'Good on ya' is the day's refrain as Youghal surpasses Ironman's expectations

East Cork town buzzes with a party atmosphere from early morning as athletes are cheered on by thousands of spectators
'Good on ya' is the day's refrain as Youghal surpasses Ironman's expectations

Members of the RNLI — among the many thousands who lined the route  — cheer on the athletes during the Ironman 70.3 on Saturday in Youghal, Co Cork. Picture: Huw Fairclough/Ironman

Youghal's blossoming friendship with Ironman scaled even greater heights as the pair's weekend tryst concluded with the country's only full Ironman on Sunday.

The event brought thousands onto the streets of the East Cork town in even greater numbers than those at Friday's Ironkids and Saturday's 70.3 (half-Ironman).

Athletes start the swim section of Sunday's gruelling contest of fitness and endurance in Youghal, Co Cork. Picture: Nigel Roddis/Getty/Ironman
Athletes start the swim section of Sunday's gruelling contest of fitness and endurance in Youghal, Co Cork. Picture: Nigel Roddis/Getty/Ironman

An estimated 4,000 people gathered at the Front Strand to watch about half that number wade into the sea for a 3.8km swim — the first leg of the event — shortly after dawn.

The Bike Hire Café opened at 5am, as Clancy's outdoor bar stall opened at 3.30am to serve registering athletes and fuel up the spectators.

Most arrived via a park-and-ride shuttle that had delivered 2,600 passengers for Saturday's extravaganza.

With the Ironman music desk blasting out sounds from Abba and the Pet Shop Boys, Youghal beach enjoyed a party atmosphere — all at 6.45am

Vacating the beach after the swim, spectators and supporters relocated nearby, lining Lighthouse Hill to cheer on the early cyclists who, having emerged from the water, were now hell bent on a 90.1km round trip to Midleton twice.

Adam King and his brother who took park in the inaugural Ironkids event in Youghal Co Cork on Friday during the Ironman festival. Picture: Huw Fairclough/Ironman
Adam King and his brother who took park in the inaugural Ironkids event in Youghal Co Cork on Friday during the Ironman festival. Picture: Huw Fairclough/Ironman

Among the spectators were Allison Smith and children Dylan (15) and Lowri (12), who had travelled from Britain to cheer on their husband and dad, Gareth.

The family had bought keen triathlon fan Dylan a large plastic glove, with a Welsh dragon motif, because he was high-fiving so many athletes they feared "he might pick up an infection".

Local hero Chris Mintern from Cork passing under the Clock Gate Tower on his way to overall victory in the Ironman event in Youghal, Co Cork. Picture: Howard Crowdy
Local hero Chris Mintern from Cork passing under the Clock Gate Tower on his way to overall victory in the Ironman event in Youghal, Co Cork. Picture: Howard Crowdy

The Lighthouse Hill offered the unique opportunity to watch the cyclists and the swimmers simultaneously.

This created two crowds in the same place, who eventually merged at the transition area at the bottom of the hill into a teeming melting pot of yelling humanity.

Allie Ring from Youghal rehydrates as she completes the Ironkids Age 6 race as part of the Ironman weekend in Youghal. Picture: Howard Crowdy
Allie Ring from Youghal rehydrates as she completes the Ironkids Age 6 race as part of the Ironman weekend in Youghal. Picture: Howard Crowdy

Heading for Windmill Hill, Monica and Denis Albarado from Honduras had flown in to support Monica's sister Melissa.

They had fallen in love with "Guinness, sea food and the scenery" and will be back to make doubly sure in 2023.

Kathryn Fahy of Ireland finishing third in the women's race at Ironman 70.3 in Youghal on Saturday during the weekend-long Ironman festival. Picture: Nigel Roddis/Getty/Ironman
Kathryn Fahy of Ireland finishing third in the women's race at Ironman 70.3 in Youghal on Saturday during the weekend-long Ironman festival. Picture: Nigel Roddis/Getty/Ironman

Marina Aranda from Brazil, eyeing the 21% gradient hill that would soon challenge her husband Fabricio's will to live, reflected that, of all the many triathlons she had experienced, Youghal "seems to breathe Ironman!"

Windmill Hill rose to the occasion once again, with about 4,000 voices creating a cacophonous atmosphere along its torturous trail.

Tom Rigby celebrates after winning Ironman 70.3 in Youghal Co Cork on Saturday. Picture: Nigel Roddis/Getty/Ironman
Tom Rigby celebrates after winning Ironman 70.3 in Youghal Co Cork on Saturday. Picture: Nigel Roddis/Getty/Ironman

If Ironman has a unifying language, the dominant dialect would be 'gowaaan!!', with the variations 'goodonya!!' and 'fairplaytya!!!'.

The hill was partly silenced after one cyclist suffered a serious shoulder injury after falling from his bike. Following medical treatment he was removed by stretcher.

With the last water hose having sprayed a passing, gasping athlete, Youghal businesses reflected on its Ironman bonanza.

An athlete getting a very welcome wetting from a supersoaker during the Ironman 70.3 course in Youghal, Co Cork, on Saturday. Picture: Huw Fairclough/Ironman
An athlete getting a very welcome wetting from a supersoaker during the Ironman 70.3 course in Youghal, Co Cork, on Saturday. Picture: Huw Fairclough/Ironman

All nine staff at the Boardwalk café "worked every day" says manager Morgan Cotter, while Mary Bernard of Le Gourmet delicatessen "had to send a Jeep to Musgraves" to replenish stock.

Quays bar and food proprietor Séamus Curran said "food flew out the door" and his staff of 25 "showed great morale" as they coped.

Publican Paul Dempsey noted how it was one of "the busiest weekends I've had", across 30 years in the business. 

"And one of the friendliest".

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