By Tommy Campbell, Irish Independent, Evening Herald, Sunday Independent
Transferring its international set-up in Ireland to Belgium has already started to pay dividends for Cycling Ireland with the launch of the Sean Kelly Academy of Cycling recently. The Academy, which is based in Mertchem, Brussels, is very close to the main hub of cycling in Europe.
Cycling Ireland has received an invitation to the Paco International Junior Two-Day event which will be held in and around Marseilles, France, on April 22-23. This race belongs to the stable of the Société Tour de France, and is attracting top talent from the junior ranks.
The Head of Coaching for Cycling Ireland, Padraig Marrey, who will manage the team of five juniors, is enthusiastic about the invite. "I know it was a brave decision to uproot our internationals at home to Belgium. The country is a hot bed for the sport and the facilities are second to none in Mertchem, and also we have a manager Kurt Bogaerts in place at the location.
"Cycling Ireland's aim is to try and find someone of the quality of Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche. The house will be capable of facilitating twenty cyclists at any given time, who have the will and determination to further themselves in the sport."
The team for the Paco race will be led by Martin Munroe and supported by Maurice O'Brien, Marcus Tracey, Shaun Rock and Andrew McCullough. In recent weeks the quintet have experienced racing against seniors where they acquitted themselves well.
"The invite is a bonus," added Marrey. "Opportunities like this one are few and far between. Unfortunately, we have to do without the support of Ciaran Kelly from Leixlip, who has two wins in Belgium in recent weeks. Ciaran has taken up a scholarship with the International Cycling Union at their base in Aigle, Switzerland."