By Graham Healy
The news was announced yesterday of the sad passing of David Duffield, the legendary commentator with Eurosport, who became known for his unique commentary style. The 84 year-old died as a result of injuries sustained in a fall.
In addition to his commentary, Duffield was also an accomplished cyclist, having set the record in 1956 for riding from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a trike. He rode the full length of Great Britain in 3 days, 12 hours and 15 minutes. In addition, he also held the record for the Isle of Man TT course on a trike.
Duffield also competed on two wheels and three years earlier, he was amongst the cyclists to line up in the inaugural An Tóstal Tour of Ireland in 1953.
The race came about when the Irish Government initiated a cultural festival known as An Tóstal. As part of the festival, Cumann Rothaíochta na hÉireann (CRE) ran a four day Tour of Ireland with sponsorship from An Tóstal, Aspro and Hercules cycles.
Also starting the four-day race in Dublin were some of the best Irish cyclists of the time including J.J. McCormack, Shay Elliott and Jim McQuaid. Others who travelled across the Irish Sea to take part were Brian Robinson, Bernard Pusey and Brian Haskell.
The opening stage took the riders from Dublin to Wexford, but unfortunately for Duffield, he was one of the riders caught up in a crash at Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny when a donkey cart ran into the peloton. It was quite a serious accident and a number of riders were forced to retire from the race.
Fortunately for Duffield, he escaped relatively unscathed and finished the stage in Wexford. He also made it through the following stages to Cork and Limerick and the final stage to Dublin. He came home in 48th place overall, twenty two minutes behind the overall winner Brian Haskell of the London NCU team.
He would sometimes refer to the incident with the donkey when commentating on races for Eurosport.
Duffield would return to Ireland decades after his appearance in the Tour of Ireland where he worked on both the Nissan Classic and more recently, the Tour of Ireland.
It seems that he enjoyed his time in Ireland also. Prior to the 1998 Tour de France, Duffield encouraged spectators to travel to see the Grand Départ.
During his commentary on a Tour de France stage the year before the Irish start, he said: “I can assure you, having covered the Nissan Classic for seven years, the hospitality, the warmth of the Irish welcome has to be seen to be believed, a very warm welcome awaits you in Ireland. The Irish always have a very warm welcome for visitors. I’ve been there and I love it, the warmth there is absolutely amazing,”
It seems that being taken out of it by a donkey cart years previously hadn’t put him off the country.