Tis the season to be jolly – especially at Cabra Castle where celebrations have got off to an early start…

Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year to you all – if you’re reading this before January 1 then crack on and enjoy the craic. If you’re reading it after January 1 then put down that pie and get your ass back into training mode because the start of the new season is but a few weeks away!

Just what was the toughest event on the 2010 Irish MX calendar? Was it the Belfast Supercross or perhaps the mud fest at Downpatrick for the first round of the Irish championship or indeed the recent energy-sapping cross country event run at Nick’s spectacular off-road riding facility at Dune?


Not even close! This particular event attracted racers from all disciplines of motorcycling from internationally acclaimed WSB/BSB contenders to ex GP MXers and more than a sprinkling of the altogether adrenaline-fuelled, fun-loving crazies that come under the banner of Friends of Neil Thompson!

All great fairy story endings involve a castle, a beautiful princess and a handsome prince and, well, two out of three ain’t bad. Neil married his beautiful, long-suffering girlfriend Laura last month at Cabra Castle in Co Monaghan. A fantastic day and evening was had by all in attendance and the style on display would have cast a shadow over many a Hollywood bash.

Nightman makes an official apology for running over people’s toes during the Thriller dance – lucky enough Neil’s mum is pretty nifty on her feet. They say you are never too old to learn so a big thanks to Brian ‘Beach Boy’ McKeown for teaching me how to sniff salt and squeeze lemon into my eye when drinking tequila! So from everyone at Blarney and the racing fraternity in Ireland, congratulations and all the best to the happy couple.

In with the old and out with the new or is it the other way around? In this case not as it’s now official that Ireland’s most controversial, hard-riding icon has decided that swapping his helmet for a pit board was a little premature.

The only rider ever in the history of history to have won both Ulster and Irish MX1 and MX2 classes in the same season, Phil McCullough has rekindled his relationship with the Austrian KTM brand and will add some much needed spice to the 2011 Irish racing paddock.

Since hanging up his boots, McC has continued his winning ways as Team Manager – his Moto One race team won championships with Graeme Irwin, Wayne Garrett and Michael McCammond to name but a few.

It’s early days and it’s not yet known just how many races Big Phil will contest. “It’s a low-profile back to riding for fun,” reckons Phil which reads pretty tame if you don’t know Phil – low-profile it may be on the outside but our man never did just ‘ride’ a bike, he was always on the limit 100 per cent of the time. Win, lose or crash – that’s why McC has such a fan base. What you see is what you get.

Against a backdrop of gloom and doom on the financial front, it’s good to have so many positive things happening in the motocross world. The latest man to turn orange is Martin Barr and the Proppa.com KTM signing will make his presence felt in the British MX1 championship and, believe me when I tell you, the establishment better watch out because Marty is ready to make waves.

It’s a natural progression for Marty whose precise, effortless riding style has made the step-up to the big-bore class quite matter of fact. Our Blarney spies have Martin posting some crazy times around Davy McCullough’s track at Magilligan. Some top riders have compared the three-minute-a-lap circuit to the famous Lommel GP track in Belgium.

Another – but this time more unexpected – addition to both the MX1 British and GP start list is our very own Graeme Irwin. The HM Plant Red Bull KTM UK racer has opted to represent his team in the bigger class aboard the new 350cc Katoom. “It’s important that the team have exposure in the MX1 class for our sponsors,” says the teenage talent, “and I feel that the move to MX1 will stand by me in the long term.”

All-in-all 2011 will be an exciting and perhaps challenging year for many people. For my part I like to embrace the New Year as a new beginning – clean slate and all that lark – and with British Maxxis and Red Bull Pro Nationals planned for the summer, Marty and Graeme making waves in MX1, Graeme scoring some GP points and ex muck magnets Jonny Rea and Eugene Laverty having a serious chase after the WSB silverware it could be a vintage year for the Irish.

Many of you will know that young Chris Gibson recently suffered a serious spinal injury as a result of an accident at a club grasstrack. Well, just to bring you up to speed with his progress, Chris was well enough to blag a pass out of Musgrave Park Hospital for a couple of hours to attend a fund-raising evening at Dromore Rugby Club. Chris and his family want to say that the level of support they have received from well wishers within the motocross community has been overwhelming.

My friends at Musgrave Hospital tell me that young Chris is showing all the grit and determination in rehabilitation that he showed on the track. Keep pushing young fella – we are all rooting for you.