Tuesday 21 January 2020

'There was no glimmer of hope' - friend tells of desperate attempts to save tragic rally driver Manus

Manus Kelly was killed in the crash during the rally on Sunday
Manus Kelly was killed in the crash during the rally on Sunday

A lifelong friend of Manus Kelly broke down as he told how he had tried to save the rally driver.

Mayor of Letterkenny John O'Donnell was in one of the cars behind Mr Kelly when the crash took place at the Donegal International Rally on Sunday.

Mr O'Donnell had recently celebrated winning the local election with his lifelong friend, who had just entered politics as a new Fianna Fail councillor.

Mr O'Donnell stopped with other drivers at the scene to try to help Mr Kelly (41), a married father-of-five.


Speaking on Highland Radio in Donegal, be broke down as he explained there was nothing he could do.

"We were six or seven cars behind Manus," Mr O'Donnell said.

"We were the third car at the scene. I had the first aid training from the construction side of things. I had to step up to the plate, to see was there anything I could do for him.

"No, it wasn't to be. It definitely wasn't to be.

"If there was anything we could have done, we'd have done it in our power, we tried and worked really hard.

"Full credit to all our competitors there, we took instructions to see was there anything we could do, but unfortunately there was no glimmer of hope.

"He's in a better place now, we said a few prayers over Manus, for God to take him to a better place, and for his family - it's heartbreaking."

Mr O'Donnell told how he had recently celebrated being re-elected to Donegal County Council and watched with pride as his friend was elected for the first time.

The mayor felt he had to pay tribute to his friend, saying: "Manus being a lifetime friend, I felt I owed it to him."

Mr O'Donnell last night told the Herald he was still in shock.

Earlier, he had told of how Mr Kelly's young son had "idolised" his father and how the father-of-five, involved in Glenswilly GAA, had "doted the ground he walked on".

Mr O'Donnell said he had known the businessman for many years, even attending Mr Kelly's 21st and speaking at his wedding to wife Bernie.

"Manus was one in a million, an ordinary fella that couldn't do enough for people," Mr O'Donnell said.

"To think Manus will no longer be with us for a chat, a bit of craic. Four weeks ago we stood shoulder to shoulder...we were happy for each other [being elected]."

Mr Kelly's co-driver Donall Barrett was hurt in the crash.

The Donegal GAA team were told of the death of one of their sponsors, and a close friend of captain Michael Murphy, moments after they claimed victory against Cavan at the Ulster final.

Mick McGrath, county chairman, told the Herald: "After our victory at the Ulster final in Clones, we are numb by the tragic news of the loss of Manus Kelly.

"We lost one of our great sporting heroes in Donegal and a giant of a GAA follower and supporter of our game.

"He was a personal friend of Michael Murphy.

"We didn't reveal the news until after the game and of course it took away from our celebrations."

Mr Kelly's funeral is due to take place in Glenswilly, Co Donegal, on Thursday.

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