There is just over one week to go until Monaghan’s biggest annual sporting event, the Monaghan Stages Rally. The event is one of the most popular and competitive events in the Irish sporting calendar and 2017 is set to be another Monaghan epic. The Triton National Rally Championship returns this year alongside the Sligo Pallets Border Rally Championship. Josh Moffett has taken the last two Monaghan wins but will face serious opposition in the pursuit of a hat-trick.
It’s all new for 2017 with Thomas Treanor taking over the reigns as Clerk of the Course from Brendan Flynn who has served as COC for the last three years. We also return to the Four Seasons Hotel for the first time since 1995 and we thank Frank McKenna and his team for welcoming us back with open arms. Three challenging new stages have been selected in the Stranooden, Scotshouse and Smithborough areas which are sure to be both challenging and enjoyable. Each will be completed three times.
The rally has been dominated by local drivers in recent years with the Moffett brothers Sam & Josh splitting the last four wins between them. Josh, who has Stephen Thornton due to navigate, faces a serious battle to complete a hat-trick of Monaghan wins. This feat has only been completed once before by Niall Maguire between 1998 and 2000. His main opposition will be his brother Sam. Sam has dominated the opening two rounds of the Triton National Rally Championship and will be determined to end Josh’s three in a row bid as Josh did to him back in 2015!
Another top competitor is Donegal’s Donagh Kelly and his Ballinode navigator Conor Foley. This pair recently won the West Cork Rally and are former National & Tarmac Champions. Their 2 litre Focus WRC might have the edge over the fast Monaghan Stages. They will be aiming to become only the second non-Monaghan crew since 2003 to win the rally.
Other top entries so far include Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble, who will be using the event as a shakedown for the Killarney Rally of the Lakes, and Aghabog’s Stephen Wright & Arthur Kierans who also compete in a Fiesta R5. Seven times winner Niall Maguire returns once again for his home event with four time winner Enda Sherry on the notes. Maybe this pair can get the best out of their Subaru and take it to their rivals!
Entries are still flooding in for the event with around 100 received so far. Aiden Wray, Shane Maguire & Paul Barrett are the leading Group N entries to date while Adrian Hetherington, Maurice Moffett, Vivian Hamill, John Bonner, Damien Gallagher and Raymond Conlon are amongst a very competitive two wheel drive field. Entries remain open with plenty of room for a few late surprises which could put a spanner in the works.
The action gets under way at 11.00am on Sunday 23rd April where competitors leave the Four Seasons Hotel for the opening loop of stages. Service once again takes place in the Courthouse Car Park after stages 3 and 6. The first car is due back at the Four Seasons Hotel for 5.30pm where the 2017 Monaghan Stages Rally winner will be crowned!