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First-ever three-day West Cork Rally proves to be huge success

March 22nd, 2024 12:30 PM

By Martin Walsh

First-ever three-day West Cork Rally proves to be huge success Image
Keith Cronin (right) and co-driver Mikie Galvin winners of the 2024 West Cork Rally. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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IT was something new, something different and the general consensus is that it all went according to plan.

Whether the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally continues as one of two three-day events in the Irish motorsport calendar remains to be seen. The various stakeholders will evaluate the situation before making a decision, however, before all that and given the very difficult weather conditions that prevailed during Saturday’s leg of eight stages, the determination and unstinting commitment of the marshals was remarkable. Indeed, it was a key factor acknowledged by rally winner Keith Cronin, who also received the Paddy Keohane Memorial award for the best West Cork driver.

Ring’s Daragh O’Donovan (Honda Civic) pictured on his local stage.
(Photos: Martin Walsh)


Meanwhile, the Spirit of the Rally award was presented to the McCarthy family in recognition of their dedication and enormous contribution they have made to the West Cork Rally in so many different ways. Neil is a native of Clonakilty and his children – Darren, Greg and Paula – continue to be an integral part of the rally in so many facets.

Unlike previous years, there were few local successes within the various classes. On what was his debut in a Ford Fiesta Rally2, Dunmanway’s Conor McCarthy and his Dripsey co-driver Gavin Sheehan had a comfortable victory in Class 24. With two stages remaining, it looked as if they were going to take second place as they were some ten minutes adrift of long-time leaders, Dunmanway’s Jason McSweeney and co-driver Liam Brennan, however the latter slid off on the penultimate stage and McCarthy was best placed to take the class win.

Barryroe co-driver Dylan Doonan and his Midleton driver Cian Walsh (Toyota Corolla) took a fine win in Class 13. They also won a free entry to the Rally Barbados later this year. Ardfield’s Eoghan and Conor Calnan (Ford Escort) led initially and were second after the opening leg with Jack Shanahan (Toyota Corolla) heading the class. Shanahan retired on SS6 and the Calnan brothers reclaimed top spot, only to slide out of the rally on the first run of the Ring stage when contact with the scenery removed the front left wheel of their Ford Escort.  Walsh/Doonan took control and went on to win by over nine and a half minutes.

In Class 11F Ring’s Daragh O’Donovan (Honda Civic) and his Donegal co-driver Sean Marsh were second in class.

‘It was better than what I expected. Junior championship rallying was always a sprint but to compete in the full rally is a very different and much better challenge. We had a clean run all weekend. We had a plan and it worked,’ O’Donovan said. Durrus driver Etienne O’Sullivan (Honda Civic) was second in class after the opening stage but eventually retired with gear linkage issues.

Clonakilty’s Cal McCarthy and his Rosscarbery co-driver Eric Calnan aboard their Citroen C3 Rally2 on the night stage near Lyre. They finished eleventh overall.

In Class 11R, Lyre’s Tim O’Donovan (Toyota Corolla) led until SS7 but an electrical issue brought a halt to a good run. He returned under Super Rally and was sixth in class. The Sam’s Cross crew of Anthony and Liam Fehily (Ford Escort) finished third in class. Early leaders, Durrus driver Fergus Hurley and Eugene Cronin (Ford Escort) broke a half shaft on SS4 and had throttle cable issues on SS5.

Elsewhere, Farnavane’s Colin Fitzgerald (Ford Escort) finished second in Class 10 where Bandon’s Victor and Susan Beamish (Vauxhall Nova) took third spot.  Rossmore’s Seamus O’Donovan (Honda Civic) and his Dunmanway co-driver Daniel O’Donovan finished third in Class 24. In the Historic category, Ardfield’s Anthony O’Sullivan partnered Welsh ace Neil Williams (Ford Escort RS1800) to second overall.

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