“A dream comes true”: Rally driver from Longford talks about his joy at taking part in the World Rally Championship

A Longford businessman-turned-rally-driver-extraordinary has spoken of his delight at rubbing shoulders with the sporting elite at the World Rally Championships in Portugal.

A native of New York, Killoe Paul Rowley became the first Longford man to complete the Portuguese leg of an event easily recognized as the world’s highest level of competition in the discipline.

The 55-year-old and his Waterford-based navigator Andy Hayes in their Hyundai i20N more than held their own in one of the oldest and most popular rounds of the WRC at Porto over the course of four action-packed days.

Paul, CEO of New York-based Admore Air Conditioning Corporation, said the feat was the best in three and a half decades.

“I suppose my interest in rallying started in 1985 when I was a student at St Mel’s,” he said.

“There were a few of us out there at the time, Ian Heslin from Shroid, a couple of Brackens from Clonee and a boy named Bounce McKenna from Killoe.

“That was around then, we got an old Mark 2 Ford Escort and decided to turn it into a rally car. That was the beginning.”

After emigrating to America and building the Admore brand from scratch, it was only in the last 15 years that Paul decided to return to his first love.

“I’ve done a lot of rallying in Ireland and that’s where I want to be (in terms of rallying) as there is such a passion for the sport there.”

Paul reserved a special mention for team manager Philip Case and fellow Irish rally driver Craig Breen, who finished eighth overall.

The father-of-three, the younger brother of St Mel’s College principal Declan Rowley, said the experience was one he would always cherish.

“A young man’s imagination and ambition to become a rally driver was huge and to develop that without knowing that you would ever get far enough to race at world level is just a dream come true,” he said .

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