August 14th 2022. As the sun shone at yet another scorching summer day, the dust looked likely to settle as a shower erupted outside Donoughmore Community Centre. Not from the sky did the precipitation originate, but rather from a bottle of spraying Rosé shaken vigorously by a jubilant Craig Breen!
Winner. First. Smiling. Happy. It was the aim, and things worked. The relief oozed through that charismatic smile, this was a badly needed day. Things had not gone well so far that season, but that day was different.
Away from the stresses and strains and spotlights of the full WRC bubble, the Jim Walsh offered an opportunity to reset, have fun and fall back in love with the sport that had felt at the time to be falling out of love with him.
Issues with a new car and team were clearly weighing heavily, so why not revert to a car and team soo incredibly familiar? The Keltech Ford Focus WRC was sitting ready to go so it made sense to have Tom Gahan get it prepped, and with an experienced Nav it was surely a ready suited package.
In stepped Bobo! Lifelong friends, inseparable from Junior Infants to the very top of Rallying, John Boden was to make his rally debut alongside Craig in the fast and flowing forests of the Boggeragh’s, and by all accounts he was absolutely bricking it!
Craig’s visit to Cork had, in reality, been a closely guarded secret for a few days. Things were kept under wraps for much of the run-up to the event that the WRC star was coming, and it took the eagle eyed a few hours to spot a late entry at Number 27 appearing on the Starters List published late on Saturday night.
Sitting here a year later and looking at the Stage Results, you’d be forgiven in thinking that the pair cruised their way to victory, I suppose with six stage wins from six its fair to make that assumption, but the reality is that there was quite a battle to be had. Patrick & Stephen O’Brien would finish just 4.5 seconds off Craig and John on stage one and remain within 4 seconds a stage for the rest of the day, while Jordan & Paul Hone would punch in a time just 0.4 seconds slower than the older Focus on the final test.
And so back to Donoughmore, and the flowing Rosé (Craig actually did text after laughing at that unique touch) and beaming smiles. Bobo was overcome, or blinded by the spray and Craig wore a smile upon his face that had been lacking for quite a few months. It was job well done.
Craig would return to the Boggeraghs just a few months later, boyed by a newly announced deal with Hyundai he would once more bring the family Focus home to victory, this time guided by another close friend in Peter Brennan. The final run of the day, Craig on an absolute mission to seal the win, is a memory many will cherish for a long time. It wasn’t quite last minute the entry this time, he did send a WhatsApp a week before!
The final time we would see Craig on a Cork Motor Club event was the 2023 West Cork Rally, where he would make his final outing on Irish Shores as he competed in his beloved ex-Frank Meagher Sierra in the Historic Rally.
A year ago today Craig Breen came and added his name to an illustrious list of winners on the Jim Walsh Cork Forest trophy, and that day, and the man himself, will live long in a lot of our memories. #CB42