By Gerry McManus
Cycling Ireland today confirmed the Irish team for the forthcoming Tour of Ireland professional cycle race from August 22 to 26. Cycling Ireland High Performance director Frank Campbell will manage a mixed team of youth and experience in the inaugural tour sponsored by Fáilte Ireland.
Nicolas Roche (Dublin/Juan Les Pins), Phillip Deignan (Letterkenny), Paul Griffin (Tralee), Brian Kenneally (Dungarvan) and Dermot Nally (Cork / Valencia) make up the experienced group who all have international cycling experience. Roche and Deignan ride for the ProTour professional French teams Crédit Agricole and Ag2r respectively. Martyn Irvine (Newtownards) and Derek Burke (Tuam) are representative of the talent emerging through the under-23 ranks in Irish cycling.
Paul Griffin will be racing on familiar roads as the race travels through his home town of Tralee. His rise into the professional ranks with the Giant Asia team in 2005 was well overdue. Paul's climbing ability continues to give him great results in tough races despite his 34-years. He has won the Irish hill climb championship for a record four times. Griffin finished seventh and ninth respectively overall in the Tours of Malaysia and Taiwan this year.
Dermot Nally is originally from Cork but lives permanently in Spain returning to Ireland for squad duty on the track and road. The 26 year-old was a semi professional for a number of years with the Costa de Almeria – Paternina and Columbia-Selle Italia outfits. He made the podium on three stages of the 2004 FBD Rás including winning stage three into Charleville.
Irvine rides for the Ards cycling club and has confirmed his form ahead of the 2.1 UCI ranked tour by taking victory in the Madigan Grand Prix road race earlier this month. The Newtownards man represented Ireland in this year’s FDB Milk Rás where he rode with Nally and Griffin. He was selected for the Rás team following good rides in the U23 National Team in the Tour of Picardie and the Liege- Bastogne- Liege road race which he followed up by winning the first stage in the Tour of Ulster.
21-year-old Burke rides for the Murphy & Gunn/Newell Group/M Donnelly/Sean Kelly cycling team and has been an Irish team regular since his formative days riding in the junior Tour of Wales. The youngster from Tuam, Co Galway has been in good form this year winning stage one of the Paddy Flanagan memorial race and taking the silver medal in the U-23 Irish road race championships.
Kenneally has been training specifically for the Irish tour. The Dungarvan man’s preparation has allowed him time to win the Eddie Tobin Memorial road race in Enniscorthy at the end of July. The myhome.ie/BDCB rider has had a successful season winning two stages of the FBD Insurance Rás and taking the overall victory in the tough Rás Mumham stage race.
Cycling Ireland CEO Declan Byrne is looking forward to seeing the Irish team in action when the 5-day race leaves Kilkenny on August 22nd heading for Dublin via five stages and 864-km of Irish roads. “Cycling Ireland are very excited to have both of the Irish ProTour riders on the team,” said Byrne: “Having Roche and Deignan on the team gives us some possibilities with results and it is good exposure for the Irish team too. It will also be great experience for our under-23 riders to ride in a race of this magnitude."