Keenan - King Of Killarney Classics!

Posted: December 22, 2004 9:12 AM - 7177 Hits

With a year of outstanding success behind them both - winner of the 2003 Irish Young Rally Driver Of the Year - Billy Coleman award, this years Irish Tarmac Championship Group N winners on their first attempt and claiming 3rd overall in the West Euro Cup Championship most teams would be taking a well earned rest for the winter…However Dessie Keenan and Enda Sherry from Monaghan had still one more event that they had planned to take part in and were really looking forward to it – The Killarney Historics Rally 2004.

Photo: James Burke

Posted: December 22, 2004 9:12 AM

After intense domestic negotiations in the Keenan household it was finally agreed that Dessie would be taking his fathers Border Championship winning Mark II escort to take part in the Killarney Historics Rally 2004. With long-term navigator Enda on board the boys were looking forward to returning to the rear wheel drive action one last time before the end of the season.

The event consisted of 9 spectacular stages, with weather conditions damp; road surfaces were slippy with lying water in places. Seeded no: 7 on the road, the boys who are huge fans of the famous Killarney stages- especially Molls Gap were really enjoying the rally with the Squealing Pig Escort. From stage two Dessie began to notch out his overall lead and by stage seven he held a comfortable lead of 2 mins 12 seconds over second place driver Pat Donegan.

Its not over till its over they say and sure enough…half a mile into stage eight the alternator light illuminated in the dash of the MK II signalling that something was wrong. As the temperature hand began to rise it was clear that the alternator belt had broken. Forced to stop the car as the engine began to heat up, Dessie luckily was carrying a smaller belt that could be fitted; enough to keep the water pump turning keeping the engine cool. Dessie began to frantically fit the new belt as the seconds ticked by. Fours cars had now passed by, relaying to Dessie that he had lost almost two minutes.

With the problem solved Dessie and Enda had now slipped back into 2nd place overall. A further mile up the stage Dessie again had to stop the car to check that the new belt was working as he could risk serious engine damage otherwise. Seeing that everything was working fine and with ten miles left of the stage the boys had no other option but to launch a full attack on regaining their first overall position.

Catching two cars through the stage, they pulled back a valuable minute which meant starting the last stage they were just 5 seconds off 1st overall. With spectacular style they set the fastest stage time on the last stage, taking 16 seconds off the leader leaving Dessie and Enda the overall winners by 11 seconds! Delighted they crossed the finish ramp to their very first overall win together to top off an amazing year of rallying between the two, with Dessie commenting:

“When I stopped on the stage the second time and could see that the new belt was working, I got back in the car, belted up, plugged in the intercom and told Enda to hang on because we were going for it! We gave it everything we had left on those last two stages and it paid off, it’s a great way to finish the year – we are just delighted!”

Dessie would like to thank Enda for navigating and a special thanks to his dedicated service crew: John Morgan, Fergal O Brien and Pauric Mc Cara.

Group N Glory for Keenan!
This years Answercall Direct International Ulster Rally, Round 7 of the Pirelli Irish Tarmac Championship and also round 7 of the British Rally Championship took place on Sept 3rd and 4th with headquarters based at the Armagh City Hotel. Crews would have to contest 19 stages over the two-day event. Dessie Keenan from Monaghan sponsored by The Squealing Pig and Mc Carron Civil Engineering is currently this years Motorsport Ireland ‘Young Irish Rally Driver of the Year’ started the event leading the Group N class in the Tarmac Championship. Dessie and navigator Enda Sherry were focused on gaining a good result from this event to help extend their lead.

Friday’s eight stages started off at 3 o clock from the start ramp at the mall in Armagh. Weather conditions had been dry for most of the day but the rain soon arrived into the Cathedral City of Armagh as evening fell. Dessie set the Group N pace alight on the first two opening stages taking the lead, however Dickie Curran put the pressure on by taking back time on stage three. Dessie responded throughout the night stages by regaining the lead to retire into Parc Ferme 10th overall with a class lead of 13 seconds to welsh driver Sebastian Ling.

Testing both driver and navigator endurance, first cars left Parc Ferme at the early hour of 6.00am Saturday morning to cover the long road section to Omagh where the opening stage of the day was sixteen miles long!.
Conditions were slippy with a lot of mud on the first loop of stages. The weather improved to clear skies for the rest of the day. Dessie and Enda kept up their fast and steady pace experiencing no major problems throughout the Omagh stages and extended their lead to 38 seconds. All crews then made their way back to Armagh for two final spectator stages before re-grouping and crossing the finish ramp at the mall.

Dessie and Enda crossed the ramp to a champagne celebration having won their class and finished 11th overall in the event. This win means that both Dessie and Enda have secured enough points to win Group N in the Pirelli Irish Tarmac Championship with one round remaining.

Their first attempt in a four-wheel – drive car, Dessie showed flawless, consistent driving throughout the year scoring points on every event bar one – Killarney. This highly competitive class produces thrilling encounters throughout the season, leaving the championship nail-biting stuff.

The Keenan Rally team is a small team with Dessie himself the chief mechanic on the car spending hours perfectly preparing the car before each event along with the help of the service team. However Dessie and Enda would like to say a special thanks to their service crew who’s commitment and dedication involving hard work, late nights and long journeys have all helped make this success possible.

With the hard work done, Dessie and team can now relax and enjoy the remaining events of the Motorsport season. Dessie will be taking part in this years Golden Tulip Rally in Holland and the Cork 20 International Rally in October.

Dessie would like to thank his sponsors for their commitment, especially: The Squealing Pig, Mc Carron Civil Engineering, Enda Keenan Stainless Steel, Tierney Motors, The Rock Inn, The Westenra Arms Hotel and the Black Water Cottage.
Manx Points For Keenan!
This years Manx International Rally – newly sponsored by Gibbs aquada took place from Thursday July 29th – July 31st, with headquarters based at the Isle of Man TT Grandstand. Host to the British Rally Championship, the Pirelli Irish International Tarmac Rally Championship and The West Euro Cup Championship the event attracted a top list of entries. 23 stages were spread over the three-day event.

Leg 1 consisting of 5 stages included the legendary spectator stages of Castletown. Weather conditions were not looking promising as thunder and lightening storms led to heavy rain. Dessie Keenan and navigator Enda Sherry, seeded no 37, produced a steady start to the event throughout the first four stages. Stage 5, last and final stage of Leg 1 produced atrocious driving conditions as low cloud had left visibility severely restricted on the night stage. Un-phased, the Monaghan Crew worked flawlessly together throughout the foggy stage to take 40 seconds off their nearest Irish Group N competitor James Foley leaving themselves just outside the top 20 and leading the Irish Group N Class.

Leg 2 of the event – 10 stages and weather conditions were perfect, clear blue skies and scorching sunshine would help raise the temperature of the event! Dessie Keenan in his Squealing Pig/ Mc Carron Civil Engineering Mitsubishi Evo 7 kept up a blistering pace throughout the day opening up a further 31 second advantage over Foley to arrive into service at Douglas on Friday night Irish Group N leader and third in his class – just 30 seconds off 2nd place Welsh driver Sebastian Ling. With no major problems to report it was going to be maximum attack for Saturday mornings Leg 3.

Yet again, sunshine poured over the island as the cars emerged from service Saturday morning to tackle the remaining 8 stages of the event. First stage of the day and Keenan took 8 seconds off Ling, narrowing the gap between them, however the battle was short lived as Ling was forced to retire due to an accident moving Keenan into 2nd place behind local driver Rob Watson. A delighted Keenan crossed the finish ramp at the TT Grandstand 12th overall, 2nd in his class – claiming first place Irish Tarmac Championship Group N points “ I’m delighted, it has been a tough event, we pushed hard and got the result we wanted!”

The next round of the Pirelli Irish International Tarmac Championship is the Ulster Rally based in Armagh. Dessie would like to thank his sponsors: The Squealing Pig, Mc Carron Civil Engineering, Enda Keenan Stainless, Tierney Motors and The Rock Inn for their continuous support and special thanks to his dedicated service crew. 07/07/04
Dessie Keenan - Jim Clark Report
Keenan Maintains Group N Lead

Photo: John Bayly
One of the UKs most popular tarmac events – The Jim Clark Memorial Rally, based at the new location of St. Boswells, south of Edinburgh played host to Round 5 of the Pirelli Irish International Tarmac Championship. Many of the group N competitors travelled from Ireland to take part in the two-day event.

Dessie Keenan, Motorsport Ireland ‘Irish Young Rally Driver of The Year’ from Monaghan who currently was leading the Group N category of the championship needed to collect more valuable points to help maintain his lead at the top of the leader board in his Squealing Pig/Mc Carron Civil Engineering Evo 7.

Seven stages were held on Friday. Weather conditions were extremely unpredictable with unexpected frequent showers creating hazardous driving conditions. Dessie with navigator Enda Sherry from London lost valuable time shortly into stage 2 after sliding off the road into a drain due to slippy mud on the road surface. Over 30 seconds were lost but thanks to spectators they were retrieved from the Scottish shrubbery and back in the race. They completed the remaining five stages, gaining back time they had lost due to their earlier slide.

Saturday, with sixteen stages to the finish, it was going to be a long day. Weather conditions had not improved making tyre choices very difficult for all competitors. Dessie maintained a steady pace throughout the day despite being caught out on the wrong tyres for some of the stages “ It is so hard to predict conditions, it might be raining out on the stages and by the time you reach them the sun could be shining and the road dry again – its just a gamble at times”. Non-the-less Keenan backed by Mullen Transport, Tierney Motors, Blackwater Cottage & Maguire Transport managed to finish a superb 18th overall and claims 2nd place points in the Pirelli Irish International Tarmac Championship leaving him leading the Group N drivers category and his navigator Enda joint 1st in the Group N navigators category.

The next round, takes the Group N parade to the Isle of Man for the Manx International Rally on July 29th – July 31st.
Top Ten Finish for Keenan in Donegal!
This years Shell Donegal International Rally, Round 4 of the Pirelli Irish Tarmac Rally Championship took place from the 18th – 20th of June. One of Irelands biggest rallying events – it proved to be an exciting weekend of Motorsport. Monaghan driver Dessie Keenan and the current Motorsport Ireland ‘ Billy Coleman award winner’ seeded no: 27 with navigator Enda Sherry from Scotstown arrived into Letterkenny with high hopes of gaining more points in the Irish Tarmac Championship.

Photo: Seamus Counihan
Friday's stages, located northeast of Letterkenny kicked off the three day event. Weather conditions were damp at first, but later dried out. Keenan, driving his Squealing Pig/ Mc Carron Civil Engineering Mitsubishi Evolution 7 had problems from stage one. The car was down on power and Dessie knew it was not going to be an easy job trying to pin-point the problem. Arriving into Parc Ferme Friday night 15th overall and 6th in Group N, disappointed Dessie commented “ We have been loosing time all day, we have a 50 minute service in the morning and that will be the decider whether we get this problem sorted or not!”

Sure enough after the first two Saturday stages were complete, Dessie and his service crew thoroughly checked the complete front end of the car and discovered the problem. The car was re-assembled and Dessie set off into stage 9 on maximum attack – setting fastest stage time of Group N. Power had been restored to the car and Keenan spent the day gaining time he had so valuably lost the previous day to finish 12th overall and 4th in Group N on Saturday night, just half-a-minute off the Group N leaders.

Sunday – with just 6 stages to go, Dessie and Enda kept up the pace to gain back even more time on the morning stages, which meant Dessie had moved from 4th to 3rd place in Group N and arrived across the finish ramp at the Mount Errigal Hotel a fantastic 10th overall and third in group N, in only his second attempt at the Donegal International Rally. Dessie now leads Group N in the Pirelli Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.

Dessie would like to thank all his family and friends for their support over the weekend especially his dedicated service crew and sponsors: The Squealing Pig, Mc Carron Civil Engineering, Mullen Transport, Westenra Arms Hotel, Tierney Motors, The Blackwater cottage and Maguire International Transport

Keenan Storms to Group N Victory!
This years Buy & Sell Circuit of Ireland Rally took place over the Easter Bank holiday weekend, with headquarters based at the Killyhevlin hotel, Enniskillen.

Six stages started off the event on Saturday located on the Fermanagh/Monaghan border. Dessie Keenan, seeded no: 16 with navigator Enda Sherry on board set off at a blistering pace in the group N The Squealing Pig/Mc Carron Civil Engineering Ltd Mitsubishi EvoVII – with new Sponsors: The Westenra Arms Hotel and Mullen Transport taking the class lead just after 5 stages. Pressure was kept on the Billy Coleman award winner from local Enniskillen driver Garry Jennings throughout the day but it was Monaghans Dessie Keenan who arrived into Saturday nights halt 6th overall and leading group N.

Sundays 10 stages were based around the town of Omagh, Co.Tyrone. Weather conditions were cloudy but dry. Dessie maintained his lead throughout the first half of the day setting fastest times three stages in a row and was described by local Motorsport press releases as ‘Bionic Keenan’ as he charged through the stages. However, on the final loop of three stages Dessie lost his group N lead when caught out by unpredicted heavy rain -with slick tyres on the car, leaving grip poor and dropped back to 7th overall and 2nd in group N on the Sunday night leaderboard.

Monday, and an eventful first stage saw Garry Jennings retire from the rally after a high speed accident, leaving Dessie back in the class lead in front of Aaron Mc Hale. With 6 stages to go it was all about getting the car to the finish of the rally, however after a heavy landing on the famous Trillick Jump Dessie had to take extra caution after sustaining frontal damage to the car. Final service complete, and fingers crossed as Dessie headed for the final stage at St. Angelos airfield. To the whole teams delight Dessie & Enda crossed the finish ramp an outstanding 6th overall and Group N winners in Irelands Toughest rally to receive the David S. Hanna Trophy and the W.J.”Bill” Kinnear Trophy! The Billy Coleman award winners talent definitely shone on this International event , only his second event in the car – he showed great stamina and composure under pressure - not to mention setting fastest stage times on many of the 23 stages.

Preparation is now underway for Dessies local event; the ‘Monaghan Stages Rally’ and round three of the Pirelli International Tarmac Championship , the - Killarney International Rally of the Lakes.
Keenans Great Start in Tarmac Championship!
Dessie Keenan, winner of the Motorsport Ireland ‘Young Rally Driver of the year – Billy Coleman Award’ created an outstanding start to his Motorsport season in this years First Choice Flooring Ltd Galway International Rally.
Photo: Seamus Counihan
Heading west for the weekend for his first event in his newly acquired Mitsubishi Evo VII, Dessie with his sister Laura navigating was seeded no 25 on the road. Already backed by The squealing Pig, The Rock Inn, & Tierney Motors Monaghan, Dessie had also the support of new sponsors ‘ Mc Carron Civil Engineering – Drogheda and The Blackwater Cottage, Moy Bridge’ for round 1 of the Pirelli National Irish Tarmac Championship.

Competitors faced seventeen tarmac stages over the two-day event. Saturdays conditions were unpredictable with frequent showers of heavy rain leaving the road surface slippy in places. Although his first event, Dessie was close on the pace of fellow group N competitors, and as the day progressed he became more accustomed to the 4-wheel-drive Evo VII and began to creep his way up the leader board, arriving into Parc Ferme Saturday evening lying 12th overall.

Sunday, Leg 2 of the international Rally brought clear skies to Galway as the competitors headed to the area of Kinvara for the final 8 stages. Dessie put into practise what he had learned on Saturdays stages and set some blistering stage times. A fantastic days rallying for the Monaghan Driver brought him across the finish ramp in Eyre Square 9th overall and 3rd in Group N, commenting “ I’m absolutely delighted with our top ten finish”. With conditions on the great stages both wet and dry, Dessie admits that the weekend was definitely a learning experience and is looking forward to his next event!

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