This week will mark the end of a very remarkable and never-to-be-repeated era in Paul Nagle’s rallying career.
He is the current Irish Tarmac champion, the most recent winner of the Rally of the Lakes and the defending Killarney Historic rally winner.
He is also the outgoing Moriarty’s Centra Kingdom of Kerry Rally Championship titleholder.
All these trophies reside at his Aghadoe home, and they have enjoyed an extended stay there as a result of the pandemic.
It is very unlikely that this collection of trophies will be under one roof again but a sequence of events over the past and coming days means it is now time to hand them back.
The 2022 Rally of the Lakes was officially launched by Killarney and District Motor Club on Sunday.
Nagle and his driver Craig Breen won the 2019 event, the last time the rally ran before COVID-19 influenced the world’s activities.
It was a special win for Nagle, he became the first Killarney resident to win the home international
However, the Kerry/Waterford pairing cannot defend their title. The current Ford M-Sport World Rally Team members will spend the May Bank Holiday weekend in Spain and Portugal on an extended pre-Rally Portugal gravel test.
“It will be hard heading to the airport when everyone else is heading for the first [Killarney] stage,” he siad.
As a result, he will have to relinquish his hold on two of the most coveted trophies in Kerry rallying and prepare to hand them back to Killarney District Motor Club so they can present them to this year’s winners.
The Tostal Cup can trace its history all the way back to the 1950s. It was first presented by the old Kingdom of Kerry Motor Club to the early winners of the club’s hillclimb and navigations events. When that club folded in the mid-1960s the trophy ended up in a bank vault in Tralee.
It reappeared in 1979, the year the Rally of the Lakes first ran, and legendary names like Billy Coleman, Bertie Fisher, Austin MacHale, and Frank Meagher are now etched on the base of the trophy.
In 2019 Breen and Nagle added their name to the illustrious list.
“I put Craig and myself under huge pressure to win this one. Of all my experience in the World Rally Championship, I struggled to manage that weekend,” he said. “It was very special, it was the event’s 40th anniversary, I grew up around the Rally of the Lakes and used to dodge school to go and look at the cars. The last stage finished in Gortnagane, my late dad’s [Maurice] home stage. To be the first Killarney man to win it, all that emotion played a huge part in the weekend but to win this trophy – it is the Sam Maguire of Kerry rallying.”
The Timmy O’Sullivan Cup is awarded to the highest placed Killarney and District Motor Club co-driver on the Killarney Rally.
It remembers a true stalwart of the club who sadly lost his life in a road accident in 2001,
It was Timmy’s brother Donie who gave Nagle his first taste of World Championship Rallying. The pair contested Rally Spain in 2004 in a privately entered Ford Focus WRC and the rest, as they say, is history, Nagle will top 100 world championship starts this season.
“This was my fourth time winning this trophy, I was the first winner in 2002, Donie is a family friend and I stepped in as Donie’s co-driver after the tragic loss of Timmy. When we did the first WRC event, it was then I realised what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go,” said Nagle.
The Timmy O’Sullivan Memorial Trophy is another cup that is set to leave Aghadoe in the days leading up to this year’s Rally of the Lakes.
With the Circuit of Ireland/ Easter Rally taking place over Easter weekend, two more trophies will leave Killarney.
Breen and Nagle are the last crew to win the Bertie Fisher Memorial Cup, presented to the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship winners. The Circuit of Ireland is round three of this year’s ITRC.
Under FIA rules, three rallies must take place to declare a championship so even if the dreaded covid or other world events cause another lockdown, there will be a guaranteed new name on the ITRC-winning trophy this year. The overall Circuit of Ireland winning trophy will be in Alistair Fisher’s hands for the next 12 months.
“Coming back to Ireland after a turbulent 18 months with Citroen reignited my passion for the sport,” he added. “We got back to doing great rallies like West Cork and Killarney, I was enjoying the sport again and this was the foundation for our return to the WRC with Hyundai.”
Nagle has already lost his grip on the Kingdom of Kerry Rally Championship trophy, the only County Rally Championship trophy in the country.
A scaled-back series took place over two rounds last year and Shane Buckley was declared the winner of the co-driver’s section of the series.
Championship organisers have been unable to find a suitable date for a championship prizegiving – a planned event at Christman was cancelled due to covid – so there has yet to be an official handing over ceremony.
Plans are in place to do this over the Rally of the Lakes weekend meaning another coveted trophy is about to depart Aghadoe.
“This is a great initiative for Kerry drivers and co-drivers,” he said. “And it was the best prizegiving in the whole of the 2019 season.”
Paul’s victory in last year’s Killarney Historic Rally completed a unique set. He is the only co-driver (and this has yet to be achieved by any driver) to have won all five Kerry-based rallies.
His first local win was on the 2003 Kerry Winter Rally alongside Sean Gallagher in a Ford Escort Cosworth.
The Circuit of Kerry followed this time as co-driver to Donie O’Sullivan in the same Ford Focus WRC they used later in the year for their World Rally Championship debut.
He is a twice winner of the Killarney Forestry Rally, guiding both Gareth MacHale and Eugene Donnelly to victory in the mid-2000s.
He had to wait a long time for his next home win on the 2019 Rally of the Lakes, in the meantime, Nagle and Kris Meeke recorded five World Championship and several European and Intercontinental Rally Challenge event wins all over the world.
Last November’s Historic Rally win is the most important and the most memorable for Paul.
The winner’s cup is named for his late father Maurice, the man who founded the Historic Rally in 1996, and Paul will get to keep that for another seven and half months at least.
“It was an emotional cup to win, again I put Craig under enormous pressure to win it,” added Paul.
“It was great to win it, but I would much prefer to have him here with us.”
The departing trophies are making way for new silverware.
Breen and Nagle’s third place on the iconic Rallye Monte Carlo in January marks them out as serious World Championship contenders this season.
Next up for the M-Sport crew is Rally Croatia, which takes place one week before the Rally of the Lakes.
The all-tarmac rally is based in the capital, Zagreb, and while there will not be any new Kerry trophies this April or May, the whole county is hoping that the departed trophies will have made enough space for additional WRC prizes.
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