The West Cork Rally is always a major highlight

February 28th, 2023 9:00 AM

By Martin Walsh

At the launch of the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally at the Park Cinema in Clonakilty were (left to right): Cal McCarthy, rally driver, David Henry, general manager Clonakilty Park Hotel, Ed Twomey, Clonakilty West Cork Rally Committee, Steve Davis, clerk of the course, Neil Whelton, Clonakilty West Cork Rally Committee and David Guest, rally driver. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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THERE’S nothing like the buzz coming up to the West Cork Rally. It’s like an All-Ireland to the locals lads, declared Clonakilty rally driver Cal McCarthy at the recent launch of the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally that is now only three weeks away.

McCarthy, whose best result in the two-day spectacular is eighth overall, was part of a quartet that also included Clonakilty’s Donal O’Donovan and Dunmanway’s Liam McCarthy, both former winners of the rally, and Dunmanway’s David Guest, all of whom provided various insights during the launch at the Park Cinema in Clonakilty.

McCarthy, who revealed that he will drive a David Greer Motorsport prepared Citroen C3 Rally2 car and will be co-driven by Rosscarbery’s Eric Calnan, recalled watching his first-ever West Cork Rally. 

‘It was in 1996 when Kanturk’s Liam O’Callaghan won the event in a Toyota Celica. It passed my home. As a child, I also watched Donal (O’Donovan) and Liam (McCarthy) winning. I watched every car on the Sam’s Cross stage every year,’ McCarthy said.

Just nine years ago, McCarthy brought his Honda Civic home eighth overall. Last year, in a DGM Citroen C3, he was eighth in the International section. 

Dunmanway native Donal O’Donovan was the toast of West Cork when he became the first local to win the rally. 

‘In 1998, we had the left-hand drive Sierra Cosworth, a very quick car. Following the first few stages we were on the pace, all the Welsh lads and Liam (McCarthy) were chomping at the bit. We moved into the lead and managed it from there and it worked out,’ O’Donovan recalled.

‘We were fortunate to have a very good team of friends, Derry Cadogan and Ted Flynn, who put in a pile of effort and time into the car. It was a very good car and I regretted selling it so soon. The Toyota Celica didn’t work out, we didn't have the resources to run it properly.’

Following their victory, O’Donovan and his Drimoleague co-driver Pat Lordan were afforded a civic reception by the Clonakilty Urban District Council.O’Donovan’s victory was also hailed when he became the first monthly winner of the West Cork Sport Star Awards.

Down through the years Dunmanway’s Liam McCarthy debuted various cars and while the list was almost endless, he had a particular liking for one car. 

‘The Metro 6R4 we used in the 1992 event. We purchased it from Sam Nelson, he was the guy that did the works engines for MG. We were second to Price until we broke the rear differential and that dropped us back a bit, and we eventually finished fifth that year,’ McCarthy said. He led the rally on occasions but had to wait for his first win. 

‘It’s a big disappointment to retire from a rally, especially when you are leading it, but we kept trying until we succeeded in 2009.’

Although Dunmanway’s David Guest is concentrating on this year’s Triton National Rally Championship, the lure of the Clonakilty West Cork Rally has proved too much. 

‘It would be very frustrating standing on the fence watching the event, I couldn’t miss it,’ Guest said, before adding, ‘I don’t think people realise the pace at the top (of Irish rallying) and it seems to be getting quicker, the competitiveness is increasing all the time, the margins are so tight, it’s all about not making any mistake.’


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