1962 – The year a stage of the Rás finished in….Longford

This article is the first in a series which will be published daily throughout the 2013 edition of the Rás. I’ve taken the finish town of each day’s stage and looked back through the history books to a time when the Rás previously raced into the same town. Other stage towns in the series are:

Nenagh – 1958
Listowel – 1993
Healy Pass – 1984
Carlow – 1976

Today it’s Longford in 1962…


The Stage

1962 Rás Tailteann – 5th August – Stage 1 – Dublin, Lucan, Leixlip, Maynooth, Kilcock, Enfield, Mullingar, Edgeworthstown, Longford (122km)


(Photo: http://www.anpostmedia.com)

What was going on in Irish cycling?

In February a landmark meeting took place where all three of Ireland’s cycling associations sat down together for the first time. The NICF (Northern Ireland Cycling Federation – officially sanctioned by the UCI), the CRE (Cumann Rothaiochta na hEireann – representing the Republic of Ireland and also officially sanctioned by the UCI) and the NCA (National Cycling Association – representing the entire island of Ireland and not sanctioned by the UCI).

Agreements were reached in principle that riders from each association would be allowed to compete in each others races, that the national team for the World Championships that year would be chosen from all three associations and that an annual congress would be held amongst all three thereafter.

However relations began to sour once more shortly after and the Rás remained an NCA only affair. It would be years later until the mess that cycling administration in Ireland had become was cleaned up.

Meanwhile, Shay Elliott was busy breaking down barriers on the continent and his friend Peter Crinnion was looking to emulate him. Crinnion took part in the Tour de l’Avenir, finishing seventh overall and he also won a stage of the Route de France.

What was going on with the rest of cycling?

Shay Elliott and 1962 World Champion Jean Stablinski

As the Rás took place in August in 1962, that year’s Tour de France had recently taken place and was won by the Frenchman Jacques Anquetil. It was Anquetil’s third overall victory and he would go on to win a total of five in his career. Another Frenchman Raymond Poulidor was racing his first Tour de France and impressively, finished on the podium in third place behind Anquetil and the Belgian Jef Planckaert. It was the first of eight podium finishes for Poulidor in the Tour, a race he would famously never win.

The Belgian classics hard man Rik van Looy became the sixth rider ever to win the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the same year, and he remains the only rider to do it as reigning World Champion as he had taken the Rainbow Jersey in the autumn of 1961.

In the 1962 World Championships, Shay Elliott won the first ever road race medal for Ireland as he finished in second place behind Jean Stablinski in Salo in Italy. Many believe that Elliott was betrayed by Stablinski, Godfather of Elliott’s son, and that victory was stolen from the Irishman.

And what about other world news?
During the Rás itself in early August, Marilyn Monroe was found dead at her home in Los Angeles having overdosed on sleeping pills and Nelson Mandela was arrested in South Africa charged with inciting workers’ strikes and leaving the country without permission. He would spend the next 27 years in prison.

The Late Late Show was first aired in 1962

Earlier in the year Gay Byrne presented the first edition of the Late Late Show on RTE, Brazil retained the World Cup in Chile despite Pele getting injured in their second group match and Bob Dylan released his debut album.

Later in the year the Cuban Missile Crisis took place between the USA and Russia and The Beatles recorded their first ever single, Love Me Do, at Abbey Road studios in London.

So who won the stage into Longford in 1962?

The stage was won by Dermot McGrath, who had ridden the previous year’s Rás for Dublin but in 1962 was riding for the County Down team, the first rider from the team to win a stage of the Rás.

A breakaway of seven riders formed just after the main bunch reached Kilcock in County Kildare. Through a howling headwind, the seven riders (which included future race director Dermot Dignam) forged clear all the way to Longford as they contested the stage win amongst themselves. McGrath, an RTE technician, proved he didn’t have any of his wires crossed as he won the sprint finishing just ahead of team-mate Dermot Monaghan.

McGrath also pulled on the first yellow jersey of the race and with the time bonuses he gained for his stage win, he led the Rás by 30 seconds.

And most importantly, who won the Rás?

The 1962 Rás was the coming of age of one of the most legendary figures in Irish cycling, Sé O’Hanlon. The Dubliner, still only 20 in 1962, had already proven himself as one of Ireland’s top cyclists, he had won all kinds of races and had received the Caltex award as Ireland’s best cyclist in 1960 and 1961. In the Rás of ’61 he had won three stages on the trot but had to settle for third place as team orders took precedence which left O’Hanlon shepherding team-mate Tom Finn to overall victory.

Sé O’Hanlon wins the 1962 Rás Tailteann (Photo: http://www.anpostmedia.com)

But in 1962, the Rás belonged to O’Hanlon. He won four stages and the overall by beating team-mate Sonny Cullen into second place by almost twenty minutes. On Stage Eight, the last leg of the race ending in Phoneix Park in Dublin, O’Hanlon held a 17 minute lead over the rest of the field but that didn’t stop him breaking clear over the Wicklow Gap and winning the stage by almost two minutes. His finishing positions on each of the eight stages were 16th, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 1st, 1st, 6th and 1st – absolute domination.

O’Hanlon remains the most successful rider in the history of the Rás. He holds the record for most overall wins (4), most stage wins (24) and most yellow jerseys (37).


  1. Jim Morahan - November 14, 2014 @ 3:07 pm

    We veteran cyclists are shocked and saddened to hear of Dermot McGrath’s untimely passing, today in hospital after falling while cycling last week.
    A decent, honourable man – on and off the bike – he epitomised all that was good about cycling.
    I got to know Dermot when I joined the Irish Veteran Cyclists’ Association in the early 1980s, learning of his Ras exploits later. Dermot was not one to brag.
    May he rest in peace.
    Jim Morahan

  2. Owen Mcgrath(brother of Dermot) - November 16, 2014 @ 9:57 pm

    I take upon myself on behalf of the McGrath family to say thank you to all those who have paid tribute to Dermot from within cycling and from the wider world.Thank you all

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