Oh What a Night !!

In 2010 we saw some of the best real road racing ever in Ireland and despite the global recession which has seen thousands lose their jobs and livelihoods the fans kept coming to experience that unique atmosphere which surrounds this extreme sport and to witness the gladiatorial battles played out amongst the best riders in the world on some of the most challenging circuits in the world. 

But 2010 was a tough year for the Real Road Racing fraternity in Ireland, amongst the glory and the triumphs the sport suffered one of its worst years for incidents. 2010 was a year which shook the road racing community to its core and had many questioning its future. Clubs faced insurmountable challenges in gaining public and local authority support to stage their events and the economy crisis was a bridge too far for one or two clubs who had struggled the past couple of years to attract the gate numbers others more fortunate had enjoyed.

The critics of our noble sport, those who know little about it and make no effort to understand the passion and devotion which fuels this obsessive lifestyle knocked it for all they were worth in 2010 these sensationalist columnists and broadcasters who fabricate tales to boost their audience numbers  came crawling out of their insular media bubbles at the first sign of mishap or tragedy. Not good enough for them to tell the world about the record number of fans attending these well organised professional events or about the successes and record breaking performances of some of the finest human beings on this planet, no they discarded the press releases bearing good news and single minded, blinkered and blood thirsty went for the shock and awe headline. The clubs and the fans disappointed and frustrated by this feeding frenzy ignored the bad and the ugly and went with the good, those reliable writers and broadcasters who support what is a way of life for tens of thousands, those writers and broadcasters who understand this extreme sport and who have taken the time and effort to learn about the driving passion and devotion which keeps the riders their families and legions of fans turning up every weekend during the summer season to keep this sport going.

So it was then that we closed the door on 2010 with memories of fallen heroes and the loss of well loved events from the calendar.  With pledges made by the Union and the Clubs to up their game for 2011 those involved in the organisation of road racing in Ireland knew they had their work cut out for them.

The Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club suffered more than most in 2010. The loss of two well loved riders, Myles Byrne at Skerries and Victor Gilmore at Killalane left the club numb in disbelief and as one member described it the club was suddenly like a ship caught in the doldrums and there was little interest in seeking out a breeze to get the ship moving again.

The clubs committee continued to meet every week as it always has done for decades and slowly the members started to contemplate the future again, deeply touched by this double tragedy the club vowed to press on as Myles and Victors families encouraged them to look to the future and begin making preparations for the 2011 road racing season.

Members of the clubs dedicated committee set about organising a benefit night for Myles and Victor but none of them expected that the journey they were about to take would culminate in such a memorable event. The evening was billed as an a unique evening of comedy and music with a very special talk show session thrown in.

The City North Hotel saw its busiest night of the year. All rooms were booked out well in advance, you could not find a space in the car park for love nor money and in the function suite it was standing room only. A touching sentiment indeed to fallen heroes and an undeniable show of solidarity and support for an extreme sport which is an everyday part of life for so many. You would have been forgiven for walking in and thinking you were at some grand awards ceremony, the ladies had gone to town, the nails were French manicured, the hair was dressed to within an inch of its life! The spray tan had been applied and the best frock had been extricated from its place of honour in the wardrobe to be proudly hung on confident shoulders, and the men? Well some of them had shaved!! But seriously everyone was immaculately turned out and the place had a real red carpet feel about it. 

The Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club crew who were on hand to manage the event were caught speechless by the turnout, ticket sales had been great but no one expected the numbers who turned up at the door to buy their ticket on the night. The boys on the door were grinning like Cheshire Cats as people came through in a tsunami of support for this unique evening.

The buzz in the room was electric. The star studded line up of comedians and sports celebrities struggled against a wall of chatter from a hundred and more folks coming from the back of the room those weren’t showing disrespect to the performers at all they were just catching up on all the gossip and having a good old natter with friends they had not seen in months or in some cases years! There was a lot of catching up to do. Men were slapping each other on the back, women were hugging, men and women were hugging, enough said! There was not a frown to be found anywhere in the room and if we had organised a smile a thone we would have raised thousands for charity!

The comedy was provided by Trevor Browne and Gerry Mcbride the music by Equipped and the talk show which was the highlight of the evening saw some of the greatest names in the sport take to the stage to recall their personal memories of the year and then bravely take questions from the floor. Guy Martin had the room in rapturous laughter as he recounted some memorable moments from the TT and other events he had competed in whilst fending off marriage proposals from some persistent ladies in the audience. The Dunlop brothers did not disappoint with their humorous recollection of events that had entertained thousands of fans during the 2010 season, even on stage the sibling rivalry was evident between these racers of Royal decent. David Superman  Yeomans or Yomo to his friends and legions of fans one of Loughshinnys local boys was cracking more jokes than the comedians and had the crowd in the palm of his hand with his fabulous stories about how he came to wear the Superman leathers and how he used to borrow his mothers red tights! He joked that he was still in therapy for that one! and we will not mention what happened to his shorts during the Christmas Charity swim (can the young lady who has them please return them?). Andy Farrell had some friendly banter with some amateur hecklers in the audience and brought tears to many an eye with his quick witted responses. Brian McCormack got in on the act with a few one liners of his own and by now the Comedians were beginning to sweat a little, these boys were good!

Legendary Sports photographer Stephen Davison presented a show of his award winning work and recounted his own unique memories of a sport he loves and reminisced about the outstanding and memorable riders he had met along the way.

It was one of these nights where you looked at your watch when you arrived just to make sure you were on time or for some arriving fashionably late and that was the last time you looked at it. For most it was all over in an instant a night which ended much too early a night which went past in a flash but which was full of chat and laughs and memories a night which will be remembered and talked about for years to come and when it is talked about people will stop for a moment and think back with the deepest respect and admiration for two great guys who brought so much to so many, two guys who touched the lives of so many, two personalities who will be missed but never forgotten.

And where were the critics who kicked us black and blue when we were down? Nowhere to be seen! But then that is exactly what we expected of them.                    Ray Kerr/Jan 2011

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