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Talking Sport

No regrets over avoiding the cycling drugs scene

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Mike McNena pictured with his son Cillian during the Rás recently.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

Cycling has to be one of the most gruelling, punishing sports . . . marathon distances, steep climbs over the harshest of terrains and sprint finishes that demand every ounce of energy that the body and soul can muster.

Former Galway and Ireland cyclist Mike McNena may have some regrets but when it came to the decision to dabble in performance enhancing drugs to further his career the decision was one of the easiest he ever had to make.

For him, the 38-year-old, who recently returned to cycling to complete the demanding eight stage Rás for charity (National Cancer Research Unit in Galway), they were never a temptation.

“No, never,” says McNena, who rode for a number of semi-professional clubs in France and Italy throughout the 1990s. “I loved trying to beat fellows who were on it.”

So talented was McNena – a Galway Sports Star winner in 1994 and ’97 – the taking of drugs could possibly have levelled the playing field and secured him that elusive professional contract but, again, he reiterates that was not the type of person he wanted to become.

“I wouldn’t have gone down that road because it always catches up with you, on the health side of things or in some other way. A coach did say to me one time he would take care of me and I knew it wasn’t a training programme he was on about. That though was all that ever came of it.”

In the late 1990s, revelations of the practice and culture of drug-taking in the sport began to make news headlines around the world. By association, almost every cyclist was deemed guilty and McNena recalls an incident

“I remember when I came second in the Tour of Japan and I flew back into Marseille and customs stopped me. They always stopped you in ’98 because that is when the Tour de France scandal came out. So, they pulled me over and searched me.

“There were three policemen there and they found the medal, second overall, and I told them what it was for. They were talking among themselves and they were saying he definitely has drugs in the bag if he was second. I started to say ‘hang on; don’t paint us all with the one brush’.

“What saved me was there was a policeman in the airport who used to cycle. He had recognised me and he said this fellow is grand. But they had taken the bag apart just trying to find something. That was the way it was back then.”

The sport has cleaned up a lot – and this has been reflected in results and times – but, sadly, it has come too late for a plethora of Irish riders. “I think if the lads I was riding with in the Irish team were riding now, we would all be pro,” he remarks. “It was just the wrong time.”

That said, McNena still had great times and the affectation he has for one of his former teams, Vélo Club La Pomme-Marseille, is unmistakable. “VC La Pomme are a great club for young people going into it. They have done it the right way. It was always about [building up from] the underage for them.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Connacht raise the roof again with magnificent late heroics

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Claregalway's Dara Whelan, Conor Flaherty, Barry Callanan and Dylan Buckley with the Padraig Stephens Cup after their County U20 A Football Final victory over Salthill-Knocknacarra at Duggan Park on Saturday. Photo: Enda Noone.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE dramatic finale at the Sportsground on Saturday ought to have made the RTE Six One News sporting headlines, but there wasn’t a mention of Connacht’s extraordinary late heroics against Gloucester which keeps the province’s hopes of reaching the European Champions Cup quarter-finals alive.

Instead, the rugby spotlight was on Munster’s away defeat to champions Saracens. Later during the sports segment on the Six One News, Connacht’s never-say-die comeback was relegated to the last match of the Champions Cup wrap up. RTE, in their wisdom, believed that Munster’s 15-6 loss and Leinster’s routing of a makeshift Northampton on the same day were somehow more meritorious.

If Leinster or Munster had achieved what Connacht did in the latest round of European pool matches, can you imagine how gushing RTE’s coverage would have been? When a Tipperary man with a strong GAA background starts taking offence over Connacht not getting the coverage they are entitled to, it does give an insight into why rugby in the West feels hard done by in terms of national acclaim.

For all that, last Saturday was another thumping experience on College Road. With their European Championship knock-out ambitions on the line, it was victory or bust for Caolin Blade and company. But when Connacht trailed by 24-13 with less than six minutes remaining, it was impossible to see how they could salvage a result.

A pragmatic Gloucester already had the four-try bonus point in the bag. They may have trailed 10-7 at the break having faced the elements, but  tries from Mark Atkinson (two) and captain Lewis Ludlow turned the game on its head. Connacht were remaining competitive but the breaks were going the way of a team they had never previously beaten.

The home fans in the crowd of 6,800 were understandably resigned to the worst. The yellow carding of Ludlow for a deliberate knock on meant Gloucester were reduced to 14 for the closing minutes, but nobody at the Sportsground thought much of it. Connacht were 11 points behind with time running out. They needed a miracle.

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Connacht Tribune

Being backed into a corner could help to ignite the Galway hurlers

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Galway full back Daithí Burke giving Wexford's Paul Morris no quarter during Sunday's Leinster hurling championship clash at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

MICHEÁL Donoghue faces the biggest challenge of his management career so far after Galway’s latest subdued display of 2019 at Pearse Stadium last Sunday. A lot of the same personnel are still there from the team’s magnificent All-Ireland triumph of two years, but the form of a number of influential players has nose-dived since last September’s championship loss to Limerick.

After a late collapse against Waterford in the National League quarter-final, Galway had some questions to answer ahead of their Leinster campaign and not withstanding their significant injury problems over the past few months, the Tribesmen’s stock has continued to decline judging by this month’s displays against both Carlow and Wexford.

Though it’s far from a full-blown crisis and we must keep a sense of perspective, there’s no point being wise after the event. On the evidence of what have seen to date this summer, Galway are dicing with an unexpected premature exit from the championship unless the squad can rediscover the hunger, intensity and quality which characterised many of their performances in 2017.

The continued absence of Joe Canning – and it is a mighty blow – can’t explain everything. Sure, Daithí Burke, Joseph Cooney, Jonathan Glynn, Adrian Tuohey and John Hanbury, an important introduction against Wexford, remain short of competitive action, but as a package, Galway should still be better than this.

Failing to find the net against either Carlow or Wexford, together with the lack of fluency and sharpness, has some local alarm bells ringing, leaving the team management with plenty to ponder on ahead of Sunday week’s big collision with Kilkenny. Lose that and Galway’s season will hang on getting a result at Parnell Park – an unforgiving venue at the best of times.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

St Thomas’ man behind the scenes typifies why club is going so strong

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The St. Thomas' management celebrate after their county SHC final victory over Liam Mellows. Left to right: Kenneth Larkin, Claude Geoghegan, Kevin Lally and TJ Ryan.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

WHAT was meant to be a few minutes of soundbite ahead of St. Thomas’ All-Ireland senior club hurling semi-final clash against Cushendall on Saturday has metamorphosed into a full-scale Talking Sport interview. Simply, because, Claude Geoghegan is an interesting guy.

For the past decade, Geoghegan has been the man behind the scenes and in his own inimitable way he has contributed just as much to St. Thomas’s success story as anybody else in Kilchreest and Peterswell. Perhaps, even more so.

As club secretary, he presided over St. Thomas’ historic county and All-Ireland club victories in the 2012/2013 season while, in the past three years, he has served as selector under managers John Burke and Kevin Lally, winning a county senior crown with each in 2016 and 2018 respectively. It is a proud record.

“I have held a few positions alright over the best part of a decade now — four or five years as secretary — and this is my third year involved now with the senior team. It is a way of life, I suppose, more than anything else,” begins the 31-year-old.

“When you are from a rural locality, it is what you are brought up with. It is what you know. If I wasn’t involved in the club in some capacity, I would feel I had a bit too much spare time on my hands. I would feel a bit odd without it, being honest.”

A history teacher at Presentation College, Athenry, Geoghegan explains his family are steeped in GAA tradition. His father Seamus hurled with the club before managing the intermediate team, as it was back then, while his older brother James has also done his duty as club secretary.

“Also, when the club amalgamated in 1968, my father was on the U14 team that won the county championship that year. We actually haven’t won the ‘A’ championship at U14 since. We have won plenty, but not that.”

Indeed, three SHC county titles in the last seven years would suggest that St. Thomas’ is a very special club but Geoghegan argues they are no different to any of the other clubs around. “Every other club is putting in the time that we are putting in. We are not special in any way in comparison to anyone else but we are incredibly fortunate to have a special group of players who have come together at one time.”

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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