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Leinster Leader 5 July 2007
Maynooth cyclist wins 1957 Grand Prix of Kildare
The recent spectacle of the FBD Milk Ras  starting in Naas prompts recollections of  the sport of cycling in County Kildare over the years. The Leinster Leader of 6 July 1957 reported on the excitement generated by the Grand Prix of Kildare held over 100 miles on a circuit taking in Maynooth-Celbridge-Leixlip-Maynooth.  After 10 miles a breakaway group comprising  Joe Clarke (the National Club), J Ward (Harp), and Eddie Kilduff (National), went ahead and led the field for a further 25 miles. They were eventually caught by more riders from the pack including Abbot (Clan Brogha), T Lawler (Harp), G Keogh (National), A Davis (An Uaimh), C Dunne (Harp), G Keogh (National), K Sloane (Athlone), Gene Mangan (National), and J Clarke (National). But the real drama was to come at the finish when in a six-rider sprint local man Bernie O’Brien of Maynooth representing the North Kildare club got aheadover the line by a bicycle length. It was his second win in an open cycling competition in 1957. And his efforts also gained first in the team prizes for the North Kildare Club with his teammates, J and E Pegley finishing in eight and tenth places respectively. Some idea of the athleticism involved can be gleaned from O’Brien’s winning time which at 4 hours 19 minutes and 25 seconds represented an average of  23 mph consistently over the 100 mile distance.
There was much to cheer about in Maynooth sporting circles that week because as well as Bernie O’Brien’s cycling triumph the Maynooth Gaelic team saw off neighbours Rathcoffey in an intermediate championship tie.  Rathcoffey put up a strong fight but as the Leader correspondent noted ‘ their finish was very weak … twice they missed open goals.’  However the report had a certain apologetic tone in regard to Rathcoffey’s performance remarking  ‘It was a pity that Rathcoffey could not field out at full strength as those who represented the club in this match were of fine physique.’  The match ended 9 points to 3 in favour of Maynooth. Best for Maynoth were ‘Toomey, M. Nolan, Dunne and Carey’ while Giblin, Molloy, Connor and Travers got honourable mention for Rathcoffey.
Elsewhere that week on the July 1957 sports page a team which might seem unusual to 2007 GAA watchers made an impact.  The Military College on the Curragh had a team in that year’s County Championship and held the formidable Sarsfields outfit to a draw. Indeed the Leader correspondent noted that Sarsfields were ‘ rather fortunate’ to get the drawn result as ‘ The College were in tip top form and their speed always troubled their slower-moving opponents.’  He added that it was ‘ the sturdy defence of Bunny Kavanagh, M Doyle and C Maher that saved Sarsfields from defeat.’  The Curragh officers looked to have the game sewn up in the final minutes but the Newbridge men had a stroke of luck ‘ As everyone was anticipating a Sarsfields defeat a short free was punched to the net to leave the scores level.’  For Sarsfields Bunny Kavanagh, C Maher, M Doyle and C Hanlon were mentioned while Brogan, O’Neill and Stapleton were prominent for the College.
There was no such excitement in another match reported when Moone thrashed St. Mary’s in a Grade A Junior Football Championship. In what must have approached a record winning margin the South Kildare side ran out winners by 7-9 to a paltry 3 points for St. Mary’s. In what was described as a well balanced side Lawlor, Moran, G Farrell and Kane were best for the winners while Moran, Spooner, Donohoe and Kavanagh showed some effort for St. Mary’s.  And in a reminder that the disciplinary problems being faced by the GAA in 2007 are not new to the game the correspondent for this match remarked ‘ When will players learn that unsporting tactics never pay? In this match we had a few unsporting antics.’!  
Series No. 22

The story of how Bernie O'Brien won the 1957 cycle Grand Prix of Kildare - from Liam Kenny's regular feature in the Leinster Leader, 'Nothing New Under the Sun' - our thanks as always to Liam

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