By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
Salzburg, Austria is the setting for the Junior World Road Championships this weekend. In contrast to recent years, the juniors will have the stage all to themselves, as before this, they formed part of the championships where all disciplines were catered for along with the professionals.
Ireland will have five juniors in action: Martin Munroe (Connacht), Ciaran Cassidy, Ciaran Kelly, Sean Rock (all Leinster) and Maurice O'Brien (Munster). Munroe goes in the time trial on Friday, and the quartet will be in action in the road race on Sunday.
Performance Manager Martin O'Loughlin is hoping for a good showing. "The team has a balanced look to it," he said. "Martin Munroe has won international time trials in the Junior Tour de Paco in France and the Martin Donnelly Junior Tour. His experience from Verona last year will stand to him, as will his preparation for the track individual pursuit.
"Ciaran Kelly has come on leaps and bounds this season and is an exciting talent. Maurice O'Brien has done everything asked of him. His early results in Belgium were encouraging and he has shown that he is on form in the Martin Donnelly Junior Tour and the World Track Championships. Ciaran Cassidy´s early season was blighted by illness, but he has hit form at just the right time. Sean Rock's results and general attitude in the Sean Kelly Cycling Academy have impressed all of those who work with him. His selfless riding for his team mates won him many admirers in the M. Donnelly Junior Tour."
Mark Scanlon's win the Junior Worlds in 1998 has been a real tonic down the years for Irish teams competing abroad. Also there is a belief at home and abroad that this team can deliver and the fact that Ciaran Kelly raked up a number of wins on the continent early in the year. He is obviously the trump card.