CORK’S Darragh O’Mahony emerged as one of the most-promising cyclists in Ireland, as a result of his performances as a junior, and U23 rider.
He went some way towards fulfilling that early potential when he was crowned U23 national road race champion, in 2019.
The Rockchapel native has since achieved another long-term target, by pedalling his way to a place in the professional ranks.
Having previously raced in France, with the elite amateur outfit Nogent Sur Oise CC, he had a short stint with EvoPro, Ireland’s Continental team, during the back end of last year.
O’Mahony has recently signed for the UK’s SwiftCarbon Pro Cycling team, another Continental outfit, and made his debut for his new team, at the 1.1 ranked Grote prijs Jean-Pierre Monsere, in Belgium, last month, where he finished a very respectable, 18th.
The step-up to professional cycling is another milestone for the 22-year-old Corkman.
‘‘It was a good experience in Belgium. It was a good start to the year, but we’ll see how it is when we get back going.
“All the other riders on the team would be British. Some are young, like me. Then, there are others, like Pete Williams, who has been racing professional in the UK for the best part of 12 years.
“He’s done the Tour of Britain a million times and the Tour de Yorkshire every time it’s been on.
“So, you’ve got riders with massive experience like that. They can guide you through it. It’s my first full-year being with a professional team.
“Having someone like Pete there really helps to get your head around it. (The current situation without racing) isn’t ideal, but we are hoping to repay our sponsors when racing gets back going again,’’ O’Mahony said.
With racing cancelled for the foreseeable future, he’s set to continue his training regime indoors, on the turbo trainer.
But he remains optimistic about making an impact for his Yorkshire-based team, when the action eventually resumes.
Lessons learned from 2019’s highs and lows will stand to him in the long run.
O’Mahony is motivated, as much as ever.
‘‘I rode for EvoPro from September and I did five races with them. That was different.
“I was going from elite amateur in France, to professional racing. There was a big step-up, which I thought I might have been ready for.
“But, really I wasn’t. I didn’t do too well in races and I was getting a kicking every week; physically and mentally.
“But, I learned what I could from it. I’m happy I did it and it prepared me for this year. Success, I guess, motivates me most.
“When you put in so much time with something, you want to see success or progression.
“For me, success would be making a career out of the sport, making cycling all I have to do every day,’’ he said.
O’Mahony took up cycling, as a sport, at the age of 16. He linked up with the renowned O’Leary Stone Kanturk Cycling Club, and his progress since has been remarkable.
A Junior Tour of Ireland stage winner, he has also had two top-10 finishes in the Rás Tailteann and has won the Dermot Hanlon Memorial. He has worn the green of Ireland, at races such as the Tour de l’Avenir and the Ronde van Vlaanderen Beloften.
A student of chemical engineering at the University of Limerick, before he took leave to pursue a career in cycling, he also finished eighth at the World University Games, in 2018.
A return to college could yet be on the cards, further down the line. But, first he wants to achieve more in elite-level cycling. His time spent on the continent has taught him what is required.
‘‘It is a very different style of racing to what we’d be used to in Ireland. It would be more professional-style racing.
“You get used to biding your time in a race, not blowing it all in the first hour, and hiding in a bunch as much as you can.
“As you get better, and you stay in races for longer, you learn how to compete, how to race, how to win.
“That’s what you learn most really. And, obviously, you get stronger when you are doing that much training,’’ he said.
O’Mahony is the latest in a line of subsequent international cyclists, who have honed their skills at the local club, in Kanturk.
Cork’s Eddie Dunbar and Paídi O’Brien are among the others. The Kanturk club produce national champions and stars of the future, virtually every year.
‘‘You have a lot of people working hard behind the scenes in Kanturk; the likes of Danny Curtin, who put in a lot of their own time, for no monetary gain.
“They are volunteering, helping out. The club attracts some of the better young fellas from the Munster area.
“They want to come to Kanturk to progress. You have got Danny putting the time in, training fellas three and four times a week, making them put in the hard work. From that then, you tend to get success.
“I caught the bug, I started racing and I started spending all my money on bikes. Before I knew it, I was turning professional or trying to.
“That’s how it’s gone, over the last six or seven years,’’ O’Mahony said.