Motoring columnist Brian McDaid catches up with defending Joule Donegal International Rally Champion Manus Kelly ahead of ‘The Donegal’ 2018:
The River Swilly rises at the foot of Meenaroy up the glen. All the competitors will see it when they turn off the main Letterkenny to Glenties Road this Friday morning on their first stage of The Donegal International Rally.
They will follow the number 1 seed, Manus Kelly up past Johnnie Mac Phaidin’s old house with the corrugated iron red rusted roof before the start of the Breenagh stage.
Manus “Mandy” Kelly was looking for a drop of rain when Donegal Daily caught up with the Glenswilly man at the top of Brennagh on Monday evening. The back-to-back winner of the Donegal International Rally was hoping for rain at the start of this week so it would neutralise the roads a bit for the weekend.
If it would rain right if it was going to rain at all, then we can deal with that, but a shower here and dry up the road will put the cat among the pigeons.
In most sports, home advantage is a benefit, but on Friday morning Manus is going to treat Brennagh as just other special stage. Manus must be in the most unique position in the forty-six-year history of this event, as he will be the first person ever to lead the 2018 International Rally out of his own parish of Glenswilly on Friday morning when a bumper entry will start the three day event over the mountains from Glenswilly to Cloghan.
Looking out over Glenswilly on Monday evening Manus looked relaxed and well prepared to defend his title. A hundred yards or so up the road, Manus Kelly ’s grandmother was born, she was a sister of Neil Gallagher’s grandfather.
Neil made his name for Donegal in the air in the middle of the field for both Glenswilly and Donegal, and likewise Manus will be in the air a few times this weekend on a different Donegal as he battles with his terrain to look for grip.
He will be focusing more on the time he is connected with the tar, with his Subaru fresh from a trip to Prodrive, as he goes in search of a third win for himself and his navigator Donall Barrett and an amazing 15th win for the flat four powered four wheel drive Subaru brand.
Killarney Rally a great benefit.
With the support of Applegreen for 2018, Manus and Donall are getting huge benefits of doing a two day rally on the run into the ‘Donegal’ this year. “It’s a great grind to bring your skills up to scratch again for this year’s ‘Donegal’ and it also was an added bonus for us to win the event.”
Manus and Donall have no less than four former winners snapping on their heels including Donegal’s Declan Boyle, Gary Jennings, Eugene Donnelly and Sam Moffat who will watch and wait to pounce.
Through the Gap.
The biggest challenge for a win for 2018 has to be from fellow Donegal man Donagh Kelly in his Ford Focus from Frosses. The ex works WRC Focus has undergone a complete mechanical rebuild following last year’s event whenthey camee so close to taking the title.
The National Title might also head through the gap to the talent crew of Kevin Eves and Chris Melly, who were leading before they crashed on Knockalla stage and went out of the event. This Laghy man is back and ready to fight again for the overall honours in the ultra competitive modified national section.
Battles within battles.
Forty years ago the rally went through this same Brennagh Stage. Vatenan , Mc Cartney, Fisher, Ernest Kidney, and Mick O’ Connell were all in RS1800 all developing in or around 240 brake horse power.
Forty years on from that and the next generation of the first Donegal winners Vincent Bonner and Seamus McGettigan, that of their sons John Bonner and Damien Mc Gettigan will compete in two different Mk2 Escorts. Which will have around 100 brake horsepower more than the original Mk2’s.
John Bonner will drive his escort in the colours of that of his father’s Vincent who drove to victory in ’83 while Damien will call the notes to the chairman of the Motor Club Brian Brogan also in a Mk 2 Escort.
Manus Kelly gets the name Mandy from his late grandfather Manus who was one of the best known sportsmen in Glenswilly in his time. There were no Subarus up the glen in his grandfather ’s day. It was playing gaelic, soccer, cycling or tossing the sheaf.
I’m told Mandy’s training for tossing the sheaf at the sports day was to practice at the gable of his house and throw the sheaf up out over the telephone wires followed by many’s a big day along the River Swilly at the sport day.
We have included a small tip of film from RTE of Mandy Kelly having a chat with Tony Gallagher about Glenswilly nearly 50 years ago.
Over this weekend young Mandy will compete in his preferred sport but never will be far from the Swilly, be it at the start up in Brennagh on Friday morning or as he climbs the famous mountain of Knockalla on Saturday with Lough Swilly down below or on Sunday evening as he navigates the famous Fanad Head stage as Lough Swilly flows along side as it heads out to meet the Atlantic Ocean.
And finally our motoring column made the big time this year with three different stories that we covered on the rally since last June which are including in this year’s rally program.
They recall John Lyons success in the late 70s and eighties, on to the first official civic reception by the Donegal County Council for a winner of the Donegal Rally in Manus Kelly and Donall Barrett. And finally, not forgetting the story for another Glenswilly man Brian Devine’s and his classic Avenger which he built for the historic section. We are so looking forward to seeing and hearing Brian Devine and Tony Mc Hugh on the Donegal Rally this weekend.
Take a wee break from double clicking on the torsion bar and enjoy the rally Brian Devine – you more than deserve it.
Happy Motoring Folks.Tags: