Athea races ‘not dead’ despite continued absence, organiser insists

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Action from the 2011 Athea road races   Picture by Dave Gaynor
THE ATHEA motorcycle road races “are not dead in the water” despite their absence for a second successive summer due to a lack of funding, the event’s principal organiser has said.

THE ATHEA motorcycle road races “are not dead in the water” despite their absence for a second successive summer due to a lack of funding, the event’s principal organiser has said.

The races, which typically attracted in excess of 10,000 visitors each year since they were first staged in 2002, have now only taken place once in the last four years due to a lack of sponsorship.

Race organiser Connie Herbert, the former proprietor of the now-closed Gables pub complex in Athea, denied that the races are unlikely to ever be staged again. Mr Herbert, who is now based in Cahir in Tipperary, said that he hopes to see the Athea races return in the summer of 2015 if a similar event which he is planning for Cahir next summer is a success.

“My great hope is that once Cahir has been established, Athea will come back in 2015. We discussed that last week, and that’s my plan. There’s no doubt about it, the Athea races are not dead in the water. It is still my home place. We ran an event for nine years, and it was virtually accident-free.

“I organised Athea, and from the point of view of the motorcycle union of Ireland, it hinges on me reviving it. It won’t run next year, it definitely won’t. The reason it didn’t go ahead is sponsorship problems. If it was easy to raise funds, we’d do Athea.”

Staging the Athea races requires in excess of €70,000 to cover costs such as prize money and insurance. Securing sponsorship to pay for the event became difficult after 2009 when former title sponsors Quinn Insurance pulled out. In March 2012 the race organisers announced that the event was being shelved due to “hassle” in securing short-term funding from the banks

Today the Athea motorcycle road race’s website primarily advertises the planned race in Cahir, which has been put back until next August.

Mr Herbert denied that staging the races in Athea again was no longer an option. “I’ve left Athea now, but I’ve still got great affection for Athea. I’m still involved with the Athea club. We were discussing it last week. The directors of the motorcycle union really like Athea.”