Back in 2006 Rory Galligan was one of Ireland’s rising rally stars.
A former Peugeot Cup champion and winner of the UK Mitsubishi Challenge series in 2004, he graduated to the official Mitsubishi team in the British Championship and he was on his way.
But suddenly, just after the Ulster International Rally in September, his career was over.
It was only said that he had been forced to stand down because of illness.
At Rory’s request those of us who knew never revealed the true extent of his illness — he had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.
And on Tuesday morning he died at the age of 39.
During the 2006 season, in which he drove in the first three rounds of the British Championship and in Finland, he reported to the team that he was having trouble using his favoured left-foot braking technique.
He realised there was a weakness in his left leg and saw his doctor followed by a consultant.
Just before the Ulster Rally he had been told of the devastating prognosis and had no option but to inform the Mitsubishi team.
It presented the Mitsubishi team with a huge problem. Could they continue to let him drive for the team? The implications, should he crash, possibly injuring spectators, were huge.
With the start of the Ulster Rally just 24 hours away, Rory drove back to Dublin to see his consultant and obtain a letter which declared him fit to drive.
He went on to finish seventh overall and third in the production category behind British champions Gwyndaf Evans and Mark Higgins, but it was to be his last appearance in a rally car.
From Oldcastle in Co. Meath, Rory was the inaugural winner of Irish motorsport’s Billy Coleman Award, a prize which enabled him to take his talents across the water and pitch himself against the best up-and-coming drivers in the UK.
“Rory was a rare, rare talent and a genuinely nice person but tragically we never got to see him reach his full potential,” said the Mitsubishi team’s media officer Simon Slade. “His illness and now his death have been among the saddest experiences of my life.”
Rory is survived by his wife Treasa, children Charlie and Ella, and by his mother and sister. Sincere condolences to all of them.