The late Kevin O'Riordan was an expert in preparing rally cars

East Cork native lived for rallying and operated at every level of the sport across Ireland
The late Kevin O'Riordan was an expert in preparing rally cars

The late Kevin O'Riordan, far right, with the legendary Billy Coleman in a Mk 1 Ford Escort. Picture: Martin Walsh.

ONE of rallying’s most popular personalities and a former president of the Munster Car Club, Kevin O’Riordan from Castlelyons passed away recently following a brave battle with illness. 

Although talented as both a driver and navigator, Kevin was truly gifted when it came to preparing and looking after rally cars for various drivers.

Cork rally greats from the 1970s and 1980s like Greg O’Gorman, the dynamic duo of Mick and Anne O’Connell and Frank O’Mahony all availed of his expertise to have their cars meticulously prepared for events.

Originally from Conna, where his father, William was the local medical practitioner, Kevin along with his late brother Tom, was always interested in cars. 

Indeed, in their very young days legend has it that they had a car that really didn’t have much of a body shell and with butter boxes as seats, they would bring their contraption (with a straight exhaust) onto the then quiet street in Conna on a Sunday evening with neighbours jokingly commenting, 'Get in, the Doctor’s sons are out in that car.' 

Those were very different days.

Although initially a medical representative, Kevin found his real niche and set himself up in the motor trade in Youghal, then Conna and for the majority of his life, in Castlelyons.

While he was a good pilot in his throaty sounding white Triumph Mk 1 2.5PI, his mechanical genius was the quality that set him apart. Music and fun were hot on the heels of his rally days and nights, he was always the one to begin the party, of which there were many.

Speaking with a great fondness of their times together Mick and Anne O’Connell said: “Kevin was one of the most brilliant service technicians we ever came across. No matter what the problem was, he would solve it and get the car going. He was also huge fun, very musical and we had some good rear ups after the rallies, far more than we should have indulged. 

"Recently, one of his nephews (also Kevin) told us that he experienced the greatest highs and the lowest lows in servicing our car. 

He was a genius at improvisation in the days you could use anything. 

"We couldn’t speak too highly of him really.” 

Picture: Martin Walsh.
Picture: Martin Walsh.

Kevin was navigator to Frank O’Mahony when they won the Commodore Hotel Rally in Cobh finishing ahead of Mick and Anne O’Connell. 

Frank added: “I knew Kevin since the early 1970s when he was working on Greg O’Gorman’s cars and Mick and Anne’s. After co-driving for me, he then began servicing for me when I got the Vauxhall Chevette and built the engines for me and all that. 

He was a top-class engineer, not just in relation to engines but also to the handling and set-up of the cars. 

"He often worked through the night to have the car ready, including one time when I did the Phoenix Park races and qualified on pole even though the car was overheating. 

"We came back down on the Saturday evening, he took the head off the engine and sorted it and then we drove back to Dublin early in the morning. He was always in great humour and the centre of the parties.” 

Kevin O’Riordan was truly gifted in mechanical matters and was a former president of the Munster Car Club. Picture: Martin Walsh.
Kevin O’Riordan was truly gifted in mechanical matters and was a former president of the Munster Car Club. Picture: Martin Walsh.

From 2010 to 2019, Kevin was president of the Munster Car Club, a position he held with great pride, respect and affection. Friends and club members formed a socially distanced guard of honour prior to his cremation. 

Kevin is survived by his wife Maggie, sons Stephen, Brian and Andrew, daughter Jennifer, sister Vera, daughter-in-law Nicole, grand-daughter Emily, nephews, nieces, relatives, neighbours and many many friends in motorsport.

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