Rally legend Billy Coleman inspired Millstreet's Barry Duggan to get behind the wheel

Rally legend Billy Coleman inspired Millstreet's Barry Duggan to get behind the wheel
Barry Duggan (Ford Escort) had a great record in the Rally of the Lakes in Killarney, he finished all five events he contested between 1981 and 1985. His best result was fourth in 1985. Picture courtesy of Rallyretro.com

THERE was a quick response from Millstreet native Barry Duggan as to why he became involved in rallying.

Given the location, the answer was both understandable and impressive “Billy Coleman.” It was followed by laughter and the comment, “He drove us all mad.”

Now living over the county bounds in Spa, but still a very proud Corkonian, Barry began rallying in 1981 in an ex-Ray Benskin Ford Escort. He describes the end result on his debut in the Wexford Rally.

“Well, I came home with a bent front fender. Conor Falvey was navigating with me, I remember that, but we got through it anyway.”

“I only ever had two cars really, that one and the ex-Richie Heeley Group 1 Ford Escort RS2000 that I bought from Vincent Meade. (314 MYI).”

Barry has a great fondness for the Rally of the Lakes and competed in the Killarney based event five years in succession from 1981 through to 1985.

“I think I did it in the first two years in the ex-Benskin car and the others in the Vincent Meade/Richie Heeley car. The one thing I do remember is that I finished each year.”

With memory recall now very much in top gear, Barry spurts out the statistics.

“I was 31st overall the first year, 14th the second year and then seventh, fifth and fourth after that.”

Quizzed as to why this information readily tripped off his tongue, he added, “I haven’t much else to remember.” But Barry enjoyed other events too. “I remember I had a great tussle down in Skibbereen with Timmy ‘Rocky’ McCarthy. Barry did the Circuit twice, drove it once but didn’t finish and navigated his father (Noel C) in 1985 and finished.

“I was 18th in the Manx International in 1983 when it was won by the late Henri Toivonen in an Opel Manta 400.”

That year Barry was co-driven by Killarney’s Mike Marshall, they were seeded at 102. Noel C’s rally career was much shorter than Barry’s.

“He only ever did two rallies, the Circuit in 85 and the Marine Hotel Single Stage Rally in Glandore as preparation.”

Barry (left) and Philip Moynihan (right) receiving a prize at the Carling Rally of the Lakes in Killarney in 1985. Picture courtesy of Rallyretro.com
Barry (left) and Philip Moynihan (right) receiving a prize at the Carling Rally of the Lakes in Killarney in 1985. Picture courtesy of Rallyretro.com

Barry himself had an array of navigators and those that followed Conor Falvey included Liam Buckley, Todd Falvey, Dan Cashman, Mike Marshall and Philip Moynihan. There was a pause when the name Dan Cashman was mentioned.

“I wouldn’t have been rallying at all only for Dan, without his help my rallying was a no-go, he was absolutely tremendous to me, he was my mainstay, he serviced and maintained the car. We are friends to this day.

“We actually got married the same week. I got married (to Breda) on Whit Monday and Dan married Teresa the following Saturday.”

While naturally, Barry was a member of the Killarney and District Motor Club, he was also a member of the Skibbereen and District Car Club.

During his rallying years Barry had some great battles and great rivals.

“The late Frank Meagher was starting out and we had great battles but of course I couldn’t go further than my neighbour John Moynihan, he was a class driver, also the likes of Martin Daly and the late Sammy Hawkins, we had some great battles.”

Recalling such rivals brought memories on one particular Killarney event.

“The last year I did the Lakes (1985) Billy (Coleman) won it, John (Moynihan) was second and at the start of the last stage (Moll’s Gap) I was joint third with James McDaid. Unfortunately, I over revved coming down the other side, the car broke a valve, the valve twisted, stuck in the head and never dropped. I came down on a couple of cylinders and finished fourth, otherwise it would have been a Millstreet 1-2-3.”

Barry isn’t a good rally spectator, in fact, he doesn’t go to watch events and with good reason.

“I stay away, if I went to watch, I am buying a car for the next two weeks again.”

However, at any available opportunity he watches rallying on television. “Oh yes, I watch them on TV for sure, it is still very much part of my past.”

In addition, he did have a brief sojourn with a historic rally car for around four years at the beginning of this millennium.

“That was in an RS1600 car that Dan (Cashman) and I picked up in the UK.”

Barry is proud of Millstreet’s rally tradition and it comes with an interesting comparison.

“Billy (Coleman) was the man. He was the David Clifford of his time without any shadow of doubt.”

As for his favourite event, he quipped, “The Lakes. It was the one that worked out the best for me. The stages, where else would you be going when you have Moll’s Gap, Beallaghbeama, Caragh Lakes and the ones down in the Beara Peninsula. Fantastic.”

After they married, Barry and Breda settled in Kilcummin where they lived for 20 years until 2006 before moving a mile down the road to their new home in Spa. The David Clifford comment can be attributed to Barry’s GAA interest, last year his son Noel won the All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship with Kilcummin in Croke Park.

“That was a very proud day.”

While those GAA interests keep the next Duggan generation away from rallying (for the moment!), Noel has a Mondello Park voucher to express his talents behind the wheel. It gives Barry a dilemma - described in a Kerry fashion.

“It’s a pity in one way and no harm in another, if you know what I mean.”

Daughter Siobhán is getting married in a few weeks time to a Bandon man.

Barry adds, “Yes, we’re going back to Cork again, well she is going back for the husband anyway.”

For sure, Barry Duggan is still a very proud Corkman.

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