TRANSFERRING talent from two wheels to four wheels is something that comes naturally to Banteer’s Barry Meade, a champion cyclist, particularly at underage level and a winning rally driver.
Individual sports rather than team sports had more appeal and even though his father Vincent, who was a very talented and winning rally co-driver and indeed driver also, wasn’t forthcoming with encouragement.
“As a matter of fact he tried to influence me away from it (rallying) as he is aware of the costs involved. I would be in favour of keeping young people involved in team sports, say playing GAA. Cycling is more of a loner sport really while I think cheap Junior rallying is gone for the moment.”
Always one to take his sport seriously, he also knows the importance of having good mentors.
“I had a great mentor in the late Joe McSweeney from Newmarket, he was a great motivator on rally week. So too is John Moynihan of Millstreet, who ran my father’s cars back in the day.
John has always been there for me as well, he puts his heart into it, just like Danny Curtin when I’m on two wheels. I’ve always been grateful for their support.”
Tall for his age, Barry began cycling when he was just eight-years-old mixing it with the best at U12, the first available category. His skills were cultivated at the Kanturk Cycling Club under the watchful eye of Danny Curtin. Although it was tough, cycling was Meade’s magic.
“We were all over the country every summer. Danny (Curtin) had a Hiace van with seats in the back and we headed off to places like Emyvale in Monaghan.”
As Barry Meade grew up, those travels took him and his fellow cyclists to Brittany in France for three weeks during the summer. As a tall child Meade had an advantage, but he also put in the time training. He won national titles at every underage level up to U16.
In his final year at underage, he was selected for the European Youth Olympics in 1999 as part of an Irish team and finished eighth in Denmark. But cycling wasn’t all sunshine, a training accident brought a different perspective.
“At that age (18) you are learning to drive and socialising, I had some good friends that I grew up with that went to France and Belgium and became professional, I never had the intention of turning pro. I never had the same commitment as others, that lifestyle is extremely tough.”
Those “others” included Paudie O’Brien from Banteer and Denis Lynch from Newmarket.
“The Wednesday after I completed my Leaving Certificate I went to the Donegal International Rally and that was that. The bike was shafted then. I bought my first Ford Escort shell in 2002 and began to build a rally car with Dan Cashman providing great assistance.”
Meade outlined how he financed the project. “It was through the SSIA scheme, my brother (Darach) built a house and I built a car.”
Conscious of the time involved in both sports, he added, “Cycling takes up all the hours you have and rallying probably takes up more with building your own car, that’s part of it, it’s a hobby. The national titles at underage were special, a national gold medal is a big thing. To compete in an Irish jersey anytime is a big thing really, the Youth Olympics, with opening and closing ceremonies was also a great experience.”
On their similarities, “A bad day in a car is the same as a bad day on a bike.”
The Junior category of the 2005 Cork “20” International Rally provided Meade with his first rally win, a year later he won the Top Part West Coast Junior Championship. Moving up more than a few gears to the Modified category he made an impact and immediately matched the likes of Phil Collins and Daniel McKenna.
There were outright wins in the national category in Killarney among others and on single-stage events in Banna, Imokilly and Carlow. “Banna was one of those rallies, it was great craic, to win back there against the likes of Mike Quinn was great, it’s also nice to win a Cork event.”
The cycling returned as he raced cross country in 2012 with a Killarney club and took a second-place finish in a criterium in Nenagh in the 2012/2013 season. Rallying was also back on the agenda including the building of a Ford Escort in 2017.
In the meantime, Paudie O’Brien had returned home and had formed a new cycling team.
“I had form and won a few races including the Corkman three day that was on the same weekend as the Rally of the Lakes, I also had a few top-10 finishes in Belgium.”
Accidents are part and parcel of both codes - on the bike, he broke his orbit in a training accident while in rallying an accident on the Fastnet Rally in Bantry put him on the back foot and when he was approached to sell the car, a deal was struck pretty quickly.
“My heart was out of it.” He also tried his hand at co-driving but isn’t keen on the role. “I will only go with certain friends and for the craic.”
On the role itself, “I was lucky to have the best co-drivers like Eamonn Hayes, Liam Moynihan, Colin Fitzgerald, John McCarthy and Alan Whyte.”
Barry is back on his bike once more and had his heart set on ticking one particular box this year.
“I always wanted to do the Rás, I went to Spain for 10 days training but soon after returning, Covid-19 changed everything.”
He may also return to rallying - in a less expensive class but one thing for sure and even though he is now a house owner, he remains competitive, it’s his nature.