Irish MXoN Stories: Stephen McCreery
Twenty-eight years ago, Stephen McCreery was selected as the reserve rider for the Irish Des Nations team but a few weeks before the event was drafted into the team after another got injured. It was a good year to get selected as McCreery got to head off to Australia to see the other side of the world.
We caught up with McCreery to discuss the 1992 Motocross Des Nations event which he looks back on with great memories.
Gatedrop: What year(s) did you represent Ireland at the Motocross Des Nations and at what tracks/countries?
McCreery: It was 1992, Manjimup, Perth, Australia I was the reserve rider that year but David Tougher broke his wrist a few weeks prior and I got the call.
Gatedrop: The first time you got the call to represent Ireland at this event, how did it feel to get selected?
McCreery: To be honest I was slightly frightened. I was selected to ride a 500cc machine and I’d never set my arse on one before. I spent an hour one evening on Willy Herrons 500 Kwacker and that was the extent of my preparation! We borrowed bikes in Australia and had a few days testing before the event. Obviously I was over the moon to be representing Ireland and racing alongside 2 riders I considered the best in the country at that time but apprehensive that I might let the team and indeed Ireland down if I couldn’t handle the big Kawasaki!
Gatedrop: What top riders where you up against from other countries to give people an idea of the level – do you remember which nation and individual riders that won (also who were your Irish team mates)?
McCreery: My team mates were Brian Steele (125 Honda), William Burgess (250 Yamaha) and Myself (500 Kawasaki). Other teams big names: Belgium had Stefan Everts, Georges Jobe, Marnicq Bervoets. America had Billy Liles, Mike Larocco and Jeff Emig. Team GB had Jamie Dobb, Kurt Nicholl and Rob Herring. The France team was Jean Michel Bayle, Yves Demaria and Fred Bolley.
Gatedrop: What were the tracks like at the MXoN you rode and did you feel you were well enough prepared for them?
McCreery: The manjimup circuit was amazing. It was set amongst massive trees and it changed from sand to hard pack. A half mile start finish straight! The accommodation for race weekend was set in Kerri Valley, a forest with log cabins for each team.
Gatedrop: How did Ireland do at the events you represented them for?
McCreery: Ireland finished 11th overall that year.
Gatedrop: Individually how did you do and where you happy with your results?
McCreery: I finished 10th in the 500cc class. I was happy that I didn’t let the team or indeed myself down. I suppose when I look at some pictures I should be content that for a whole half lap I was in front of Stefan Everts!
Gatedrop: What memories/stories from the event stick out for you when you look back to the event? There must be some things that happened not too many people know about!
McCreery: During practice everyone was practicing their starts. I was too nervous in case I flipped it and made a lemon of myself in front of everyone! My first start was race 1, parked up beside USA no 1, Billy Liles. I ended up top 7 or 8 at the first corner, shocked and surprised I hit the next table top way too fast, there was a great photo that captured this in an American magazine, luckily you couldn’t see my face or pants! When I look back now and think as a 19 year old competing with so many legends it is probably amongst the proudest achievements of my life.
Being paraded through Manjimup town on open back trucks all school kids waving flags and shops dressed their windows up for each country. Team Ireland went and thanked our shop for their efforts. The shop owner being so impressed contacted the mayor who then invited the team to a meal at the town hall!
I don’t know if this is true but team Germany knocked a kangaroo down. They jumped out and dressed the kangaroo up in a team jacket for a photo. The thing was only stunned and took off into the bush with coat and passport! As the youngster of the group I was lucky to have Laurence Spence, Wilson McKibben and Sammy McMinn as sensible mentors, (laughs)! Do you know McKibben sleeps with one eye open?
Gatedrop: When you look at the Motocross Des Nations now, do you still think it’s still as special as it used to be?
McCreery: I think what made it so special back in my day was the fact someone like me, builders labourer, could one day be digging holes and few days later compete against your hero’s on the biggest stage in the sport! Obviously things move on and become more commercialised and for me it takes a little shine away. I’ve been to several MXoN events since and whilst the speed of these guys is super human the tracks are designed for a TV audience and I just feel the olden days of natural tracks with tree roots and rock provided better entertainment. That’s in no way at all taking away from what these guys do week in week out!
Gatedrop: What advice would you give to any young rider who might be lucky enough to get selected for the event for the first time?
McCreery: Any rider lucky (as in my case) or fast enough to be selected should first of all feel very very proud of what you have achieved! This isn’t a place you find yourself in because you had more money, knew more people or were better looking (as in my case). You’re here because of talent and effort. It means you’re in the top 3 or 4 riders in Ireland. Because it was my first and only selection everything was a new experience!
I can remember getting a letter from the head of the MCUI congratulating me on being picked but also reminding me of my responsibilities as an ambassador of Irish motocross. So savour every moment because these memories will remain with you forever. My kids are bored silly when I start old war stories! I know I was slightly daunted by the challenge but that was more to do with my lack of experience on the 5 tonner that was lining up with much faster riders. Embrace the opportunity and who knows it may be the first of many Des Nations!
Gatedrop: At a domestic level, what were your biggest achievements and what good memories do you have outside the Motocross Des Nations?
McCreery: I was never someone who was winning all the time and always considered myself a steady top ten rider. I won an Ulster Championship when I was 15 in the schoolboys. I was a pioneer of the 4 stroke resurgence thanks to Sammy McMinn and won the first 4 stroke championship. I also raced Under 19 and 21 events in Belgium and Holland. I was joint winner, with Brian Steele,of the Bertie Mann award. More than awards, this sport has been my life. It’s been our families way of life for over 40 years. I am blessed to have been supported through this amazing journey by mum Maureen, dad Trevor and brother Mark.
Interview: Andy McKinstry