Rally brings life to quiet backroads

Off the fence
Rally brings life to quiet backroads

Off the fence
Michael Commins

THE Mayo Stages Rally was held in my home area last Sunday. I must admit my interest in this sport was minimal over the years. Way back I would have been aware of a handful of names like Billy Coleman, Austin McHale and Bertie Fisher who were big names in the Circuit of Ireland Rally but really it was always just a fringe interest of mine.
I went along to the press conference at the McWilliam Park in Claremorris about three weeks ago. One could not but be impressed by the manner in which this was hosted by the organisers.
Sean McHugh from Bekan chaired the meeting in exemplary manner. Two things that came to the fore that evening were the passion these people had for their sport and the massive emphasis on safety.
The latter was something I was not fully aware of, again having watched scenes on television from rallies in former times where spectators stood so close to the action at the most dangerous bends. Indeed, and sadly, there were quite a number of fatalities back in those days.
On Sunday, I walked up the road a few hundred yards to where the rally was passing and less than a mile from where the entire event finished on Sunday evening. Everything about the organisation impressed me. The stewards had been well briefed in every aspect of safety. Spectators were directed to the safe spots and you could sense that this was a venture that was undertaken to quite extraordinary standards.
The specially adapted and reinforced cars have been developed to massive safety standards and it is clear that the people who organise this sport have put the safety factor as the number one item on the agenda … at all times.
One car went off the road in Murneen when it lost a little grip on loose sand at a right angle bend. It ended up in the nearby dyke but there was never any possibility of the two lads being injured in the minor mishap.
As soon as the rest of the cars had finished Stage 3 of the rally and all had passed by, local farmer Richie Keane arrived with his high-powered tractor and within three minutes had the car pulled out and the lads were able to drive off again through the field and out onto the Murneen road. Richie was more than pleased to be of assistance on this special day.
He had lived all his life here and had never seen such action on the quiet backroads. And he, like the rest of us, quickly appreciated the mammoth organisation that had gone on a voluntary basis behind this special day.
The clerk and deputy clerk of the course, Eamon Walsh of Kiltimagh and Claremorris and Killian Duffy from Crossmolina, together with their wonderfully committed team, put a colossal effort into this venture.
It’s certainly a case of hats off to the Mayo Stages Rally.