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Hat-trick for Gaelforce West winner

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O’Farrell grabs victory as thousands attend Gaelforce


Áine Ryan

HE certainly goes to extremes and has now achieved a Gaelforce West hat-trick. But for 36 year-old Dubliner, Peter O’Farrell the winning is all the sweeter when Mayo adventure racer – and well-known postman – Padraig Marrey was just seconds behind him last Saturday.
Of course, Marrey pipped him to the post last year and, according to O’Farrell should have won three years ago too, but got a bicycle puncture, which allowed Cork native Eoin Keith to cross the line first.
Now in its sixth year, Gaelforce West 2011 attracted almost 3,000 extreme sports competitors, who last Saturday grappled with the 67km course that starts on the specatular Glassilaun strand near Leenane and ends hours later at Westport Quay. The grueling course includes running, kayaking across the Killary fjord, cycling over rough, boggy terrain and the Sheefry Hills, as well as climbing Croagh Patrick before crossing the finishing line at Westport Quay.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday DIT technician, O’Farrell conceded that Ballinrobe native, Padraig Marrey  and himself  have great craic and camaraderie.
“There is a great atmosphere and buzz at this event and Westport town is just fantastic to visit and stay in. I camped down at Westport House, which really has developed great facilities and is very family-friendly,” Peter O’Farrell said.
He continued: “I have to say that year-on-year, the organisation and efficient running of Gaelforce West has improved. No matter what, with only one narrow road into the Killary, there is bound to be some tailbacks and gridlock. But this year there was tea and coffee at registration and I find the organisers, the Young family [of Killary Adventure  Company], take all the constructive criticisms on board.”
“There is also something special about looking back at the iconic Croagh Patrick after you have finished. The Reek is the heart and the soul of this race It is such a special mountain and Gaelforce is usually won or lost at that lap of the race,” Peter O’Farrell added.

Tourism bonanza
WESTPORT was buzzing with armies of athletes and fresh-faced tourists who were part of the 10,000 visitors in the area for the sixth annual Gaelforce West Adventure Race held on Saturday last.
Brian Quinn, of Fáilte Ireland, said Gaelforce West was fast-becoming one of the highlights of the tourism season but not only for Westport.
“ While Westport is really busy over the weekend of this event, visitors fill B&Bs and hotels from Claremorris to Leenane. And it is wonderful how the owners are really committed to supporting the participants by providing early breakfasts for the athletes and supporting their special needs for the event.”
By all accounts restaurants and pubs in Westport, Louisburgh and Leenane had a bonanza over the weekend as the large influx of competitors and their supporters relaxed after the race. 

WINNERS
The overall winner of the event was Peter O’Farrell.  It was Ó’Farrell’s fourth win at the event and he completed the course in 3 hrs:34mins:33secs. The first woman over the finish-line was Emma Donlon with a time of 4:09:24. Bruce Duncan, the international adventure racer, managed the fastest time down Croagh Patrick making it from the summit to the bottom in 9:39 seconds.

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