Youghal shows mettle without its Ironman!

Youghal shows mettle without its Ironman!

Athletes running through the streets of Youghal during last year’s Ironman event. Unfortunately, this year’s event has been put off until 2021. Picture: Howard Crowdy

THIRD time lucky is Michael Brett’s mantra, as he looks forward to welcoming Ironman to Youghal in August 2021.

The event, which saw 2,670 athletes from 62 countries converge in the Cork town in 2019, was due to be held there for the second time this summer but was cancelled as a result of the current pandemic.

Mr Brett, General Manager of the Walter Raleigh Hotel described the cancellation as disappointing but is be expected.

“I’m sure things will go our way next time,” he says. “Last year’s Ironman was a massive event that showcased our fabulous town all over the world.”

However, torrential rain on the day of the event affected both the competitors and spectators.

“So fingers crossed, third time lucky next year!” he says. “We’ll have a clear run at it.”

The rain didn’t put a damper on the combined efforts of residents, volunteers, community clubs, the county council and the gardaí to ensure that Youghal with its beautiful beaches and sandy plains, was firmly put on the world map.

“That’s for sure,” says Michael. “Everyone, young and old, showed their appreciation for the athletes, their families and their supporters. Ironman 2019 was a fantastic event for us, for the local economy and for the people of Youghal.”

This year, things will be different.

“The hotel was booked solid since after Christmas,” says Michael. “The Ironman event organisers were booked into the hotel for 10 days.

“Athletes from all over the world who took part in Ironman last year were due back again for the event this year.”

They were in for the long haul.

“Many of the participants were coming to Youghal as early as March and April to train and get ready for Ironman.”

Others will also be disappointed with cancellations due to Covid-19.

“Summer weddings were booked here eight months ahead. I think wedding reception numbers will drop significantly when they take place,” says Michael.

“People will be nervous of big numbers congregating together and of course; couples will want to keep the cost down.”

Youghal, usually so vibrant, vibrating with colour and people, is eerily quiet.

“This time last year we were flat out getting ready for the influx of visitors from all over the world,” Michael says. “There was a real festival-feel leading up to Ironman. There was a huge level of activity around with athletes running, swimming, cycling, checking out the route.”

Race director John Wallnutt of Wanda Sports Holdings is as disappointed as everyone else that Ironman is cancelled this year.

“We have to be led by the Government during Covid-19,” he says. “Doing the right thing is in all our interests. Events all over the country have been postponed or cancelled.

“The good news is that it has been confirmed that Ironman is going ahead in August 2021. Athletes everywhere will have the opportunity to train for the event throughout the summer. Everyone connected to Ironman is 100% committed to making Ironman 2021 a memorable event.

“Anything is possible when we all pull together.”

John, from Dublin, says feels like a Youghal native at this stage.

“Last year I was up and down to Youghal at least 20 times before Ironman took place!” says John. “I felt like a resident. I was really surprised to see so many athletes arrive in east Cork in April and May last year who were checking out the Ironman route. I think early next year we can look forward to welcoming the athletes and their supporters back to Youghal.”

The success of Ironman 2019 can be repeated in 2021.

“The atmosphere last year was electric,” says John. “Leading up the event; we had six perfect days of sunshine. Then the rain came down!

“It was still a fantastic event. And it will be a fantastic event in August 2021. We are planning a kiddies Ironman event and a Windmill Hill challenge that everyone can participate in.”

Last year Windmill Hill proved a great vantage point to see the Ironman cyclists attack the cruel gradient.

“The cyclists cycled up the hill twice!” says John. “I think they were cursing me!”

Independent Councillor, Mary Linehan Foley, says there will be a void in Youghal this year with Ironman cancelled.

“Of course we were all looking to forward to repeating the success of Ironman 2019,” says Mary.

“It was a major coup for the town. The boost to the local economy was unbelievable.

“People are 100% disappointed that Ironman was cancelled due to Covid-19. We all knew that was coming and getting the official news was disappointing. We all also understand that safety is the number one priority. Concert, festivals and events all over the country have been cancelled in the national interest. I think it is a great bonus we can look ahead to August 2021 when Youghal will host Ironman again.”

Ambitious plans are afoot.

“We had lots of ideas and plans for this year, and they will fall into place for next August.”

There will be no stopping the enthusiasm of the people of Youghal.

“You may be sure all the stops will be pulled out,” says Mary.

“For now we must adhere to the Government’s guidelines. I think the priority now is to get back to normality. Staying healthy and staying safe is the way to go.”

Florist Kate Curtain, famous for converting an old bike into an Ironman prop outside her shop, agrees with Councillor Foley.

“Look, Ironman is cancelled this year. But we can look ahead to August 2021,” says Kay, who is geared up for the Ironman influx already. “I installed a coffee dock and an ice-cream machine.

“Visitors to Youghal last year loved sitting outside in the sunshine enjoying the buzz. I’m sure everyone involved organising Ironman and who is taking part in the event will be looking forward to a bumper year next year. My windows will be flowering again.”

The volunteers, always coming up roses, will still be available in August 2021.

“I roped in my husband Michael and my son Adrian to clean the windows. It’s all hands on deck. The shop windows of Youghal will look just as spectacular in the summer of 2021.”

Youghal suffered a blow with the cancellation of the Ironman event
due to take place this summer, but locals tell Chris Dunne that they are already looking forward to hosting international athletes when the competition returns in 2021

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