This year’s night navigation trial would continue the trend of having bad weather interfere in the planning of the event with the dreaded ‘Beast from the east’ postponing the event from running on it’s traditional March date. With this minor inconvenience it would be a welcome start time of 9:31 for all crews on April the 7th when the event which had long been looked forward to by competitors and locals would make a welcome return to the south west of the county after a 10 year hiatus. The added gloss for the event would be the fact it was now the season closer and would decide both the national and border titles.
Clerk of the Course Ruaidhri Nash would once again try and present an event where fun would be the theme of the night trying to incorporate some good driving roads along with a healthy smattering of lanes, farms and tracks with the odd trick thrown in to keep the navigators on their toes with the help of Gerard Hyland and Anthony Smith who would do a lot of the ground work having to PR the event not once but twice.
To start the night off the crews would be sent on a merry tour of the roads to the south of the HQ Mc Seains pub in Cornafaen as they would conduct a series of loops through the opening time points with 1 and 4 being at the same cross roads. This would provide the first drama of the night as car number 3 driven by Aaron Duffy with Laurence Keenan who were hoping for home honours clipped a rock and damaged their steering which spelled instant retirement as they had to coast back through the cross roads the following crews could see the first victim of the night and knew this was going to be a tough night.
The next series of time points would incorporate a large farm with a technical and slippery pass to lead the crews to the farmyard before looping around the roads that border the farm. Through this long time navigation maestro Paul Phelan navigating Richard Cassidy would drop a minute as the relentless succession of time points would run the pair out of their minute by the time they reached 5, they would be joined by a lot of the novice crews who would also drop time heading into TP5.
The next big mark on the results would come at the frantic run from TP 8-10 with TP 9 being in the same location as 8 and a plot and bash being handed out in the form of trace which would lead crews on a jaunt through the grassy lanes towards Cornea. This would sort the top crews out with only Arthur Kierans and Connor Maguire and the soon to be crowned National champions Derek Mackeral and Muireann Hayes being the only 2 cars to not suffer time loss on the loop.
With the cars being sent on onwards to the Arva direction we would lose Alan and George Shinnors who would have to make the long trip back to Cork early after suffering mechanical issues. With the crews looping around another farm and receiving their second trace of the night which took them up a grassy overgrown lane which once claimed the windscreen on the organisers car on the first day it was driven before getting a quick run of a hedge trimmer. On this lane the event would be turned on it’s head with Mackeral and Hayes taking a wrong turn and gathering enough penalties to put themselves out of the running. They would be joined by a number of other crews who would drop time on that section with a number of crews missing the TP altogether. The route was followed by a Via which saw the crews take the long way round to get onto the Arva Gowna road via a farmers lane. Disaster was to strike car 1 with Martin Tynan and Fintan Clerkin having a good run up to this point became unsighted when conducting the turn back onto the main road from the Via and slid off the road when the Subaru’s steering lock did not provide the required turning capacity. a brief spell of sitting in the field and wondering how they managed to ‘crash’ at 2mph the pair eventually escaped and re-joined the route but had lost a lot of time in the process.
A pair of parallel lanes just to the east of Gowna would provide the next section that would test crews ability with a muddy slippery lane that would snake it’s way through old cart tracks and use the slither of land between the lake and the woods would lead the crews to TP 19 and 21 where everyone would drop a minute each time. From here they would traverse the roads along the Longford border before they would be given another plot and bash outside the village of Killydoon which would take them across the bog and onto the old railway line for 2 laps of the bog. A via along the way hidden behind a farm house would cost the drivers precious time and would result in some time loss into TP24.
Back onto the main Ballenagh Granard road the crews would turn off and into an apparent Cul de Sac at Oghill with the old railway line being re used to traverse the route away from the back of a farm and back to some pristine tarmac before another plot and bash was thrown in the window taking the surviving crews on another run up through the bog. Once again it was to cost a number of crews precious time as the majority would drop a minute or two into TP26.
The closing stages of the night would see crews have to navigate their way around the famous Shannow lane which had become a signature element in past events from times gone by with the loop in and out around the back of the headge before re appearing on the lane parallel to the tracks in the field.
A final speed regularity section would lead the crews across the main Granard road again and along the lanes in the Corlismore area which had made up the opening part of the night to the secret check which the crews have to hit at exactly the correct time otherwise they would incur penalties. A wrong turn for Kierans and Maguire would nearly spell disaster as they would drop a handful of points as they battled back to regain they’re position and rectify the minor mistake. Having completed this there was one last blast down a farm lane which sat opposite to the earlier pass that brought the crews to TP5, at this point in the night word had got out and a huge crowd of locals took their vantage point on the slopes of the field to watch a display of skill on the ice like mix of mud clay and water as the crews ran along the hedge and threaded their cars through the gate posts to the cross roads which would all to familiar from earlier in the night. One final loop around Cornea would lead to the final control before the sanctuary that was Mc Seains for the post event tea and sandwiches so generously provided by Art and Katrina Mc Seain to the crews and volunteers on the night as the results were being tallied.
It would be a good night for Monaghan crews with Clones men Micky and Ciaran Tynan making it two in a row after winning the last night out in Monaghan they would win the Cavan round on a score of just 4 penalties and a welcome return to Ciaran to the area as he won his first event over 10 years ago out of Mc Seains. The points tally on the night wouldn’t make a difference to Derek Mackeral and Muireann Hayes as they would take the national championship and set history with Hayes being the first lady to win it and only the second navigator from Cork after James O’Brien to take the title. Another crew who would leave Cavan with the big spoils would be club member Arthur Kierans and Conor Maguire who would lift the Border championship after a good run on the night.
Top expert crew on the night would be Keith McConnon and Micheal McCluskey in their new car giving it a good shakedown for next season, top semi expert crew would be James McCabe and Shane Farrell who would post scores well in the hunt with the Experts on the night. Top Novice would be Midland crew of Shane Dalton and Seamus McTigue who would also place 2nd overall on the night in what was a good run. Another crew who had a good run on the night was the little Toyota Starlet of Mark Reilly and Patrick Corcoran who would have been 4th overall only for a small mistake on the way to the final time point which lost them 7 minutes and dropped them to 8th in the end but proving the 2 wheel drive was no issue on the night and a welcome break from the Subaru brigade.
In the beginners it would be a great night for the club with Aaron and Ben Mc Intyre winning the class ahead of Philip and Connor Smith in the battle for local honours.
A huge thanks must go to all the crews who made the trip especially from Munster to the event and to all the help on the night and in the lead up to the event. Huge debt of gratitude to all the residents and land owners on the route for their patience, understanding and sentiment for the return of what a lot of crews would regard as ‘classic navi country’. A word of thanks to all the volunteers who came from far and wide to help out on the night with some people getting their first taste of a night navigation event. Finally a huge thanks to Gerry Hyland and Anthony Smith who without their help and dedication none of this would have been possible.
If you would like to get into the sport of Night navigating the County Cavan Motorclub will hold a series of classes later in the summer for all skill levels from consummate pro to absolute beginner.