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Donal O’Connell

Donal O'Connell
Donal O'Connell

I joined the Dublin Wheelers C.C. in 1948 at the age of 20, a late starter and have been a member ever since and I am a life member. I served on their committee from the beginning for approximately 30 years in various positions. I met my wife Lily in the club, that’s how she puts up with me and the “Vets”. I was Road Race Secretary of the Irish Cycling Federation in ’72, ’73 and ’74 and also Time Trial Sec of the I.C.F. in ’77. I was a committee member of the Irish Cycling Tripartite Committee. It comprised of the I.C.F., N.I.C.F. and N.C.A. officials to control cycling prior to the formation of the F.I.C. I was at one time chairman of the F.I.C. Disciplinary Committee and also Secretary of the F.I.C. sporting committee for two years. I was on the organising committee of the Tour of Ireland from 1968 to 1980. I was chief judge on the Tour of Ireland and Ras Tailteann and was involved in the timing and judging of the Ras and the Nissan International Classic for approximately five years. I attended the U.C.I. congress in Montreal in 1974 and the Olympic Council of Ireland as an I.C.F. delegate.

I was a founder member of the I.V.C.A. and did not become very active until I was less involved with F.I.C. I have been General Secretary for the last 12 years.

I raced from 1948 to 1956 and n the I.V.C.A. for approx. 10 years until 1988. During that period I won the C.R.E. National Road Race Champion in 1953, 2nd was Shay Elliott and 3rd was Jim McQuaid. It was supposed to be 200km but it went from Dublin, Mullingar, Kilbeggan, Tullamore, Edenderry, Enfield, Strawberry Beds to the Phoenix Park. Kit O’Rourke was 5th and his time was 5.33.05. In 1952 I represented Ireland at the World Championships in Luxembourg finishing in the main group. I was also on the Irish team in the 3 lap International in the Isle of Man the same year. In that event I broke away with Bob Maitland and two French riders at Craig Wylie, Sulby Glen on the last lap. We were joined by about 12 riders at the Goose Neck. I finished 9th, it was won by one of the Frenchmen. That same year Shay Elliott won the Mannin Veg and Noel Tully won the Viking Trophy, both being club mates of the Dublin Wheelers. That was Thursday, then on Sunday I won the Hercules Cup race in the Phoenix Park. It was special to me as the Lord Mayor of Dublin Andrew Clarkin presented the cup in front of a huge crowd, which you don’t see now. At that time turf was stacked 10ft high along each side of the main road. In 1952 I also won an Olympic trial race and would probably be an Olympian but no team was sent owing to a problem with the U.C.I. At that time teams were only sent to the World Championship and the I.O.M. I was privileged to represent Ireland at both. I finished 2nd in an Invitation 50miles TT to Dave Keeler the English record holder and B.A.R. winner.

Donal O'Connell Hercules Cup 1953
Donal O'Connell wins the 1953 Hercules Cup at Phoenix Park

 

I also held Place to Place records, Dublin-Kilkenny-Dublin (6hrs. 53mins), Dublin-Derry (7.09), Dublin-Wexford (3.58), Dublin-Wexford-Dublin (8.14). This last record was held by Phil Byrne.

I am a qualified masseur, with a diploma from the Swedish School of Physical Culture taken in 1979. I have accompanied Irish teams to many international events all over the continent and to Japan five times and Malaysia. I worked with the Falcon professional team on the Nissan Classic for two years. One of the saddest - and perhaps luckiest - moments was in the Tostal stage race, when coming down to Glengariff, a horse took fright and ploughed into us and the shaft of the cart killed Denis Wheatly, an English rider. He was only two riders behind me and I was knocked into a ditch by the big wheel of the cart. During my racing career, it was normal for that period every second Sunday there was a T.T. I rode one or two 12 hours TT and two or three 100 mls TT every year. In the 12 hours TT I rode 240 miles 125 perches and 100 miles in 4.33.12. I rode that 12 hours only ten days before I competed in the Worlds. I was silly but the Irish manager was even worse.

And finally what will I do with my spare time when I retire? I hope to do a little more cycling and definitely travel more. I will time and judge Vets races but that is all, no more involvement with handicapping, preparing groups at the start - just stand there with the watch in my hand and call out the time. I will get back to playing Bridge which I have not been able to do for the last number of years. Fred Smith had some great sayings, “I am going through all the paperwork and make a collection of them”

Donal

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