By using this website, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Cookie Policy for more information.
irish tarmac rally championship

Donegal Crucial for Cronin’s Tarmac Title Bid

Of all Irish rallies, the Donegal International is regarded by most competitors and followers as 'The Big One', not only in terms of competitive distance, but also in relation to difficulty, and prestige.  At least some of this status is borne from the fact that it was, for a long time, the only three-day event in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship calendar, and also because its traditional mid-summer date usually sees it attract the largest spectator numbers of the year.  The current leaders of the 2024 series, Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin, are all too aware of the pivotal role that this weekend's edition can play in determining the destination of the Tarmac crown.

The Killarney and District Motor Club crew won the first two rounds in Galway and West Cork, but then lost out to Matt Edwards and David Moynihan on the Circuit of Ireland when the latter outfoxed them on tyre choice late in the event, while a near-certain victory on the Killarney Rally of the Lakes was foiled by a puncture.  Cronin and Galvin have a 13.5 point advantage at the head of the Tarmac leaderboard in the M O’Brien Group of Companies/Lyons Motor Group/Shane Casey Electrical Services Ford Fiesta Rally 2, from Edwards and Moynihan, while Killarney winners, and reigning champions, Callum Devine and Noel O'Sullivan, are third, a further 17.5 points back.  

"We've finished every round so far, which is always a plus," said Cronin, as he made final preparations for the long trek from his Ballylickey base to the North-West.  "We're leading the championship at the moment, although we could have been in a much stronger position points-wise if the Circuit and Killarney had gone our way, but you're never going to get a year where every rally goes perfectly, it just won't happen," he added.  He and Galvin did return to winning ways on the British Championship-counting Jim Clark Rally at the end of last month, and will hope to continue that good form into this weekend.  "It was great to get our BRC season back on track, we had had a bad start on the first two rounds there, so the win was badly needed," noted Cronin.

His most recent outing in Donegal was in 2016, the year of his and Galvin’s previous Tarmac Championship victory.  On that occasion, he lost out to the late Manus Kelly by just 0.5 of a second for the rally win, following a final stage showdown, so Cronin could be forgiven for regarding the event as unfinished business, but he is under no illusion regarding the task in hand.  "It's a long, long, rally up there, 275 stage kilometres, there's so many opportunities for things to go against you, so we may perhaps take a more gradual approach than we have for some of the other rounds so far," he predicted.  "Matt and Callum, and Josh Moffett, have much more recent experience there, Callum and Josh have won the last three between them, Matt finished second last year and led the year before.  It'll be a tall order to get the best of any of them.  Whoever the winners turn out to be, they'll have a good weekend's work done," said Cronin.  

With just the Ulster Rally and Cork '20' International rounds remaining after Donegal, Cronin will be mindful that dropped scores will start to come into play, as the best five from seven results count towards a competitor's final Tarmac points tally.  "We're the only crew with two wins so far, but if Matt or Callum was to draw level in Donegal, it would be very tight to stay ahead over the last couple of rounds, so there's no doubt that the outcome this weekend is important," he notes.

The Donegal International Rally gets underway on Thursday evening, with the Ceremonial Start taking place in Letterkenny Town Centre.  The crews will tackle six stages during Friday, followed by eight on Saturday and six on Sunday.  The 2024 Donegal winners will spray the victory champagne at the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny at 6.35pm on Sunday evening.

Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin are supported by M Group of Companies, Lyons Motor Group, Shane Casey Electrical Services, Molson Equipment, Pirelli, EARS Motorsport Ireland, Cronin’s Centra (Ballylickey, Union Hall, Leap, Millstreet and Dundrum), Cronin’s HomeValue Hardware, Westlink Service Station and Daybreak Shop, Cremin Coaches, Keohane Seafoods, M-Sport and Wurth Ireland.  Their Ford Fiesta Rally 2 is prepared and run by Tom Gahan Motorsport.

Wilton Recycling Donegal International Rally 2024

Top Ten Seeds

1: Callum Devine/Noel O'Sullivan, Volkswagen Polo GTi R5

2: Keith Cronin/Mikie Galvin, Ford Fiesta Rally 2

3: Matt Edwards/David Moynihan, Ford Fiesta Rally 2

4: Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes, Citroen C3 Rally 2

6: Meirion Evans/Ger Conway, Toyota GR Yaris Rally 2

7: David Kelly/Dean O'Sullivan, Volkswagen Polo GTi R5

8: Desi Henry/Shane Byrne, Citroen C3 Rally 2

9: Declan Boyle/Patrick Walsh, Citroen C3 Rally 2

10: Cathan McCourt/Brian Hoy, Ford Fiesta Rally 2

External Credits:

Keith Cronin Rallying/Image- D Harrigan Images


Your donations allow us to continue delivering high-quality content, from in-depth articles to event coverage, ensuring RallyFish remains a valuable resource