On Saturday, March 25th, 2023, navigation trials returned to Donegal after a seven-year hiatus.
The event took place in the greater Mountcharles/Frosses area under the leadership of COC Bernard Gallagher Abley assisted his team, who devised a challenging 65-mile route. An impressive entry list was released before the event, consisting of crews from Donegal, Monaghan, and Sligo, with some competitors even traveling from Cork to participate.
In the weeks leading up to the event, COC Bernard Gallagher organised a navigation refresher class to update crews on new regulations and familiarize them with this type of event after the long break. The classes were well-attended, with many familiar and new faces. Bernard subsequently arranged two more nights with the help of Karl Reid, Rory Kennedy, and Ciaran Geaney to provide updates on regulations and navigation methods and terminology. The effort and enthusiasm within the classes led to a whopping entry of 17 beginners.
Once crews had the maps plotted, the Monaghan pairing of James McCabe and Oisin Sherlock led the crews from the start at Inver Community Centre at 21:15. A short journey over the road brought crews to Control A at Wards of Milltown, where they would pass under the motor club banner to begin the competitive section of the night.
TP1, located 0.5 miles to the west of Control A, caught a few of the less-experienced crews out, as the time point was approached through a road goes just 50meters past the junction on the left, giving a lovely 15 marks to any crew not taking this route.
A short trip along the water brought crews to timepoint 2 at Drumcoe, where crews were handed the first plot and bash of the night. The three-page herringbone diagram brought crews on a loop of Munterneese, Drumaneary, and Dromore for TP3, TP4, and TP5. From TP5, competitors went into Control B at Mountcharles and onward to TP7 at Hillcourt. TP7 through to TP16 caused no real problems for the majority of crews, except for a few dropped minutes due to the demanding nature of the roads.
TP16, located on the grounds of the renowned Lough Eske Castle and Harvey’s Point Hotel, was the time recovery section, which allowed some crews the chance to recover time. From TP16, crews travelled their second grey lane of the evening over Banagher Hill to TP18, where the 12.25-mile-long ITC section of the event began, encompassing the townlands of Ogherbeg, Drumboarty, Letterbarra, and Ardbane, finishing at TP19 high in the edge of the Bluestacks.
Another plot and bash tulip was handed to crews at Control D, bringing them through TP21 & 22 with varying degrees of success. Some of the less experienced crews struggled with the wrong approaches and departures, resulting in dropped time. At Con E, crews were given two more plot and bashes in the form of grid references, leading them to Tp 24 & 25.
One of the best tricks used on the night was a slightly hidden grey lane used after tp24 to get the correct approach into tp25, which some competitors comparing it to “nothing more than a badger’s hole”. However, this trick caused some competitors to drop precious minutes looking for the lane, while others were unable to find it altogether. Another lane a few hundred meters from tp25 was used to get the correct approach under the old railway bridge to tp26.
After completing the time controls, crews had 12 minutes to travel along the N56 to return to Wards of Milltown to hand in their timecards at the control. However, this turned out to be a slight sting in the tail, as a marshal informed crews that he was not the final control, leading them to scramble eastwards along the old road and complete a loop of a grey lane directly behind the venue and into the control, which was hidden behind the carwash sign at the side of the venue.
With timecards handed in, crews were treated to refreshments provided by Kittyjoes café and the Milltown bar while the results team worked hard to calculate the penalties. Special mention must be given to Paul Hughes and Conor Maguire, who travelled from Monaghan to assist with the event.
In the end, the beginner crew of David Kelly and Gerry Hughes took the overall win on the tie break with zero penalties from another local crew of Darragh Kelly and Eamonn Doherty. The tiebreak came down to the lesser experience crew taking the advantage affording the beginner crew of Kelly / Hughes the overall win.
Moving on to the class results, Shane Dalton and Ryan Treanor took first place in the expert class, with Donegal crew Conor Harvey and Kevin Gallagher in second place, and James McCabe and Oisin Sherlock in third place. All crews only incurred a single penalty each. Darragh Kelly and Eamonn Doherty claimed first place in the semi-expert class, with Emmett Sherry and Ciaran Geaney in second place, and Andy Mackarel and Ciaran Coyle in third place. The novice crew of Damien Sheridan and Keith Sheridan narrowly secured the class win by one penalty ahead of the second-placed crew of Aidan McDevitt and Aidan Sweeney, with the Monaghan crew of Shane Maguire and Ciaran Maguire in third place.
Finally, in the beginners’ class, Eoin Quinn and Patrick Masterson claimed the honours on the tie break of furthest cleanest from second-placed Caolan Gaffney and Neil McHugh. Third place went to Shane Laverty and Gareth Kelly.
During the prizegiving, COC Bernard Gallagher expressed his gratitude to all those who contributed to the success of the event. He specifically thanked the landowners and residents who generously allowed the event to take place in their area, his team and sponsors for their support, An Garda Síochána, all the timekeepers, the competitors for their participation, and the staff at the Milltown bar and Inver Community Centre for their hospitality.