daire had been there before but that’s what makes a cyclist stronger. There’s a lot of crashes and heartbreak; it doesn’t just happen overnight”.
Sunday was also Father’s Day so what advice can Noel offer the parents of Roscommon’s future sports stars?
“I could probably write a book for parents now…I can sit here and say that I probably got it right (laughs). I didn’t push him too hard but I did kick an arse every now and then when it was needed,” he said.
“There are lessons to be learned from individual sports. Gaelic football, for example, is way too competitive at an early age. I don’t think some of the kids or their parents are enjoying it. It’s nuts at 14 or 15 years of age to be thinking about winning and putting pressure on kids. The most serious problem at the minute is the drop-out rate and someone needs to put up the hand and ask why kids are dropping out of sport.
“We’ve done the whole cycling circuit every year since Daire was 14…he never won an underage race. Is there not a lesson there? He was 17 before he made the first big step. We rolled around and had the craic and got to know a lot of people and there was a lot of shuffling to make the breakthrough,” he said.
Noel can reel off a list of examples from Daire’s career. Like the time he crashed out in his first Junior Tour…to then competing in the Junior World Championships the very next year.
“I know he won’t like me saying it but…you crash out of the Junior Tour because you can’t keep up. Why can’t you keep up? Because you haven’t trained hard enough and you haven’t got enough experience. Really it’s not about pushing to win, it’s about giving kids the experience because one day it’ll just click. I’m sure the O’Rourke sisters can tell similar stories,” he says.
While it’s the taking part that matters, winning can be nice too and last Sunday was a moment the Feeley family and all those involved in cycling will never forget.
“No more than other households, these things don’t happen without sacrifice at family level. My wife Eilish has had many weekends at home while we’ve been gone every weekend during the season. There are times when we’re gone for weeks or even gone abroad so that leaves one parent having to do what two should be doing. There’s a lot of time spent away and the grass is probably let go a lot longer than it should be,” he laughs.
“It does take a lot of commitment but then you come home last Sunday to Mote Park…the bonfire is lit and our tight community, which is very supportive, is so proud and that makes it worthwhile”.