Ypres Rally: There is always a Kerry connection: Hurling in West Flanders

There is always a Kerry connection: Hurling in West Flanders

How did a hurley stick end up on a pub wall in a small village in West Flanders?

This story begins not long after the foundation of London Irish Motor Club in March 2006.

Several of the founding members of the club were regular competitors in the Monteberg Rally each May but the 2006 edition was my first trip to the rally.

The Monteberg Rally began life about 50 years ago as a single-stage event. It nearly always featured roads from the infamous Kemmel stage, a regular feature on the main Ypres event, in the foothills of Flanders highest peak (156 m or 512 ft!) and the scene of some of the most ferocious battles of World War 1.

The rally is usually based in the villages of Loker and Dranouter and in the centre of Loker sits Redmond’s Irish Bar.

The bar is named after Wexford man William Redmond whose illustrious political career included being one of Charles Stewart Parnell’s most trusted lieutenants during the Land League Movement.

With the outbreak of World War I in August 1914 Redmond enlisted with the Irish Volunteers in regiments of the 10th and 16th (Irish) Divisions to fight in the famous battle at Messine Ridge, now the location of the Irish Peace Park and about 15kms from Loker.

He believed if Irishmen, regardless of their political loyalties, fought together against the bigger German enemy, it would help pave the way for Independence and a united Ireland.

The Irish Peace Park at Messines Ridge, 15kms from Loker

The Irish troops of the 16th and 36th Divisions made a shoulder-to-shoulder attack on the Messines Ridge towards the small village of Wijtschate (another Ypres Rally stage).

Redmond was one of the first out of the trenches but was hit by German defensive fire almost immediately in the wrist, and then further on in the leg before falling to the ground.

He was brought to the Casualty Clearing Station at the Catholic Hospice at Loker where Redmond later died from his wounds.

On the occasion of the 2006 Monteberg Rally, London Irish Motor Club members brought a hurley stick to Redmond’s. They were regulars there at this point and had become friendly with the bar owner. They wanted to bring him a present.

He insisted that every person there should sign the hurley before it was put on display in the bar. Names included John Reddington, Paul McDevitt, Brian Rudden, JP Boyle and Sean Moriarty (owner of this website) who are all founding members of London Irish Motor Club.

Fast forward to Sunday last. Sixteen years after the hurley presentation, Irish rally cars and fans were once again in the village of Loker.

Craig Breen’ and Paul Nagle’s Ford Puma in the car park in Loker village on Sunday

The pub’s car park was used as the parc ferme for the regroup control ahead of the Powerstage.

The Kemmell stage, on Sunday last, used many roads previously featured in the Monteberg Rally, including the famous junction and uphill section in Dranouter – as seen in the video and photo below

Kerry men Mick Smith and Sean Moriarty through the same stage in 2016

And that is the story of how a hurley stick ended up in Loker.

Paul McDevitt and Sean Moriarty on the startline of Monteberg in 2006,. This road was used as an access point for spectator parking on Sunday last

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