They say age is just a number and that is certainly right in Armoy man Joe O’Kane’s case.
A member of the O’Kane dynasty who sponsored the Armoy Armada’s Mervyn Robinson, Joe doesn’t let the fact he celebrated his 55th birthday earlier this year get in the way of him road racing.
Having started riding in his late teens and being brought up in a village synonymous with road racing, there’s no doubt the passion for racing is in Joe’s blood.
“I started racing in 1978,” said Joe. “I raced for a good wee while and then I retired in 1983 when I was 23.”
Joe’s decision came just after a black period for road racing and the village of Armoy in particular with the loss of Frank Kennedy in 1979 and Mervyn Robinson in 1980. “I made the decision to retire because there was a lot of stuff going on around Armoy at that time with the North West and Mervyn Robinson and Big Frank,” explained Joe. “My Mum and Dad weren’t too happy with me racing so I decided to call it a day but
I got back at it again in 1990 in the classic scene for a few years and I went on to win a couple of Irish Championships. After another break I came back again in 2005 on a superstock bike in the Clubmans class and at that time I thought that would do me but no.”
Despite numerous attempts to give up the sport, that unexplainable pull to the world of road racing remained and Joe pulled on the leathers once again earlier this year. “I still have the bug yet,” he added. “I’ve been back out again in a new class - The Forgotten Era.”
The Forgotten Era championship is designed for motorcycles from the 1970 to 1989 period. They are neither old enough to be a classic nor young enough to be fully competitive.
“I’m riding a similar bike to the one I raced in 1980,” said Joe. “It’s good fun and I’m really enjoying it but it’s mostly short circuits I do. I feel fairly healthy yet so I just thought to myself now’s the time to do it because in a few years time I might not be able or want to do it.” As well as working in the family business Joe is also joint organiser/rider/marshal of the Armoy ‘Ride Out’ and has participated in a few Armoy parade laps.
“Unfortunately there was no class for me to ride in at the weekend which was a bit disappointing. I would have liked nothing more than to be able to race on my home track but I was out on the parade lap so at least that’s something.
“It’s great for the village, it gets bigger and better every year and there seems to be more interest every year and I can see it going for years. It’s the best wee national road race about and I think a lot of that is because its seen as real road racing and it’s well run with a lot of good people involved.”
It’s obvious Joe still loves the sport as much now as much as he did over 37 years ago.
“I still approach the races with the same attitude I did back in the 80s. I love everything about it, I love working on the bike and when I race I go out and go as hard as I can, sure there’s no point in going out there unless you are going to try fairly hard.”.