Four days prior to the start of the Tour of Ireland, Irish cycling is in shock after the death of Paul Healion on Sunday. Healion had been due to compete for the Irish national team in the three-stage race.
The 31-year-old Healion was killed in a single-vehicle car accident while driving near Ardee, County Lough on Sunday night. He had finished sixth in a race in Donore earlier in the day, and would have spent the next few days tapering prior to joining David McCann, Sean Downey, Philip Lavery, Paul Griffin, Martyn Irvine and Sam Bennett in the Irish team for the Tour of Ireland.
Healion was having his best season to date, taking a number of important results including his first ever stage victory in the FBD Insurance Rás in May as well as the national criterium championships in June.
He was also part of the Irish team pursuit squad that finished fifth and set a new national record of 4 minutes, 11.587 seconds in the Copenhagen Track World Cup in February.
Although an amateur rider, the Dunboyne rider was possibly the Irish national team’s best chance of a high stage finish in the Tour of Ireland. He was a strong sprinter and, with stages one and two likely to finish in bunch sprints, Healion and fellow FBD Insurance Rás stage victor Sam Bennett were expected to be the protected riders.
On May 22, Healion had won the sixth stage of the FBD Insurance Rás into Castlebar, beating quadruple Tour de France stage victor Jaan Kirsipuu (Norway Giant-Veolia), double 2009 Rás stage winner Nicholas Walker (Australia Cinelli-Down Under) and former Belgian road race champion Niko Eeckhout (Ireland An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly).