International Rally of the Lakes 2019 celebrates its Ruby Anniversary

 Press Release International Rally of the Lakes Preview

By: Sean Moriarty

Vehicle history and data expert announce today (April 29th) on the preview for the 40th edition of the International Rally of the Lakes.

The biggest sporting occasion in the country this weekend will be the 40th running of the Rally of the Lakes which gets underway from Killarney on Friday night (May 3rd).

Killarney and District Motor Club have pulled out all the stops to mark the event’s ruby anniversary in style.

A star-studded and capacity entry, a new and challenging route a host of side events and celebrity guests from a range of spectrums will make it a weekend to remember in Killarney.

Father and son team Charlie and Johnny Hickey: Photo by Ray Corkery

Friday night ceremonial start

The celebrations get underway on Friday evening with the traditional ceremonial start in the Fair Hill Car Park in the town.

This will give fans their first opportunity to meet the 150 contestants and see the cars for the first time. Each competitor will go over the start ramp at the College St exit of the car park, led by the Ford Fiesta R5 of Craig Breen and local co-driver Paul Nagle.

Each competitor will be interviewed on the ramp by former RTE broadcasting legend and rally enthusiast Michael Lyster, to the backdrop of traditional music, led by local star Liam O’Connor.

Members of the Killarney Valley Vintage and Classic Car Club will display some of their classic machinery and several rally cars of historical importance will also be on static display.

It will also be the public’s first opportunity to meet event ambassadors, Hollywood A-lister and local man Michael Fassbender and Formula 1 Grand Prix legend Tommy Byrne.

“This is a huge family occasion,” said clerk of the course Dermot Healy “Come down, see the cars and meet the stars.”

Activity in Fair Hill Car park will start around 5pm and will run until around 8pm when the action shifts to the Scott’s Gardens auditorium in the same area.

Here, Lyster and other well-known motoring and motorsport broadcasters will interview some of the top drivers contesting this year’s rally.

This event is also free and open to the public but is likely to fill fast so early arrival is advised.


John Hickey’s daughter Michelle will celebrate: Photo by Ray Corkery

Sporting contest and entry

The sporting element of the rally gets underway bright and early Saturday morning with the first of three runs over the iconic Moll’s Gap stage which is set to get underway at just after 9am.

Leading the field is the Waterford/Kerry pairing of Craig Breen and Paul Nagle in their Ford Fiesta R5. They arrive in Killarney as leaders of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship following victories on the Galway, West Cork and Easter International rallies. Aghadoe man Nagle, the winner of five rounds of the World Rally Championship and almost every major rally in Ireland has never won his home event.

“This is the one to win,” he said, “It was nice to get my hands on the famous Circuit of Ireland trophy [for winning the Easter Stages] but this is the big one.”

Last year’s champion Manus Kelly with Rory Kennedy on the notes starts at number two in his new for 2019 Hyundai Accent R5.

Letterkenny man Kelly has won his home rally, the Donegal International on three occasions but his secret weapon this weekend could Kennedy who has won the Rally of the Lakes on seven different occasions (six with the late Bertie Fisher and once alongside Stephen Finlay), a record that is unlikely to be surpassed.

Alistair Fisher and Gordon Noble are next up in another Fiesta, followed by Josh Moffett and Keith Moriarty in a similar car.

Last year’s second placed crew, Robert Barrable and Damian Connolly field a Skoda Fabia R5 ahead of the second of the Moffett brothers Sam and co-driver James Fulton in another Fiesta.

One of the dark horses for a surprise result is Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan in their Skoda. They were third here last year and finished a strong second on the Easter Stages two weeks ago.

Daniel Cronin and JJ Cremin will be hoping for a reversal of their recent misfortune, they retired their Ford Fiesta on Cod’s Head last year with an electrical problem and an engine failure on the St Patrick’s weekend West Cork Rally forced early retirement.

Lack of seat time since Cork, aspirations to contest both the Circuit of Kerry and the Easter Stages, failed to materialise as they waited for their engine to be rebuilt, will go against them in the early stages.

Callum Devine and Brain Hoy are newcomers to the top ten in Killarney, but they finished sixth in West Cork and fourth on the Easter Stages already this year. On his last visit to County Kerry in 2016 he put his small Opel Adam into tenth place. Now armed with an R5 Fiesta like most of his rivals, he is another capable of springing a surprise.

The top ten is rounded off by Johnny Greer and Kristy Riddick who were fifth last year in their Fiesta and by Welsh crew Merion Evans and Jonathon Jackson who are on their first visit to the Rally of the Lakes aboard a Hyundai Accent R5.

Rob Duggan returns to defend his national title: Photo by Ray Corkery


Killarney and District Motor Club have laid on one of the most difficult routes in the rally’s 40-year history.

Clerk of the course Dermot Healy really wanted to do something very different to mark the special occasion.

Reversing old favourites like Cod’s Head and Ardgroom, something that has not been done in over 30 years was only the start of it.

The Healy Pass has been run from the Cork side in the past but running the stage finish passed the doorstep of the Sibin pub in Lauragh is a new departure.

Sunday will feature two runs over Moll’s Gap, the return of the Sheen River Stage, not used in the Rally of the Lakes for a long time, a new stage near Rathmore and the full- length Gortnagane stage from Ballydaly to Headford to give a total of 230kms of competitive action, making it one of the longest rallies in recent years.

The first car leaves Parc Ferme on the Lewis Road at 830am on Saturday morning and at 720am on Sunday. The first car is due back on the finish ramp at the Gleneagle Hotel just after 5pm on Sunday evening. This is the tenth year in a row that has sponsored the Rally of the Lakes: Photo by Ray Corkery


The top local seed is defending national rally champion, Rob Duggan. Reunited with former co-driver Mikie Galvin, it is their first time working together in six years but a defence of last year’s national title is the only target in their hired Ford Escort Mk2.

Kevin O’Donoghue and Timmy Kelly are next up their gloriously sounding BMW M3 E30 and are the current leaders of the two-wheel-drive class in the Southern 4 Rally Championship.

Dave Slattery and Ger Somers will share a rally car for the first time in years. Strong contenders for the Kingdom of Kerry title, they won’t have an easy time with local father and son team Charlie and Johnny Hickey right behind. Adding to the local battle Tadgh O’Sullivan and John McCarthy start one place behind the Hickeys, all three crews in nearly identical Ford Escorts.

“It is going to be some craic,” said middle man Charlie Hickey.

Defending junior champion Colin O’Donoghue steps up to the full two-day rally for the first in a newly built Ford Escort.

“This is a big step,” he said,”This is my first two-day rally and there is a lot more preparation needed.”

Shane McCarthy from Kenmare will be one of the contenders for class 11F honours in his Honda Civic and will face the similar car of Steven O’Connor and Christy Nagle.

Kevin O’Sullivan and Sean Nolan are contenders for class 12 in their Escort.

Local co-driver Denis Coffey will navigate for Raymond Spence from County Down in their Escort. Tommy Moynihan is another local co-driver, alongside Laois’s Patrick O’Connor in a Mitsubishi Lancer.

Class 9 is nearly an all Kerry affair. Limerick’s Roland Doherty is the top seed in his Vauxhall Nova, but he will face locals like Denis Nagle/John Falvey (Nissan Micra), Noel O’Sullivan/Nicky Burke (Ford Escort) and Charles O’Neil/ Tony McCarthy (Honda Civic).

It is a huge occasion for O’Sullivan and Burke, as the rally celebrates its 40th anniversary, Noel lines up for his 37th attempt and Nicky will partner him for the 23rd time.

Killarney’s Con Lucey has entered in another Ford Escort and he will face class 11R competition from Donal Flynn and Niall Myers in their Toyota Corolla.

Shane Doyle and William Kelleher will be looking forward to the latter half of Sunday in their BMW E30 as the stages pass close to their Barraduff base.

Pat Sheahan and Denny O’Riordan will contest the rally in their unusual left-hand drive Renault Clio.

Kerry Motor Club’s Mike Dowling will start his fourth rally in his Ford Escort Mk1 while Anthony Sheahan brings up the rear in his Honda Civic.

Kevin O’Donoghue and Timmy Kelly are the current leaders of the Southern Four: Photo by Ray Corkery

Moriarty’s Centra Kingdom of Kerry championship

Defending Moriarty’s Kingdom of Kerry co-driving champion Damien Fleming returns alongside Monaghan-based Raymond Conlon in their Toyota Corolla. The pair are not enjoying the best of seasons so far and have retired from several recent rallies, including the Rose Hotel Circuit of Kerry where a faulty engine sensor put them out.

Darren Young arrives in Killarney as the second placed driver in the Kingdom of Kerry championship and will be hoping to add to his class win on the event last year.

Sean Hickey and Noel Fleming were third in this championship last season and they currently occupy joint-third in the series, just two points off the leader Tom Relihan who won’t start.

Locals in historic rally

Local driver Alan Ring has placed surprise entry in the Historic section of the Rally of the Lakes.

It will be his first appearance on his home rally since 2016 when he finished fifth overall in a Ford Fiesta R5

PJ O’Dowd and John Young from Tralee ran their new Talbot Sunbeam for the first time on the Circuit of Kerry and overcame brake issues to finish fourth on that event.

Southern 4 championship

The Southern Four Rally Championship is currently being led by the Cork team of David Guest and Jonathan McGrath in their Skoda Fabia S2000

Family affairs

Father and son team Charlie and Johnny Hickey will be joined on the rally by Charlie’s brother John and John’s daughter Michelle. It will be Michelle’s first rally, she celebrated her 16th birthday in early April and this is her present. Both John and Charlie have over 30 starts each on the rally.

“There are not too many brothers who can say they have 70 starts on the one rally between them,” said John.

Rob Duggan’s brother and sister Andrew and Tara are contesting the rally in a Ford Escort Mk2.

Dave Slattery’s son Dean makes his rally debut in a Honda Civic.


Peter Falvey, fresh from his Junior rally win on the West Cork Rally is the top seed in the junior section of the rally in his Toyota Starlet.

Conor Murphy and Keith McCarthy are next up in a Honda Civic, but a continuous engine problem has prevented them from starting several recent rallies in their Honda Civic. Kieran Reen will be another local frontrunner in this class, as will Donagh Crowley who won the category on the recent Circuit of Kerry

There are 24 juniors entered, with nine of them from Kerry.

Overseas interest

The rally lives up to its international status with visitors from England, Wales, Germany and the USA entered in the event.

Herefordshire-based Phil Collins, who first came to Killarney in 1981 is a local favourite and will be a serious contender for national rally honours in his Ford Escort.

Welsh visitor Sacha Kakad is on his first visit to Killarney in his new for 2019 Ford Fiesta R5 while Duncan Williams from England is another regular in a historic-spec Ford Escort.

Galway native Liam Egan is another regular and returns from his New York-base in a Ford Fiesta R5.

Declan Jackson represents the Isle of Man in his historic Escort.

Andy Davies is another Welsh driver on the entry list in his Subaru Impreza.  Andrew Felgate from England is on his first visit to the Rally of the Lakes in a BMW M3.

Sean Kenny makes the trip home from Germany in his Honda Civic.  Scotland is also represented on the entry list, Jonny Greer’s co-driver Kirsty Riddick hails from the Haugh of Urr.

Home for the rally

Several Kerry competitors have returned home from their overseas bases specially to contest this year’s Rally of the Lakes.

Cousin’s Aidan and Shane Buckley from Listry are based in Bristol and London respectively and will compete in Aidan’s newly built Ford Escort.

Ronald O’Riordan works for Liebherr Container Cranes in Fossa but is often sent on overseas assignments. He has just returned to Kerry after an extended period in Brazil where he was installing container cranes in an inland port on the banks of the River Amazon.

London-based Ray Hilliard and his North Kerry co-driver Conor Walsh make their World Rally Car debut in a Subaru Impreza WRC.

Killarney native and London Irish Motor Club chairman Mick Smith has entered the Rally Fest section in his Chrysler Avenger.

Celebrities in town

Michael Fassbender, the Hollywood A-lister and Fossa native is no stranger to motorsport having contested several Ferrari and Porsche one-make races in the United States in the past, but this is his first attempt at a rally and he will drive a Ford Escort in the Rally Fest section. Local co-driver Barry Goodman will guide him around.

Fassbender will also be in attendance at the start ramp on Friday night and the awards presentation on Sunday night in the Gleneagle Hotel.

Formula One Grand Prix legend Tommy Byrne from Dundalk is also in town, he will attend a book signing in Eason’s on Main St on Saturday as well as being at the finish celebrations on Sunday.

Rally Fest

New for 2019 is a special exhibition class that features cars from the pre-1990 era of rallying, often referred to as at glory days of the sport.

There are some incredibly beautiful rally cars, many with an interesting history, contesting this section of the rally.

Leading this field away is Denis Cronin and his Kilgarvan co-driver Helen O’Sullivan in their BMW M3 E30. This pair won the international rally in 2010 driving a Subaru Impreza.

Conor Falvey and Fearghal Pattwell will drive an ex-works Porsche 911.

This rally was won by Ger Buckley and Demi Fitzgerald in 1980 and 1981 respectively and the Vauxhall Chevette HSR they drove to their victories returns to Killarney in the hands of Mick Dunnion.

Michael Buckley, who appeared on the entry list of the very first Rally of the Lakes as a co-driver, will debut his newly restored Audi quattro this weekend.

Other cars of interest include an MG Metro 6R4 in the hands of Frank O’Mahony, a rear-wheel-drive Peugeot 205 driven by Brendan Brosnan, a Subaru Impreza 555 driven by Paul Ahern and an ex-works Chrysler Avenger driven by Killarney native and London Irish Motor Club chairman Mick Smith.


Killarney and District Motor Club will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Rally of the Lakes by producing a special rally magazine focusing on the history of the rally.

The official programme for this year’s rally will be a real collector’s item with articles and photos, some of which have never appeared in print before, spanning the rally’s four decades.

Produced by KC Print in Killarney, a sister company to the Killarney Advertiser, the special 120-page book went on sale in Killarney and other local towns last week.

As well as a look back on the history of the rally, the programme includes the most up-to-date entry list and maps of this year’s route.

It is priced at €15 and the rally-pack includes a free rally-style bobble hat and a voucher for a free membership to Motorsport Ireland’s loyalty membership scheme – valued at €10.

It can also be purchased online via


Note to Editor:

For further information please contact Sean Moriarty on 087 6771019 or check out  for further information.