Eddie Dunbar: Ireland’s next Tour winner?

Irish Cycling hasn’t had a hero since the days of Seán Kelly and Stephen Roche. The sport has undergone something of a Renaissance in the last five years with more and more people out on the roads putting down hard miles. Soccer has Robbie Keane, golf has Rory McIlroy and rugby had Brian O’Driscoll up until last season. Nicholas Roche is at the forefront of strong Irish cyclists but unless he wins a Grand Tour he will always be in the shadow of his father.

Corkman Eddie Dunbar has all the credentials of a tour rider elect. He is a frighteningly powerful, aggressive rider who is currently testing his ability with Pro team NFTO. Officially ranked the no.1 British team in 2014 there’s no better place for Dunbar to learn the trade of Continental-Tour riding.

The 18-year old starred in the junior ranks of Irish racing last year and is a two-time yellow jersey winner at the Junior Tour of Ireland and won the national time trial championship as well last year. Amongst other victories he also had overall victory at the NFTO Junior Tour of Wales.

Despite interest from the UK, Europe and the US Dunbar chose the Yorkshire based outfit to ride with this year. Already he’s been making waves particularly with a sensational performance in one of the UK’s biggest races of the year. The Chorley Grand Prix saw Dunbar lead an attack that split the breakaway from 18 men to just three. This paved the way for teammate Ian Bibby to claim the win. 28-year old Bibby was full of praise for the rookie at the end of the race.

“I looked behind and saw there were only two of us so our best chance was to get across to Eddie and really commit,” said Bibby.

“Eddie killed himself and sacrificed it for me. He’s done incredible for his first year.”

His talent is only rivalled by his ambition. Speaking to Lucca Sports Dunbar says he wouldn’t hesitate at the chance of riding in the Pro Continental or World Tour:

“I want to get to the World Tour as soon as possible. I am a very ambitious person. That’s the way I have always been so I can’t see the point in waiting if the opportunity arrives.”

Such is his talent that Paddy Power have him at a meagre 11/8 to win a Tour de France stage at any stage in his career.

Maybe Eddie Dunbar is the icon Irish Cycling needs? He certainly has the potential.

Watch this space.

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God Spieth!

This weekend Jordan Spieth became the second-youngest golfer ever to don the famous green jacket at Augusta. A remarkable feat for the 21 year old who finished runner-up to Bubba Watson last year.

This year he was coming in to the Master off the back of a string of impressive displays. A victory at the Valspar Championship in Florida, runner-up in the Valero Texas Open and eventually missing out on victory at the Shell Houston Classic via a play-off saw Jordan Spieth in good form before this weekend.

Odds on him halved in the week before the Masters too with most bookmakers seeing his price fall from 20/1 to 10/1.

Last Thursday the young Texan took a three shot lead and finished the day eight under par. The following day he broke the 36-hole record as he posted a score of 130 and finished up 14 under par. The previous Masters record was set by Raymond Floyd all the way back in 1976 where he scored 131 shots through 36 holes.

On Saturday the young American continued his scintillating form. Unfazed by all the media attention he went out on the famous runways of Augusta and put another record-breaking round on display. This time he set a new record for the least amount of shots required through 54 holes. Scoring 200 exactly he sat atop the leader board.

Spieth celebrates in front of the crowd.

Spieth celebrates in front of the crowd.

British Open winner Darren Clarke spoke of his amazement at the Americans scoring.

“I don’t know what course Jordan is playing but it’s not the same one I’m playing. Wow.”

Coming in to the final round of the 2015 Masters it was impossible not to draw similarities between Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, the Northern Irishman leading on the Sunday four years previous.

Of course we all know now that McIlroy completely capitulated on that fateful day in 2011. Holding a four-shot lead he proceeded to drop eight shots and finished well off eventual winner Mark Schwartzel. This only served as motivation for the man from Holyhead, Co. Down as he went on to lift the US Open two months later.

Spieth was determined not to fall in to the same trap, and used his loss last week and his second position at the Masters 2014 as fuel for his fire to win.

“I was already hungry from last year, having already had an opportunity and watched it slip away and watched Bubba win and everything that came with Bubba being the Masters Champion, and the announcements of it, going on the shows and whatever, I knew I had a chance to win that tournament.”

Thankfully, we didn’t see what would have been an even bigger collapse; in fact we saw the exact opposite. Records continued to tumble at his feet when he became the first player in the history of the tournament to reach a score of -19 and score 28 birdies throughout the entirety of the tournament. He is the first player to lead the Masters on the opening day and win since Raymond Floyd, once more, in 1976.

What we saw was one of the most complete performances where records fell and Spieth rose. A star for the future, at 21 years of age who would back against him?