Western Lakes riders on Ras squad

6 Western Lake riders in contention for a place on the Mayo Ras Centra team, read full storey below.

Centra to Sponsor Mayo cycling team in Ras Transformation

Centra the food brand that’s been heard in every household in the country are linking up with an unusual venture of Ras transformation (The full storey below) The project is aimed at bringing ordinary working club racers who have families and are all on the wrong side of thirty to be able to complete the 8 days of the 60th edition of the An Post Ras International cycle race.

The Team was launched at Keegan and Higgins Centra store Enniscrone, where the project was unveiled to the public.

The team will be clad in the blue and yellow colours of the Centra Supermarket chain, thanks to shop proprietors’ Higgins and Keegan.

“The Centra food range meets the high standards of Elite sports persons who require optimum nutrition,” says a Centra spokesperson”. 

To put a squad in the An Post Ras the following sponsors are also on board, Champion Systems UK will sponsor the race cycle clothing, Erin Recyclers Donegal/Sligo are sponsoring accommodation, Insignia Plus Westport are sponsoring the leisure clothing, Marrey Bikes Ballinrobe will provide Sports Nutrition and equipment, Topaz will sponsor fuel for the 1200kms race.. with the 160 strong peloton racing through 35 towns and over 30 categorised climbs reroute to the Finish at line in Skerries Co Dublin.

The squad say thank you to all our sponsors, without whom this venture would not be possible.

Mission impossible !

Six months ago, the idea of novice cyclist Donal Harrington competing in Ireland’s toughest cycle race was a fantasy. And yet there is every chance that Donal will be among the 200 hopefuls lining up for the start of An Post Ras in just over five weeks’ time. It’s a daunting prospect and here, in Donal’s own words, is the story so far and his thoughts on the challenges that lie ahead.

 “What would it take for the likes of me to complete the Ras?” I asked top coach and cyclist Padraig Marrey. His reply was brief and to the point: “a lot!” It was a good enough answer to set the cogs in motion. That was six months ago, and what seemed like a crazy idea back then is now looking very much like a an achievable goal. What’s more, we have gathered a few more relatively inexperienced cyclists to take up the challenge.

I completed my first major cycling goal under Padraig’s guidance last October when I completed every stage of the 2011 Tour de France route, losing four stone in the process. Earlier that year I cycled the 1100km route of the Ras, which maybe is what got me wondering what it would be like to do it competitively.

The Ras is recognised as one of the toughest events on Ireland’s sporting calendar, and as a UCI-ranked event, attracts many international professional teams. I knew it would be a tall order. Taking on a challenge such as this would be impossible without having someone of Padraig’s experience as the key driving force on an off the road.

He has ridden the Ras nine times and still holds a number of national place-to-place records (most recently Galway to Limerick in 2h 14mins), not to mention his achievements in adventure racing. His CV as a coach is equally impressive, having coached many top riders, including Mark Scanlon to a Junior World championship.

As we began to explore the idea we compiled a list of possible candidate cyclists. The original list had about 35 names on it, but throughout the following weeks the list was whittled down for a variety of reasons including availability, commitment, desire and ability.

We began with easy group spins, and as the weeks progressed and the intensity increased to race-level training, the numbers began to fall until we were left with only a handful of names. Interestingly, and by coincidence rather than by choice, most of the riders were 30-something and full time employed. We are lucky enough to have three Ras veterans on board in Padraig and Michael Brady as riders, and Myles Gallagher as manager.

Michael, who completed his first Ras at 42 years of age, brings a wealth of experience to the group. Myles previously managed teams in the Ras and in other major races in Europe and North America. His job at races is to ensure that things fall into place including bike maintenance, massage therapy, and that nutritional requirements are met. This means the riders need only concentrate on cycling the bike.

The current panel is down to seven including Padraig Marrey (postman), Michael Brady (plasterer), Michael Gilvarry (engineer), Michael Flanagan (engineer), John James Flaherty (fish farmer), Barry Holian (air traffic controller), and myself, Donal Harrington (truck driver). The group regularly puts in many hard training sessions up to five days a week, and have completed a weekend training camp and a week-long camp in Spain to date this year.

This team has trained as professionally as possible for an amateur outfit, and Padraig conducts regular fitness tests in his facility in Ballinrobe for key progress indicators such as lactate threshold and power output. It has been a tough road to date for all involved but the results are starting to bear fruit and all the riders are already showing well in races. 

This is a team that I'm proud to be part of and is shaping up more like a professional team than a group of amateurs. We will be going out in the Ras to compete against 100 full-time professional cyclists as well as the best amateurs Ireland has to offer. This is a team that gives it’s all, and most of all a team that believes fully in our ethos of never giving in.

Mission: Impossible, no. Mission Possible!!!


Rider and Management profiles


Name: Myles Gallagher

Lives in Dublin

Experience: Manager at Murphy & Gunn Pro team 2006-2008

Involved in cycling for 25 years


Assistant Manager

Name: Ray Staunton 

Lives in Westport

Experience: New to managing but has been involved in cycling for 30 years.

Ph 0879843929

Masseur / Soigneur

Name: Melissa Irvine  

Lives in : Newtownards Co Down

Experiance: fully qualified as a sports masseuse for 3 years.  Before doing my sports massage course, I qualified in Swedish massage a year before.  Since qualifying I did a little bit of work with a football team coming up to league competition.  Since then I have been working around cycling.  I provide massages for people in Ards Cycling Club and have done a lot of work for my brother, Martyn Irvine, working with him on races such as the Tour of Ulster and The Tour of the North



Name: Padraig Marrey

Lives at Ballinrobe Co Mayo

Marriage status: Long term Girlfriend, Mary Mulchrone
Work: An Post Westport as Postman
Age: 39
Weight: 82kg.
Height: 6ft
Started cycling competitively 24 years ago.
Greatest achievement: Won Gaelforce adventure race 2010, Set Irish record for Mizen to Malin of 17hhrs 48mins, Set World record for most amount of metre ascended and descended in 24hrs.
Goal for Ras: Hope to compete for stage placing and County rider prize in the Ras
Sporting heroes: Sean Kelly and Mike Tyson.

Ph 087 7992857

Name: Micheal Brady

Lives at Westport Co Mayo

Marriage status: Married to Sharon, three children, Emily, Michael and Joanie

Work: Self-employed Building Contractor

Height: 5’7’’

Weight: 74kg

Started cycling eight years ago, but had cycled as a teenager previously

Greatest achievement: competed in Ras 2010 on the Murphy Gunn team. Competed in the Race around Ireland 2009

Ph 0876 811263

Name: JJ Flaherty

Lives at: Renvyle Co Galway

Marriage status: Married with 4 kids.
Work: at Connemara fisheries, on smolt production site.
Age: 43
Weight: 74kg.
Height: 5ft 8ins
Started cycling competitively 11 years ago.
Greatest achievement: Raising a family.
Goal for Ras: Hope to compete for B prize on stages in the Ras
Sporting hero: Valentino Rossi.

Ph 0879120910

Name: Michael Flanagan

Lives: Galway city

Marriage/ kids status: long term girlfriend, Aisling Keane

Work: Mechanical Engineer in Eirecomposites in Inverin Galway

Age: 30

Weight: Currently 73kg

Height: 183cm

Started cycling: Started mountain biking at 23, seven years ago, at the time was very unfit.

Greatest achievement: Mizen to Malin and winning Connacht MTB champs, also came third in the National MTB marathon champs in elites.

Goal for Ras: Finish the Ras strong and become a "Man of the Ras"

Sporting hero: I don’t really have a sporting idol. Some of the athletes who have inspired me and made me think about what people are really capable of are Cliff Young, Jane Tomlinson and Terry Fox

Ph 0868637625
Name Barry Holian

Lives: near Ballinrobe Co Mayo

Marriage/ kids status: Married two years now to Ruth Folman, no kids.

Work at: Air Traffic Control at Ireland West Airport Knock

Age: 36

Weight: 76kgs

Height: 180cms

Started cycling: Started back cycling again in November 2010 after a lapse of 16 years

Greatest achievement to date: Second in the National A3 Championship 2011

Goal for Ras: To be competitive at a county level

Your sporting hero: Sean Kelly

Ph 0894368480

Name: Donal Harrington

Lives: near Charlestown Co Mayo

Married: Yes to Elaine, 7 wonderful years! Children Aidan 4, Olivia 3.

Occupation: Truck driver.

Age: 36

Weight: 82kg/12st 10lbs. I was 110kg/ at start of project.

Height: 5ft 10in.

Started cycling: Just two years at leisure cycling until this year

Greatest achievement: Last year after an eight- month training period I cycled all the stages of the Ras ahead of the race itself. Later in the summer I cycled the route of the 2011 Tour de France, stage by stage, in aid of The Irish Cancer Society. 

Goal for Ras: From the beginning has been to race at the highest possible level, and there is no higher level than the An Post Ras. The reality of the Ras: It being an internationally recognised and extremely difficult race, it is not for any rider, especially an amateur rider. Just to finish would be a huge achievement. Our greatest hope, by a long way, would be to win a county prize but the main objective is for the whole team is to finish the race in the highest possible position.

Sporting heroes: Sean Kelly, Rocky Marciano and Keith Wood. Tough guys!!!

Ph 0868054859

Name:  Michael Gilvarry

Lives: Headford Co Galway

Family:  Married to Oonagh for nine years. We have two boys, Ruairi (5) and Ronan (2).

Age: 37

Height: 6’ 2” (188cm)

Weight: 12st 8lb (80kg)

Occupation: Engineer

Achievements/cycling history: Relatively new to cycling taking it up three years ago, building from sportifs in the first 2 years to local league racing (5th in Mayo league in 2011). Steady improvement.

Hope performance improves to be competitive in open racing – enjoying the longer distance races!

Goal for Ras: To place inside the top 100 in first Ras

Sporting heroes: James J. Braddock (Cinderella Man)

Ph 0879000368