Belfast Telegraph

Tandragee racing goes on under cloud after Noel Murphy's death

By Roy Harris

A dark cloud hung over the Tandragee road races at the weekend following the tragic death of rider Noel Murphy.

Murphy, from Lusk in County Dublin, died on the Cooley Hill Road on Saturday during the Junior Support race.

It is understood there were no other riders involved in the incident.

Racing was suspended but resumed following a request from Mr Murphy's father, who was at the event.

Just a week ago Noel had been celebrating his first road race victory at the Cookstown 100 and had been planning a full season of national races, culminating with the Manx Grand Prix on the Isle of Man later this year.

A member of the Loughshinny Club, there is a dark irony that Noel lost his life almost six years to the day that another talented Lusk rider, Martin Finnegan, was killed in an accident on the same course.

As a mark of respect the Loughshinny Club have decided to postpone the press launch of the Skerries Road Races scheduled for May 9 to June 13.

Although racing continued, a number of riders opted out as a mark of respect to Noel and races were reduced to three laps.

The opening race of the day was a Supersport six-lap thriller that saw William Dunlop score his debut victory for Tyco Suzuki after a race-long battle with Keith Amor and Derek McGee.

Amor, making his first appearance at Tandragee for five years, was the pace setter for the opening laps with McGee and Dunlop right in his slipstream with less than a second separating them.

Dunlop was into second on lap four, then hit the front on lap five with the fastest lap of the meeting at 107.502mph to hold off the challenge of Amor to win by two tenths of a second with McGee settling for third five seconds adrift.

Incidentally, Dunlop and Amor were the only two riders to break the three minute barrier for the circuit during the meeting.

Following his Cookstown 100 success, Manxman Dan Kneen was at it again at Tandragee, again on his circuit debut, winning the Friday night Superbike race by less than a second from McGee with Jamie Hamilton picking up a podium for third on the Wilson Craig Honda, a race that saw Yorkshire rider crash heavily. He was taken to hospital with serious, but non-life threatening injuries.

In Saturday's three-lap feature race that saw only 15 starters compared to 33 on Friday night, Kneen was quick off the mark to lead at the end of lap one racing the Cookstown BE Suzuki to a 2.8sec victory over Shaun Anderson with Davy Morgan relegating Michael Sweeney to fourth on the final lap.

Ryan Farquhar, in his first road race back after an 18-month 'retirement', created a little piece of history by winning his 200th Irish road race by taking the Winfield Gears Paton to victory in the Classic race and then made it 201 by winning the Moto450 race.

Conor Behan, riding a Farquhar SGS International KMR Kawasaki, won the three lap Supertwin race having earlier finished a creditable fourth in the competitive Supersport class.

There were also wins at the meeting for Paul Robinson Moto3, Anthony McColgan Supersport 400, Michael Sweeney 250GP, Tom Robinson Senior Support and Derek Costello was declared the winner of the tragic Junior Support race.

In the weekend Women's World Motocross championship event at Valkenswaard in The Netherlands, Natalie Kane finished third overall in the Grand Prix following two third place finishes.

Natalie lost her championship lead, but is now second by a single point to Italian Chiara Fontanesi 121 to 120.

Riders willing to risk lives for a thrill

By Roy Harris

Motorcycle road racing is again in the headlines this morning for all the wrong reasons following the death of Lusk rider Noel Murphy during Saturday's Tandragee 100 Junior Support race.

The sport that can bring so much exhilaration, enjoyment and spectacular action to tens of thousands who line the circuits year on year can also have that split second moment that overturns that thrill to tragedy and casts doubt over its relevance to the outsider.

Road racing is a tradition in Ireland and has drawn young men and women into the challenges it presents -- riding a motorcycle at high speed in a controlled environment on normal everyday roads that for 363 days a year are used by normal, everyday traffic.

The organising body of the sport, the Motorcycle Union of Ireland, has over the years been at the forefront of making circuits safer for competitors and spectators, but no matter how many precautions or risk assessments one takes, accidents can and will happen that no organisation can legislate for, be it in horse riding, mountaineering, walking down the road, crossing the street or driving your car.

In fact, road racing has the best on-site medical rapid response team available if and when an accident occurs, and the doctors and paramedics at trackside have a mini accident and emergency unit at their disposal.

It has often been said by spectators that if there was ever any place for taking ill it would be at a race meeting simply because of the on-hand medical assistance available. However, sometimes this is not enough to save a life.

Competitors know the risk they are taking every time they put on their helmet, but it is a risk they are prepared to take for the pure adrenaline rush and they would all tell you there is no other feeling in the world like participating in or winning a road race.

Families, wives, girlfriends, partners are left to pick up the pieces following a fatality, but they and the road racing fraternity are 100% supportive of their racing activities. At Tandragee the family of Noel Murphy were adamant that the rest of the race meeting should continue and arguably, rightly or wrongly, it did.

The lure of road racing is just like a drug; addictive, hard to get out of the system, dangerous, but something that many will take part in, well aware that it carries a health warning.

Yes, the sport will mourn alongside the family, but come the next race the grids will be full of competitors willing to pit their skills and bravery against the ribbon of road that winds its way between the hedges and ditches that will be lined with spectators enthralled by their hero's exploits.

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