Fastnet Rally’s importance highlighted at 40th celebrations

November 24th, 2022 1:00 PM

By Martin Walsh

County Cork drivers that have won the Fastnet Rally pictured at the Fastnet Rally 40 rally night celebrations. Front from left, AJ Keating, Kanturk; Donal O’Donovan, Dunmanway; and Liam McCarthy, Dunmanway. Back from left, Daniel Cronin, Ballylickey; Frank O’Mahony, Carrigaline (native of Drimoleague); Denis Cronin, Ballylickey; and Bernard O’Brien, Skibbereen. Another former winner Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan was unavoidably absent. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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THE recent Fastnet Rally 40th celebration day, organised by the Skibbereen and District Car Club, proved to be an outstanding success, raising over €11,000 for the Irish Community Air Ambulance. 

Since its inception in 1982, eight County Cork drivers have won the Fastnet rally. In total, there’s been 36 Fastnet events – the rally didn’t run in 1987, 2001 and not since 2109 – and between them, the eight drivers have won 20 of the rallies, a 55 percent success rate. 

At the outset, the attendees at the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen were welcomed by club chairperson Padraig McCarthy. 

Cllr Joe Carroll, deputising for Cllr Danny Collins, Mayor of the County of Cork, told the audience of the importance of the event.  ‘The Fastnet Rally is very important, not just from a sporting context, but also because of the significant financial contribution it makes to the local economy. Down through the years and along with my fellow county councillors, we do everything we can to help the Skibbereen club and the rally,’ Carroll said.

The Rynhart bronze sculpture of the Fastnet, presented to the club by Pat Hourigan, and the West Cork Hotel Cup were on display on the main stage. Mr Hourigan, better known in the 1980s and 1990s as ‘Paddy Duckhams’ (as he provided the rally lubricants), spoke fondly about his association with the Skibbereen and District Car Club. 

A video message from Perth, Australia from Schull native Mick Barnett, the first clerk of the course of the Fastnet Rally in 1982 when it was based at the Fastnet Inn, Schull, set the tone for the evening as he recalled memories of the event during his wide-ranging five-minute address.  Inaugural winner and Drimoleague native Frank O’Mahony spoke about the event and how mechanics worked until the early hours to have his Ford Escort ready for the rally. Later, in the evening, Frank spoke about his double win at the Marine Hotel Fastnet Rally in 1996 and 1997.

Enjoying them celebrations were, front from left, James Kingston, clerk of the course, Pat Hourigan (sponsor of Fastnet Rally sculpture) and John Buttimer, clerk of the course. Back from left, clerks of the course, Jeremiah Deasy, Ger Hayes and Donnchadha Hayes.


Kanturk’s AJ Keating, a winner in 1984 and 1985, recalled his memories. He was co-driven by Drinagh native Fergus Connolly, who sadly passed away in 2006 at just 52 years of age. Indeed, a minute’s silence was observed for all the motorsport community including those that lost their lives in the rally tragedy in 1985.

Dunmanway’s Liam McCarthy recounted his ‘surprise’ win in 1988 in Glandore when only one of the top ten (Kealkill’s Mick Cremin) actually managed to finish the rally. Liam also spoke about his 1992 victory in a Metro 6R4 and his 2008 win onboard a Toyota Corolla WRC, remarking that the Metro 6R4 (E264 AAM) was his favourite car. He paid tribute to all those that helped him through his time in rallying and in particular the support of Keohane Readymix and Murphy Construction. He also spoke about the importance of the Irish Community Air Ambulance, referencing the role it played during the tragedy that claimed the life of his son Eoin at the Killarney Forest Rally last February.

The only Skibbereen winner, Bernard O’Brien spoke about his success, his rivalry with fellow locals and also of his allegiance to the Blue Oval (Ford). 

Dunmanway’s Donal O’Donovan, a double winner in 1993 and 1999, recalled recovering from a spin and stalling his Ford Sierra on the opening stage in ’93 before going on to win. Along with his Fastnet victory in 1999, he was European Police Rally champion the same year. Ballylickey’s Denis Cronin, who along with Liam McCarthy and Donal O’Donovan, took his first-ever rally win on the Fastnet, was another guest. On his ’94 success in an Opel Manta, he spoke about being shy in front of the television cameras. In an entertaining segment, he recalled many interesting stories. His nephew Daniel was the final Fastnet winning driver to be interviewed and he spoke about his father’s (Danny) infectious involvement in motorsport.

Co-drivers that participated in the discussions were Bryan Curtin, Hugh McPhillips, Patrick Coakley, Tom Levis, Ciaran Kelleher and Coleman Hurley. Clerks of the course, Tom Hickey, Donnchadha Hayes, Jeremiah Deasy, Ger Hayes, John Buttimer and James Kingston also contributed to the discussions. Vice-president of Motorsport Ireland, Ballinhassig’s Kieran Coleman participated in the final discussion of the evening. Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan and clerk of the course Gerard Healy (Leap) were unavoidably absent.

An astonishing €11,000 plus was raised during the event where earlier in the day, over 40 cars participated in the car run that traversed the Glandore, Tragumna, Mount Kid and Vaughan’s Pass stages used in the rally. The generosity of all concerned was heart-warming, coverage of the event in the press and radio was much appreciated as well as all those that displayed the fundraising poster in their premises throughout West Cork. 

The hosts, the West Cork Hotel, in an extremely generous gesture, waived all associated costs and the club subsequently put the monies towards the Irish Air Ambulance Fund. 

The eight event sponsors were Keohane Readymix, Hodnett Forde Auctioneers, Carbery Plastics, Tria Oil, MHC Properties, Cronin’s Homevalue, Clonakilty Engineering and Walsh Print & Graphics. Several companies provided raffle prizes that, along with the auction of a ‘helicopter trip’ over Killarney for two people provided by Killarney’s Dermot Healy, yielded €2,640. Acesigns Signmakers provided ‘Fastnet Rally 40’ signage.

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