James Coleman is a busy man. He’s just been showing representatives of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire around the magnificent Belline House near Piltown when I grab a word with him.
The splendid grounds surrounding the house, along with the lands owned by the Iverk Show and Piltown GAA Club, will play host to the Carrick-on-Suir Motor Club’s 50th anniversary Motorsport Festival on June 7th/8th.
Over that weekend, some 70 acres of South Kilkenny sod will be occupied by all manner of two and four-wheeled vehicles – some vintage, some supercharged.
Throw in tractor pulling, helicopter rides, a spin in a rally car if you so choose (and a lot more besides) and it’s clear that a couple of hectic, entertaining days lie in store at Belline.
But to spring this from committee room discussion into metal-pedalled reality has taken considerable planning – some 16 months’ worth according to James.
“We’re nearly there now,” he said, breaking into a smile on the graveled surrounds of Belline House on Thursday morning last. “There’s five weeks to go and things are, slowly but surely, starting to take shape.
“Everyone that’s been involved in the organising effort, and every one of them on a voluntary basis I might add, has been absolutely brilliant, working so hard to get everything right for the festival.
“We’ve been pulling out all the stops to ensure we’ll have a great couple of days here, and I’m confident we’re going to do just that.”
James and his colleagues were joined on the festival site by representatives from the National Rehab Hospital and the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.
Should the estimated festival attendance of 30,000 be realised, both will benefit to the tune of at least €100,000 and it goes without saying that the respective bodies were delighted to be chosen as beneficiaries.
“Support like this is fantastic,” said Brendan Martin of the National Rehab Hospital. “It’s an enormous help to us. Last year we actually had to close beds so being selected for funds like this is vital in terms of allowing us to undertake particular projects.”
Added Brendan: “For example, benefiting from various fundraising projects last year allowed us to put televisions and DVD players into each room. And the money we’re going to receive from this could allow us to purchase, if needed, a new ambulance, for example.
“The majority of people getting treatment with us now have been in road traffic accidents (RTAs) but with the increase in seat belt usage, spinal injuries have declined and more and more of the RTA patients we work with have suffered major brain injuries…
“Brain injury has become much more prevalent and because of that we’ve had to tailor our treatment appropriately to best meet the needs of our patients.”
James Coleman said Dun Laoghaire has provided long-standing and outstanding service to the motorsport fraternity for several years.
“A share of club members and colleagues from other clubs have benefited from the Rehab facility and we thought it was important to recognise the service it provides to so many patients.”
Nicola Mernagh of the Children’s Medical and Research Foundation was equally thankful for the commitment made to the Crumlin centre.
“The research centre doesn’t get any government funding at all,” she said. “We need about €12 million a year to conduct our research, as well as providing support to the hospital itself.
“One of the initiatives we’re committed to is a cancer genetics programme, a three-year programme in which we aim to determine what the causes of childhood cancer are and to discover new ways of providing better treatment to children.”
Said Nicola: “We’re the largest children’s hospital in the country and treat over 100,000 children every year. And without these types of events, we simply wouldn’t exist.”
Hospital Director of Operations Edel O’Mahony will attend the festival to offer further thanks to the club and the public for its faithful support.
“There are so many people, be they friends or family, who have a story about Crumlin or some link to the hospital,” said James.
“Over the years, we’ve been closing off roads during rallies and there’s been more than a few families along those roads who’ve probably had to travel to Crumlin and we’d like to think, again, that this is our way of giving something back.”
James continued: “The support we’ve got from so many sources – the expertise of the Iverk Show Committee, Kildalton College and local businesses, has been incredible. This has been a great local effort all-round and while there’s still a few outstanding bits and pieces we’ve got to sort out, everything is coming together well.”
Among the latest additions to the festival’s considerable programme include:
* The Red Bull Dodge Truck
* Tractor pulling – “which has never been held in this part of the country before” said James
* Helicopter rides (reasonable priced) supported by eirecopter.ie, taking off and landing on the GAA grounds
* Rally car rides kindly supported by James Foley Rallysport priced €25, with a former Tour de France winner rumoured to be one of the guest drivers over the weekend, while
* Jack Sleator’s latest S12 Model Subaru will also be on display at the show.
Talks are ongoing with two World Rally Championship teams, with the club hopeful of securing the attendances of one or more of the world’s best rally drivers and navigators.
A race simulator will also give visitors a chance to experience what it’s like to drive a high-octane rally stage, while a trip in the real thing around a three-acre track with James Foley behind the wheel will surely prove a major attraction.
Over 500 rally cars are due to be on display on both days, while the Ravens Rock Rally, which be held on June 29th, will be officially launched at the festival on Saturday, June 7th.
There will also be a catering village on site, camping (with music and bar facilities in the GAA complex on Saturday night), trade stands, arts and crafts along with the time honoured festival appendage for kids – the bouncy castle.
Tickets are priced €10 (on each day) with children under 12 free of charge, while student and OAP tickets are priced €5.
A few photographs and handshakes later, the committee departed beautiful Belline to busy itself with finalising plans for this huge event. James Coleman had some more calls to make, of which he’s made many over the past 16 months. Much done, more to do, one could say as committee members’ cars wheeled back over the gravel-laden path snaking out of Belline.
For further details on the Carrick-on-Suir Motor Club’s Festival of Motorsport, log onto www.carrickonsuirmotorclub.com and keep tabs on The Munster Express both in print and online – www.munster-express.ie