Residents, volunteers and businesses in Youghal spent months preparing for the biggest event in their calendar and one of the biggest in the town’s history: The Ironman Triathlon.
Roads were resurfaced, buildings were repainted and the town was decorated and cleaned to ensure it was ready to welcome around 2,600 athletes along with thousands more supporters and spectators on Sunday.
However, the one thing the organisers could not control was the weather and it proved to have a huge impact on the event.
A status yellow rainfall warning was issued for Cork and surrounding counties on Saturday and it proved true as heavy downpours pummelled the Rebel County from Saturday evening onwards.
The onslaught of rain resulted in organisers cancelling the swim portion of the Ironman due to safety concerns.
Thousands of athletes still took to the streets of Youghal to take on the cycle and run in gruelling conditions, cheered on by hundreds of supporters who braved the wind and rain to witness the historic event.
British triathlete Alistair Brownlee, who claimed pole position in the men’s competition with a time of 7:44:16, said the crowd were fantastic.
“Even in the middle of nowhere, there were flags and banners, and it made me smile.
“They made it a great day,” he added.
Swiss triathlete Emma Bilham, who was the first woman over the line, thanked the spectators for showing up in such conditions.
“I think they were probably as wet as I was at the end,” she laughed.
“The support was amazing.”
While she admitted the number of spectators may have been slightly below the number expected due to the conditions, Sandra McLellan of the Youghal Tourism Office, said thousands braved the elements.
“I was out on the strand in the morning and there were thousands out there in the driving wind and rain for hours to cheer the athletes.
“There’s a fantastic atmosphere here and people still came out in droves despite the weather being against them.”
General manager of the Walter Raleigh hotel, Michael Brett, agreed that the mood was upbeat despite the conditions.
“It was disappointing for a lot of the candidates with the swim being cancelled and that but the spectators and community really got behind them,” he said.
“The atmosphere has been fantastic, surprisingly upbeat given the conditions.
“Even with the rain, everyone here is in party mode and there’s a great festival atmosphere.
“Everyone’s out with the ponchos on, they’re soaked to the skin, but in great form,” he laughed.
Yesterday’s Ironman was estimated to be worth around €8m to the local economy, according to Cork County Council, which was the main event sponsor.
The council had invested significantly in recent months to ensure that Youghal was race-ready on Sunday.
This included investment in road improvements and the overhaul of the beach at Claycastle.
While the beach improvements were not on show yesterday, the council said the investment in the Youghal Wastewater Treatment Plant is part of an overall investment in wastewater infrastructure of approximately €22.8m.
Beaches in Youghal had previously had swim bans, due to elevated levels of bacteria in the water.
However, the council now anticipated that the wastewater treatment plant will support the return of blue flags beach status for Claycastle and Youghal.
Local councillor and former deputy Mayor of the county, Mary Linehan Foley said the Ironman will have a positive impact on Youghal and East Cork in the coming days, weeks and months.
“It’s going to be massive for the economy not just in Youghal but for the whole of East Cork, from Midleton to West Waterford.
“The region will see the benefits of this for months to come.
“It’s certainly going to put Youghal back on the map.” Sandra McLellan concluded of the event:
“I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life.
“The community spirit surrounding this event and the months of preparation has been fantastic.
“The feedback we’re getting from athletes and visitors, praising the hospitality and atmosphere here in Youghal, is a testament to everyone who got involved,” she said.
“They said it was like nothing they’ve ever seen or experienced before and we’re just delighted.
“It’s been super and we’re already looking forward to next year.”
The rain that failed to dampen spirits at the Ironman did succeed in curtailing several events across Cork as Bonna Night was cancelled and the Cork Carnival of Science at Fitzgerald Park was forced to end early.
While Met Eireann expect some thundery showers in the region this week, they estimate high temperatures and some sunny spells for the week ahead with the mercury set to reach more than 25 degrees celsius at times.