Owen: a light that shone brighter than most

Owen McNally has long been fondly remembered both locally and further afield by everyone who ever had the pleasure of meeting him.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 11:03 am
Tonia McNally, wife of the late Owen McNally, pictured with the Mayor of the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Cllr Michelle Knight-McQuillan, during a reception at the Mayor's Parlour after Owen was inducted into the RPS Group Hall of Fame award at the Motorcycle Awards. Also in the picture is one of Owen's helmets, which is part of the McCook collection left to Ballymoney Museum by the late Bert McCook.

Legendary motorcycling pundit Jimmy Walker described it perfectly saying Owen was ‘a guy who got to you, likeable to the extreme’.

As well as an infectious smile though Owen had immense talent.

He grew up close to the North West 200 circuit and was the rising star of Irish motorcycling.

Owen McNally pictured with Robert Dunlop at the Isle of Man TT in 1998. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

In August 1999 though an accident at the Ulster Grand Prix claimed his life six days later.

Still in his 20s and the best Irish racer on 125cc and 250cc machines, he was one of a very small band of riders tipped to become the next Joey Dunlop.

The two riders were also very close, sharing time in the paddock, joking and talking set ups and circuits.

Not only were they local, but Joey clearly saw the talent and potential in Owen and was only too happy to help him in whatever way he could.

Owen McNally pictured with Robert Dunlop at the Isle of Man TT in 1998. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

That potential and talent was recently recognised at the Cornmarket Motorcycle Awards, where Owen was inducted into the RPS Hall of Fame.

His wife, Tonia, proudly picked up the award that night, and last week she was invited to a special reception hosted by the Mayor of the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

“The Mayor was there that night and I know she was delighted that Owen was inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Tonia told Times Sport.

“I’d just like to thank her for her kind invitation along today. It was a very special night for us to go and receive the award.

“They had compiled video clips of Owen which was great to watch and bring back some memories.

“We were very proud because it was a well deserved award for Owen.

“He was very well known and very well liked by everyone who knew him. Everyone enjoyed being in Owen’s company and wanted a wee bit off him. He was always happy and smiling, he was such a warm, friendly person.

“You always bump into someone who wants to tell you their memories of Owen, there’s always wee funny stories. It’s nice that he is held in such high esteem with everyone.

“Owen was very close with Joey as everyone knows, they had a very special friendship, and it’s nice for us to have that link with Joey’s family as well.”

Owen was also a very close friend of the Mayor, Cllr Michelle Knight-McQuillan, and she recalled some of her memories of him.

“I worked with Owen at Coleraine Hospital at the time, we had a few great laughs together,” she said.

“For me today is kind of a more personal tribute to Owen because I knew him so well. I had the privilege of measuring him up for one of his sets of leathers because he had got a new sponsor.

“I made the uniforms for all the staff at the hospital. He came to me and asked if I would be able to measure him up. It was great to see a local man receive an award at such a prestigious level.

“I just felt it was important for us as a Council to recognise that and invite Tonia along.”

You can share your memories of Owen at a special Facebook page, go to facebook.com/treasured-memories-of-owen-mcnally