Relay Race


Runners Grange-Fermoy AC Large track

1916 Cemmoneration Relay Race

relay team

Last Sunday 24th of April, Grange Fermoy Ac held the long awaited Relay Race in St Colman’s field Fermoy to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Rosmuc to Dublin relay race which was held back in 1966 to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Easter Rising. All week everyone was keeping an eye on the weather hoping that we could hold the events without having to deal with rain. Luckily the day was to be perfect to hold a running event and what a day we had. First Sean Roche told us how the 170 mile race unfolded on the day and night. The race started at 9.30 on the Saturday night. Sean Roche ran the first leg for Grange and gave the lead to John Mehigan and this lead continued to be increased by John D Murphy and so on through out the night until 10th man Bobby Buckley started in Ballinasloe on his first leg with a 10 minute lead but the team went astray and took the wrong road and not only lost their lead but had to restart a further 10 minutes back now in 4th place. Gradually the team began to recover the lost time and 4th man Sean Beecher ran a great race to regain a full 5 minutes on the leading team and captain Donie Turner gave Grange the lead again with 5 legs remaining. The fastest man on the team was 10th man Bobby Buckley who already had a few miles of a lead when starting the last leg which finished at Kilmainham Jail. A replica of the torch of freedom was carried by the team captain Donie Turner and the youngest member of the team 18 year old Gerry Morrisey laid a wreath at the GPO. One amazing statistic that was spoken about was that Grange covered the 170 mile distance with an average time per mile of 5 minutes and 52 seconds and that included the time that was lost when the team went the wrong way. Then all the members of the team and the helpers were presented with medals to mark the great achievement that they accomplished back then. Then it was time to get down to business. 5 women came to the start line with only 1 thing on their mind. That was to win. They were representing their clubs, Grange Fermoy Ac, North Cork Ac, Blackwater Triathlon Club, Mallow Ac 1 and Mallow Ac 2. Shortly after the men’s race started. Participating clubs were Grange Fermoy Ac, Mallow Ac, North Cork ac, St Catherines, St Nicholas ac 1 and 2, East Cork, Galtee Runners and Blackwater Triathlon Club. This was going to be a fast race with some of the finest athletes in the North Cork region taking part. From the start Rory Sexton started to build a strong lead for Grange Fermoy Ac and already had a good 5 metres at the first bend. He continued to build the lead over the .8 mile course and handed the baton over to Kealan O’Connor with a substantial lead. The following runners for Grange Fermoy Ac continued to keep this lead for the duration of the race and when the final runner Morris Tobin took the baton, it was clear to see that East Cork would have a lot to do to close the gap for the last leg. Morris finished the race with a clear gap of almost 30 seconds over 2nd placed East Cork. The women of North Cork ac were also after building a lead after the first 4 legs were completed and continued to hold their lead for the remaining 6 legs to come home clear winners of the Women’s Race.
The full results are:

Grange Fermoy Ac 41.58North Cork Ac45.40
East Cork 42.26Mallow Ac 2
Mallow ac 43.35Grange Fermoy Ac
North Cork 44.08Mallow Ac 1
Grange Fermoy ac 47.25Blackwater Triathlon Club
Galtee runners 47.27
Backwater Triathlon club 47.30
St Catherine's
St Nicholas 1
St Nicholas 2

Salute the Grange Athletic Club. What a perfectly splendid manner the ten young gallants of this famed North Cork Club chose to honour the heroes of 1916 when last weekend they wrote a glorious page of athletic history in sweat and endurance and brought honour to themselves, their club and to all true lovers of sport throughout the Blackwater valley by a resounding victory in the historic 170 miles Road Relay Race from Pearse’s house at Rosmuc in County Galway to Kilmainham Jail. This historic and longest – ever road relay race in the world took place on Saturday night and Sunday last when the Inchicore Athletic Club, Dublin, and the Pearse Society staged what was probably the most ambitious sporting event in this country in honour of the Golden Jubilee of 1916. The race, 170 miles long, was a relay from the house of Padraig Mac Piaraic at Rosmuc, Galway to Kilmainham Jail, Dublin and began at 9.15 pm on Saturday and finished at about 2.30 pm the following day. Each club taking part consisted of 10 runners, each one running a total of 17 miles, that is, 2 legs of approximately 8.5 miles each, nineteen baton changes took place in towns and villages across the breadth of Ireland. Galway, Roscommon, Westmeath, Offaly, Meath, Kildare and Dublin. Truly a marathon and a mammoth undertaking. It meant that only powerful clubs with plenty of middle and long distant runners were in a position to compete in this historic and breath taking race. Cork were lucky that they had such a club in Grange. And right manfully did the whole Grange club, from athletes to selection committee, rise to this sternest of challenges. Dublin, whose clubs possess and abundance of runners to choose from, supplied four teams: St’ Augustine’s, Metropolitan Harriers, Inchicore and Bros. Pearse AC Galway was represented by University College Galway AC, while Newry Shamrocks carried the Ulster banner. And so the stage was set. For the past seven weeks Grange had only a slight interest in taking part as preparations for such an event had to be on a massive scale. It was only at what must now be regarded as a momentous meeting of the Grange selection committee on Tuesday, March 8th that a firm decision to participate was made. Immediately, the entire Grange Machine was set in motion; and from then until the final take off point at Mallow on Saturday evening last the committee and athletes alike threw everything into achieving three major objectives:

1. To get the team and officials to Galway with arrangements for resting and sleeping en-route for the athletes.
2. To ensure that all the athletes without exception were in a condition to enable the team to finish the race.
3. To secure final victory.

All this involved organisation of a high order. Marathon committee meetings were held and lasted into the small hours of many a night in venues at Grange, Kilworth, Fermoy, Carrig, Cobh and Mallow. None of the planners of this victory operation spared himself nor deluded himself that things would be easy. So time passed, and on Saturday evening last everything was assembled at the take off point – Mallow, and thence the cavalcade of cars, loaded with drivers, observers, athlete’s provisions and an assortment of athletic gear, headed northwards for their various Galway destinations. The spectacle prompted an onlooker at the Spa Road, Mallow, to remark that it “looked like something out of the D-Day film he’d seen”. And certainly the staff work was just as thorough.

Starting at Rosmuc at 9.30 pm Sean Roche gave his team a valuable 50-yard lead when handing over to John Mehigan and this fine lead was improved on all the way for the first half of the race (85 miles). Then near tragedy struck at Ballinasloe. Holding a lead of 11 minutes Robert Buckley took a wrong turning, ran 4 miles before the mistake was discovered, and when he was finally rushed back on to the correct road again Grange had by then dropped to 4th team place and was 13 minutes in arrears. This was high drama but of the tragic sort. Faced with this desperate situation, Grange athletes never lost heart. On the contrary, by a superhuman effort on the part of their stout-hearted team they had regained the lead after 40 miles. Their magnificent athletes forced the pace to such an extent that their anchor man, Robert Buckley, had 19 minutes to spare at the finishing point, Kilmainham Jail, from St Augustine’s who just beat Metropolitan Harriers by 3 minutes for 2nd place.

1. Grange Ac 15 hours 25 minutes
2. St Augustine’s 15 hours 44 minutes
3. Metropolitan Harriers 15 hours 47 minutes
4. Inchicore Ac 16 hours 7 minutes
5. UCG Ac 16 hours 15 minutes
6. Brother Pearse Ac 16 hours 21 minutes
7. Newry Shamrocks Ac 16 hours 35 minutes

To young Jerry Morrissey was accorded the honour of being the Munster standard-bearer in the athletic march-past after the race. Who were the cream of the Grange Kingdom of athletes so carefully chosen for this great event? Well Mallow and district supplied four in Robert Buckley, TJ O’Reilly, Donie Turner and D Murphy. Sean Roche and J Morrissey hail from the Fermoy district. Ballyhooly had two stalwarts in Con O’Connell and John Beecher while John Mehigan and D Cummins brought honour to their native Castletownroche and Glanworth respectively.

These star athletes ran in the following order:

Sean Roche 1st and 11th legs
John Mehigan 2nd and 12th legs
JD Murphy 3rd and 13th legs
John Beecher 4th and 14th legs
Donie Turner (Captain) 5th and 15th legs
TJ O’Reilly 6th and 16th legs
Dave Cummins 7th and 17th legs
Con O’Connell 8th and 18th legs
Jerry Morrissey 9th and 19th legs
Robert Buckley 10th and 20th legs

To runner John D. Murphy, with his vast knowledge of Dublin athletic teams, was given the task of positioning the Grange athletes for this unique relay. The result is a tribute to his brilliant strategy, with fellow athletes, Donie Turner, Sean Roche TJ O’Reilly and Robert Buckley he helped in the very intricate logistics plan worked out for the whole race. Hats off to the Grange selection committee who planned the operation and to the same officials who transported the athletes in a 17-hour stint with almost no sleep or rest for the drivers whose first eight hours driving in darkness must have proved particularly trying. The drivers and observers in the race included Bob Burke, Tom Burke, Raymond O’Sullivan, Johnny Beechinor and Christy Roche, while Mr J Buckley did a fine job in co-ordinating all the efforts in North Cork. What a delight and pleasure it would have given the Grange Ac founder, Paul Barry, to have been spared to be among the Grange athletes at the finish at Kilmainham. At the finishing line all the athletes re-assembled in order of their arrival for a triumphal run through the city to the GPO. The youngest Grange runner, Jerry Morrissey (16) carried the flaming torch of Freedom to the GPO where a wreath was laid at the Cuchulainn monument by a representative of the Inchicore Team.