O’Brien, Moffett go head-to-head for title

Tomorrow’s Glens of Antrim Rally, the final round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship, is a case of winner not necessarily taking all, as former champion, Cork- born Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC) and Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Mitsubishi) are locked in combat to claim the title.

The Churchtown native won the title two years ago while last season Moffett lost out by the narrowest of margins.

The series is based on the best five scores from seven rounds and while O’Brien has a strong lead having competed in one more event than Moffett, the balance of superiority swings in favour of Moffett when the dropped scores are taken into account.

One of the top two championship places will be enough for Moffett irrespective of what O’Brien achieves.

However, it’s also a high risk strategy as any lower score for Moffett will see O’Brien lift the crown. “It’s important that we finish and anything can happen in rallying. To win it would be quite special, there’s no doubt, but it’s too early to think about that.” said Moffett.

O’Brien, who will be co-driven by Blackpool’s Liam Brennan, is somewhat nonplussed. “I haven’t thought much about it. It could be more luck than judgement as to what happens tomorrow

With series regulars Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia S2000) and Niall Henry (Subaru WRC) also eligible to score points, it could have repercussions for the championship duo.

Elsewhere, Cork driver Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi) will try and secure third overall in the series. The entry also features the Subaru trio of Kenny McKinstry, Martin Cairns and Mark Donnelly along with Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia S2000).

Meanwhile, the Junior Forest series is also down for decision with Alan Moran (Peugeot 206 Cup Car), Patrick O’Brien (Citroen C2 R2) and Derek Mackarel (Opel Corsa) in the frame that also carries an automatic nomination for the Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Award for the winner. The first of the day’s six stages starts at 10am.

Meanwhile, Cork drivers have always enjoyed success on the Banna Beach Resort Rally in Kerry, particularly, members of the Cronin dynasty.

On Sunday, Daniel Cronin (Subaru WRC) heads the 100-plus entry on an event that will determine the destiny of the Top Part West Coast Rally Championship title.

Just two of the top four contenders are competing in Banna – Limerick’s Ed O’Callaghan (Escort) and former champion Monaghan’s Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi) are vying for the title with the former holding a strong advantage.

In event terms, Cronin goes in search of back-to-back wins, although he finished fourth in Clare – some distance behind O’Callaghan when his Subaru WRC floundered with differential woes. He was second fastest on the opening stage in the recent Fastnet Rally but was sidelined with a transmission problem.

That is now sorted and he should be well able to give O’Callaghan and others a good battle. The first stage starts at 10.30am, the service park is in Ballyheigue and the finish at the Banna Beach Resort is at 4pm.

Elsewhere, the National Navigation Trial Championship season gets underway in Monaghan tomorrow night.

The final bi-monthly nomination for the 2015 Billy Coleman Award is Cork’s Vincent McSweeney (Honda Civic).

The 26-year-old Bandon driver secured the September/October nomination on the back of his impressive performances on the Cork “20” Rally – where he was sixth in the national event and a dominant class winner.

On the recent Fastnet Rally he secured the overall award in the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship.

Aside from this weekend’s winner of the Junior category of the Valvoline National Forestry Championship, the list will be completed by a wildcard selection.

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