Interview: Cailum Meara discusses Team Ireland MXoN squad ahead of Ernee
With the Motocross Des Nations heading to Ernee this weekend the Irish team will be represented by Martin Barr (MXGP), Jason Meara (Open) and Glenn McCormick (MX2). We decided to catch up with Cailum Meara before the event as he is involved in the management side of the team along with team manager, Mark Mooney.
You can listen or read below:
GateDrop: Last year was your first year involved with the Irish MXoN management team so we’ll rewind to RedBud, how was your first experience being part of the Irish team in America?
Meara: It was good. Obviously the first one was in America which was a bit of a task but I mean we got the job done in terms of getting there. The riders were happy and we had everything done to a high standard but I mean the result wasn’t the best. That is what we have this year for, to hopefully get straight through to the A final without the B final. Last year the weather wasn’t on our side and we had a few other hiccups, I mean with Martin’s bike stopping in the B final. But I mean apart from that it was good and I enjoyed the experience. I met a lot of people and a lot of friends so we are good to go again this year.
GateDrop: Two very different conditions with it being very fast on Saturday but then heavens opened with plenty of rain it suited us more in the B final but sadly I think all three riders had issues on the opening lap which kind of killed us but they came back well apart from Barr who had a bike issue he was miles behind…
Meara: Definitely, I mean even going back to the Saturday, obviously Stuart had a bike issue straight away trying to jump Larocco’s leap but came up a bit short so we were on the back foot straight away. But we all pulled together, we had a good group of guys part of the team myself and Mark pulled together and we all worked really well together. On Saturday, Martin crashed twice and once through no fault of his own, on the first lap. In the qualifying race, John had a strong race but TV doesn’t do it any justice. There are so many fast guys and one second a lap can bring you from 20th to 5th place. Then on Sunday heavens opened and it was like a swamp on Sunday morning when we got there. Look, it is one of those things and it’s nothing unusual for us. The track is the same for everyone but as I say, this year we have it to make it right and get straight through to the A final.
GateDrop: As a brother, you must have been very proud of John, did you ever think he’d represent Ireland and to see him end up beating Jo Shimoda in the B final, he rode great!
Meara: I mean, John rode really well but look, I am there to do a job whether it’s one of my brothers there racing or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I am there to represent my country and do my best for that flag. But obviously it was great to have him on the team last year and it is great to have Jason on the team this year. John rode amazing last year and had a good bike underneath him that Roger Magee was kind enough to work with us to get a job done together. But as I say, I am there to do a job for the country and to represent the flag.
GateDrop: Turning our attentions to this year. I think it would be fair to say it was mainly between four riders – Barr, Meara, McCormick and Edmonds and either way it was going to be hard to leave one of them out. What was the thinking behind the selection and how did you come to the final decision?
Meara: I mean, look you always here a lot of crap here and there about it. When you are attending the races week in and week out you know what is going on. You know riders that are carrying little injuries, riders having bike problems, this, that and the other. But I mean it definitely came down to Stuart, Martin, Glenn and Jason.
In terms of the two 450cc riders, I mean Stuart is a big boy, he knows himself that he didn’t perform to his standard this year. Now at Matterley Basin he performed amazing but up until the past few weeks he hasn’t performed how I know and he knows he can perform. It didn’t make things easy but it made things a bit easier knowing that he wasn’t on his form. Back to the 250cc selection, you’ve Glenn who’s the only rider from here really up to that mark who is able to ride to that standard. I mean at the weekend (Matterley Basin) he did struggle a bit but that is why we took them, to get their feet wet and know how things are going to work this weekend. I mean in terms of those four riders it was hard enough but apart from them four there wasn’t really anyone that came close.
GateDrop: McCormick has been knocking on the door for an MXoN spot for a while, I felt a bit sorry for him not getting to go to RedBud but John did justified his decision, this weekend is a big opportunity for Glenn to represent his country and something he probably does deserve…
Meara: Of course. As you say, Glenn has been knocking on the door for many a years. But that is how the MXoN works, there’s been many of guys that have been knocking on the door for many of years like John last year. You could argue that he could have maybe been picked three or four times before that but it is all down to the team manager and what Mark thinks is right.
I have no doubt in my mind that Glenn will go there and do the best job that he can. He’ll be back on the 250cc and people might look at his results from the weekend but it was his first time riding a big bike and at a big event. That is exactly why we went, to get everyone’s feet wet and everyone done themselves proud. They all got better as the weekend went on and for this weekend we are ready to go hoping to get straight into the A final.
GateDrop: The team just raced the final MXGP round at Matterley Basin, I think that was a great decision to get the guys some experience of the level without the pressure of having to qualify, how did you find the GP and how the guys did? I think Barr and Edmonds had some issues over the weekend but Jason rode really well…
Meara: I mean it was good. This is what it is like when you have Mark Mooney as the main guy, he doesn’t do thing by half measures and that is something I learnt very quickly with him. If he does something he is full in and that is why those guys got this opportunity to go at the weekend. Like you say, Martin and Stuart had some issues but all the guys improved every session. Personally speaking to Jason he only got better as the weekend went on, the improvement I seen from Glenn in the first session on Saturday until the end on the Sunday, was huge.
Like I said, when you work with Mark he doesn’t do thing by half measures and I am sure anyone who has been involved in the team or anyone who has been there at the event when the team has been there, they can tell you that themselves.
GateDrop: In the future, do you think it is something that can continue with the team racing the final MXGP round? It will probably come down to funds and were the final round is but I think it’s a great idea…
Meara: Of course, it is something we would like to do more than once throughout the year. But as you touched on the funding, it isn’t cheap to come from here as we have an extra ferry than everyone and we’ve extra mileage and fuel. We’ve entry fees too but as I said before, if Mark or if I am able to do anything to get them there more than once throughout the year, we will definitely try our best to do it.
GateDrop: What’s the plans for France then? I believe you are heading over on Saturday and there’s plans for them to ride one day before the event…
Meara: I am heading on Saturday (30th of September), I am just out at the minute getting things together, still working hard getting everything sorted. I will check out the area to make sure the guys have everything they need in terms of restaurants, supermarkets and get everything so they’re comfortable. We will possibly ride on the Thursday before the event and maybe the Wednesday too but we will let the guys decide on that. Anything the riders want, they will get when it’s myself and Mark involved. That is the plan so far and everything has went easier than last year with the event being in France. We will see how things go when we get there.
GateDrop: The MXoN just to qualify it feels a lot tougher for us these days – growing up we had an elite rider in Crockard but the small country these days have some top riders while we don’t have an MXGP regular – it doesn’t make it easy but hopefully we can avoid that B final…
Meara: As you say, everyone is going to talk no matter what but they’re the guys that are sitting at home with a beer in their hands (laughs). We are the guys standing there whether it is rain, hail or snow, making sure the guys have everything they need. If anyone has any doubt that these riders are going to work their asses off all year, train all year and make sacrifices. Most of them have kids and a family themselves so if people think they are going to sacrifice their life all year long and then go to the MXoN and not give it their all, they must be away in the head.
But as you said, the smaller countries, they all seem to have at least one or two really fast riders like Slovenia, Norway and you’ve even got Puerto Rico this year who are coming again, they have strong riders. The guys that are sitting at home watching Motocross on Speedhive every weekend, they don’t see that!
GateDrop: What’s your expectations for the event for the Irish this weekend and on a personal level you’ve only been involved once so it’s another chance for you to learn and pick things up…
Meara: Our expectations as it always is for Ireland is to get straight through into the A final and if we don’t our expectation is to 100% win the B final there’s no if or buts about it. That is what we are there to do and the guys know for the team and everyone else has worked their ass off all year for them.
In terms of me learning, it is a massive learning experience for me. Even just being friends with Mark on a personal level, he is such a business man and his way of life of how he speaks to people. It benefits me in my every day life and when it comes to the MXoN hopefully I can do it in the future if Mark ever decides to step down. I am trained up and ready to go but anyone that knows me, knows I will give my all for my country.
GateDrop: Cole McCullough has been racing the EMX125 series, I get why he wasn’t really in contention for the Irish selection this year but I think with another year behind him in the GP paddock he has to be a serious contender for 2024…
Meara: Of course, I have been watching Cole for many years. As you say, within the next two years he is probably the next guy. He is the next Graeme Irwin coming through or the next Gordon Crockard potentially, maybe not that high a level but he is putting the work in and the hours in. It is no secret that he is probably going to be the main guy within the next few years but right now he is still racing with the kids doing the shorter races but I mean he is doing everything right.
He has got himself into that paddock riding the big tracks and knows the schedule as well as putting the work in off the bike. It is no secret to anyone that knows anything about bikes, he’ll be our main guy probably within the next year or two.
GateDrop: Junior World Championship is something you wanted to do this year but Ireland ended up not going to Romania, is it possible for 2024?
Meara: 100%. If it is giving back to the kids, you know they give back to our federation for many years. I don’t think it would be a big issue to give something back to them to get them on that world stage. I mean I did try to bring a team this year but other people got involved and then backed out at the last minute.
Look, that is something completely out of my control but if it’s something that I have to work with someone else to get the guys there this year. Once again I will try my best, if it works, brilliant and if it doesn’t, it’s certainly not out of trying. It got pulled out of my hands last year, out of my control and the team manager that was supposed to go backed out. Whether that was personal issues or not, I am not sure but I mean I had my name forward and I was up for doing it. They maybe didn’t think I was right candidate for the job for whatever reason, you’ll have to ask them.
Interview: Andy McKinstry
Main image: Ian Cairns