The history of cycling in the North Monaghan area goes way back to the late 20’s and early 30’s when Peter McMahon, my father, and Tom Donaghue were heroes on the track. They were Ulster champions over and over again and one of their greatest opponents was a Dungannon man P.J. Logan, late father of TV personality Adrian Logan. Indeed as a result of the friendships built up then, the late P.J. used attend the Emyvale Grand Prix every year until just before his death to watch the young riders in action and he always took a great interest in the affairs of the Emyvale Club.
Other great sportsmen on the bicycle were to follow, like Jimmy Skinnader and Seamus Cadden and these two, with Jack Donaghue, set up the first official Emyvale Cycling Club in the early 50’s. One young man came to the fore at this point and he was a play a tremendous role in cycling at local and National level for decades and he was John Colton. By this time the Club had been renamed to St. Christophers CC and John with Paddy Lavery and John Joe Gorman brought many honours to the Club. As a result of their work and name the first major competition came to Emyvale and that was the hosting of the Ulster Junior Championship in 1958. John Joe was victorious against all the odds. John Colton and Jimmy Skinnader finished in the top 10 and brought the team prize to St. Christophers. John Joe followed this up with an All-Ireland Youth Championship and then was the Ulster Champion 1000m for nine successive years. Paddy Lavery and John Colton continued their winning ways mostly in Track and Field events and many other young riders were beginning to make a name for themselves too like Kevin and Tony Magnone, Liam Colton and Patsy Kelly.
Another cyclist from North Monaghan was about to break into the national scene and that was Tony Murphy. He began with Track events but switched to Road Racing and won the Ulster Senior title in 1964 and gave a magnificent performance in the RÁS in 1965 as a solo rider. He finished 4th in the French Grand Prix as a member of the Irish team in ’66 and was regarded as one of the top riders in Ireland at the time.
Around this time the McKennas of Knockakirwan, Patsy, Dessie and Michael were coming to the fore along with a host of other young men including George McCarron and Sean Kelly from Stramore. Dessie became the youngest ever participant in the RÁS.
Lack of employment caused emigration and the club lost many of its potential stars to the cities and abroad. For a few years success was limited but the early 70’s saw a renewal and Tony Murphy, (back from England), Francie McQuaid, Stephen Crotty, Michael Mulligan, Gerard Cadden and Noel Halton carried the Emyvale CC flag with distinction with others like Gerard Hughes, Mark and the late Barry Murphy, Keith and Gary Murphy, the Cassidys, Jonathan Gormley, the Kanes, Paul Brady and many more coming after them to the present juveniles led by Jack and Calum McKenna. Conor Murphy, son of Anthony, has been another bright star and is now riding with Eurocycles team and is highly regarded for his ability.
The role played by the ladies must never be forgotten and there was a loyal band of ladies always there for the club and who worked tirelessly in the background but please forgive me if I single out Molly Colton, Geraldine McKenna, Ann Marie McCarron and Kathleen Kane for special mention.
Over the years since then the Emyvale Club has been regarded as a very progressive and active unit within cycling circles. The annual Grand Prix attracts riders from all over the country and local riders have been taking the victories at events all over the country. The numbers of competitors from the club has been tremendous, mainly due to the work done at juvenile level. People like John Colton, a true ambassador for the Club and the sport; Michael McKenna, George McCarron, Paul Gormley and Patsy Brady, among others, have been extremely influential in keeping the sport alive in North Monaghan but also in Ulster and indeed in Ireland. Many others work quietly in their efforts to promote the sport and for Emyvale they are just too numerous to mention but they are the backbone of the club and must take credit for what they continue to do. The addition of a Touring Club for Emyvale has helped to introduce many more to the sport and the enjoyment of cycling and has introduced a greater social aspect to the club and its activities.
There is no doubt but that this coming weekend will be the greatest in the history of the club when they host the National Championships and it is a great honour bestowed on the club that Cycling Ireland has the confidence that Emyvale CC can organise and implement such a demanding sporting event. It is also a great boost to the North Monaghan area that such a major event is coming to the region and all the benefits that accrue from it. It is a major undertaking and Patsy Brady has shouldered a major share of the burden and we wish him and the club every success. I am also hopeful that the local people will help to make it a very enjoyable and safe experience for all who come to Monaghan for the event and that our customary warm hospitality will be on everyone’s lips as they return to their homes.