A dream come through for Donegal International Rally winners

A dream come through for Donegal International Rally winners
It was Tuesday morning before it finally sunk in with Declan Boyle; he had etched his name in Donegal Rally history.

It was Tuesday morning before it finally sunk in with Declan Boyle; he had etched his name in Donegal Rally history.

It took a call from another former winner of the Donegal International for Declan to fully take in the enormity of his Donegal international success last weekend.

“After all the razzmatazz and fanfare on Sunday evening and Sunday night and again right through Monday, it was only after I took a call from John Lyons, that it finally hit me that we had actually won the rally,” Declan told the Democrat.

“I didn’t know John, and I’ve never met him and yet here was a former winner of the rally going to the bother of first getting my number and then going to the trouble of phoning me. When you receive a call like that from a man like that you realise you have something special achieved.”

John Lyons, from Castlederg, one the top rally drivers in Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, won the Donegal International twice in on consecutive years, 1981 and 198282.

Lyons completed his back-to-back double the year before Vincent Bonner and Seamus McGettigan won in 1983, the last and only other all-Donegal crew, in the 42 year history to claim the Donegal laurels.

Declan, who is only rallying full-time in any serious way since 2009, has enjoyed his fair share of success in his five short years in the sport.

But he has no hesitation in claiming the weekend success his first Donegal International as the pinnacle of his career to date.

“It is the biggest success I have enjoyed since I started. I won the Circuit of Ireland earlier this year, but it is only a two day event. I have also won the Galway International.

“Donegal is the only three day event on the Irish calendar and is recognised generally as the biggest rally. It is the daddy of all rallies and to win it as a Donegal man makes it even extra special and is something I always dreamed about ever since I started rallying. It is something I will always cherish.”

The Boyles in their Subaru WRC led the rally for most of the three days and had well over half a minute to spare over the second placed crew of Sam Moffett and James O’Reilly, in a Ford Fiesta WRC (last year’s winners) and over three minutes to spare over the third placed crew of Garry Jennings and Rory Kennedy, also in a Subaru WRC.

Yet, despite this it was far from a trouble-free run for the Leitirmacward crew who had their own drama over the weekend.

“We had a spot of bother on Carnhill, second time around on Saturday evening and were on and off a cylinder for most of the stage and as a result we were down on power.

“But we were lucky that the next stage, which was the last stage of the day, was cancelled and the mechanics were able to fix it at service on Sunday morning.

“There was no service on Saturday evening and we had to wait until Sunday morning which was a little concerning overnight as you are only allowed 40 minutes in service on the Sunday morning.

“It could have been a piston and if it was our rally would have been over as it could not be fixed within the time limit. Lucky enough it wasn’t and all it took was a new set of plugs and a new coil pack and we were motoring again.

“We also had a couple of minor scares but nothing too serious. On the first run over Knockalla, I left breaking a little late at a turn and we had a bit of a spin

“The only other scare we had was on the very last stage in Fanad when we hit an oil spill and spun on the road. Thankfully, I was able to right the car again and kept her on the road.

“I found the last stage in Fanad very long because we had a good lead built up and it was just a matter keeping the car on the road and getting to the ramp.”

Thankfully we made it through that last stage and we had a great feeling coming up out of Fanad and heading for the ramp outside the Mount Errigal.”

Declan, last year’s winner of the Dunlop National Rally Championship, is the current leader of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship.

He is on 54 points and has 19.5 points to spare over second placed Josh Moffett, with just two rallies to go in the championship, the Ulster and the Cork 20.

“We have a bit of a cushion and we don’t necessarily have to win either of the rallies. A second or third place should be enough to win the championship and that is our next target now.”

Declan, with four events remaining, is lying in fourth place in the Dunlop National Rally Championship, but it is just 20 points adrift of leader Paddy McVeigh.

But he firmly believes that he can reel in the Monaghan man and retain the title he won in 2013 for the first time.

“It is going to be tough but we would like to win it again this year. There are four rallies left and as I see it we need to win three of those four if we are to overtake Paddy McVeigh and the others above us.

“It is possible but we need a little luck and everything to go right for us. But we are certainly going to give it our best shot.

“If we’re to go and win the Tarmac and the National Championships, it would certainly be a remarkable achievement by the Rosses crew”.

But regardless following last weekend’s dream of fulfilling Donegal International triumph, 2014 will also go down as good year in the respective Boyle households.

Declan and Brian are having a celebratory cavalcade to celebrate on Friday night around the Rossses and Glenties before ending up in McCready’s Bar, in Leitirmacaward.