The 50th race for the Johnny Drumm Memorial Cup takes place on this Sunday, April 26th in Currow. Johnny Drumm was from Tobermaing and he was a champion racing cyclist both on the road and grass track. He was also a champion ploughman and had won the All Ireland ploughing championship in Kilkenny in 1964.
It was a terrible shock to locals who remember that tragic day fifty years ago when Cordal, Castleisland and Kerry lost one of their great sporting sons. Looking back on the race over half a century there are too many stories to tell here of great winners and competitors and a tireless organising committee that always put on a great race in memory of Johnny Drumm.
“The list of winners reads like a collection of the top Irish and European cyclists who are all very proud of their achievement in adding their names to this impressive cup.
The first winner was Gene Mangan of Killorglin, who had won the Rás Tailteann in 1955 as well as All Ireland road and track championships,” said Eamonn Breen – himself a Rás Tailteann, Kerry team cyclist and a contemporary of the late Johnny Drumm.
“There were many more famous names to come – the Lonergan brothers, Johnny and Joe from Tipperary; Colm Nulty of Meath; John and Denis Mangan of Killorglin; Aidrian Byrne a Dublin based garda. The 30th race in 1995 was won by German Patrick Rives Maye who was a student at Limerick University at the time and a former junior champion of West Germany; Séamas Kennedy of Meath and Dublin; Mick Cahill of Banteer; Bobby Power of Tipperary; John O’Sullivan of Kanturk; Batty Flynn and Jack Lacey of Kerry,” said Eamonn.
There was a unique conclusion to the race in 1972 when the event resulted in a dead heat between Limerick man Gearóid Costello and Anthony O’Halloran of Kerry. John Blackwell, Billy Reidy and Paul Griffin won the race more than once to again keep the cup in Kerry but in recent years Corkmen Mick Fitzgerald, Richard Hooton and the in-form Paidi O Brien have won it.
“It has always been a race that cyclists really wanted to win and many competitors going on to join the ranks of the professionals. Sam Bennett won this race three times and is now competing successfully with the world’s elite cyclists. Eddie Dunbarr was second last year and has since gone professional. Michael O’Loughlin is no stranger to the roads of Currow and maybe one day he could emulate his father in winning the race,” said Mr. Breen.
The Aquablue squad will want to add this title and will include Kerry-men Sean Lacey and Cathal Moynihan in their team. There were many and varied routes for the race over the years. The first race was held over eight laps of the Breahig circuit, also used were the Ballycarthy and Castlemaine circuits. The route for this year’s race is the one which has been used for a number of years now: It will start in Currow Village and proceed through: Ballybeg; Dromulton; Roche’s Cross; Castleisland – left at Garvey’s on to Lisheenbawn and to finish just before Currow Village. The plan is that there will be racing from 11am until approximately 4.30pm on Sunday 26th of April as all categories are catered for from U-11s to elite cyclists. The full programme will be on the club’s website: www.currow.cc.com
Finally – very few sportsmen have a ballad in their honor. Many readers will be familiar with hearing it locally and Tralee native, Castleisland resident, Nicholas Kerins is its finest exponent. The words, by Jackie Hartnett, Abbeyfeale, are as follows:
Ballad of John Drumm (to the air of the Croppy Boy)
Good men and true in the NCA,
Your Castleisland Star we mourn today,
John Drumm is gone – in te grave he is lying,
The Ras Tailteann Hero from Tobermaing.
The Banshee cried around Glounsharoon,
When he passed away on that afternoon,
He died at home on September 4,
The best all rounder at Donoughmore.
Pat Neary and Drumm have passed away,
Two faithful sons of the NCA,
For his brother James I have made this song,
And young Thady Walsh will bring it along.
Twas in Kilkenny he showed them how,
An Irish farmer should drive a plough,
To plough the sod all the tractors came,
But the champion ploughman was Johnny Drumm.
In the great Ras Tailteann he made his name,
With Dan Ahern of All Ireland fame,
He won for Kerry in the Green and Gold,
I saw him cycling with Eamonn Breen.
The Ring of Kerry he did not fear,
As he forged ahead in his climbing gear,
He fought Shay O’ Hanlon day by day,
And often crashed in fierce affray.
He burst a tyre in a race at Sneem,
But he beat the rest of the Kerry team,
God be with the days when Jack Drumm was flying,
The champion Bikeman from Tobermaing.
Remember Drumm of the Desmond Club,
No more he rides with his gears and hub,
For a racing cyclist we kneel and pray,
God bless John Drumm and the NCA.