Nagle and Meeke run the gauntlet to win in Mexico

Navigator Killarney's Paul Nagle, left, and driver Kris Meeke of Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT team celebrate on the final podium during the FIA World Rally Championship Mexico on Sunday in Guanajuato, Mexico
Navigator Killarney's Paul Nagle, left, and driver Kris Meeke of Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT team celebrate on the final podium during the FIA World Rally Championship Mexico on Sunday in Guanajuato, Mexico

Sean Moriarty

It was phrase famously coined by RTÉ soccer commentator George Hamilton during Ireland's World Cup penalty shootout with Romania in 1990 as David O'Leary stepped-up to take a kick that would ensure the Republic of Ireland's first and only quarter final appearance.

Rally fans across the country felt the same way on Sunday as they watched the drama from the final stage of Rally Mexico unfold in front of them.

Ahead of this final stage Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle held a solid 37.2 second lead after a dominant performance over the previous three-days.

They were on the brink of history and salvation. In theory, all they had to do was clear the test to record their first win in the new for 2017 Citroen C3 World Rally Car and put their erstwhile disappointing season behind them.

But nothing is straightforward in rallying and to the disbelieve of the watching thousands, they got caught out on bumpy section of road near the stage finish and plonked their Citroen C3 off the road and into a spectator car park.

For next 13 seconds the rally world held its breath as the Kerry and Tyrone crew searched for a gap in the hedge and a route back to the rally stage.

For once luck was on their side, in a previous lifetime Meeke and Nagle would have been out of the rally, case in point was on the Monte Carlo Rally in January when an accident with a private car on a road section ended their participation in round one of the World Rally Championship. With the gap found, victory was theirs, deservedly so, by 13 seconds.

Meeke said: "I think I might end up telling this story hundreds of times…

"I'm annoyed with myself for making that mistake. The car went wide after a big compression and we were very lucky. I quickly looked to get back on the road because I knew we could still win. That's the main thing, we showed the potential of the Citroën C3 WRC in securing the car's first win. I'm proud and delighted for the entire team, this result is for them."

It marked a fourth career win for the crew and propelled them from also rans in the series to sixth in the title standings.

The Citroen Abu Dhabi World Rally team took the lead on Friday afternoon and extended the time difference over four-time world champion Sebastien Ogier over the remaining two days.

It was a massive performance for the Kerry/Tyrone crew who suffered unbelievable bad luck in the opening two rounds in Sweden where their Citroen C3 World Rally Car was impossible to drive on the snow-covered roads, and the aforementioned Monte Carlo incident.

They put their run of bad luck behind them in Mexico and their masterful display on the first gravel rally of the year quietened their harshest critics.

Meanwhile, in Cumbria over the weekend, Killarney co-driver Mikie Galvin and his driver Keith Cronin took second place on the Malcolm Wilson Rally.

The Ford Fiesta crew were using Saturday's event as a high-speed shakedown for this coming weekend's Border County Rally, the opening round of the British Rally Championship. The Kerry/Cork crew are seeded fourth for the rally and will face formidable opposition, including multiple British Champion David Bogie who won Saturday's rally, in their quest to become British champions this season.

The Irish Tarmac Rally Championship resumes on Saturday and Sunday with the Clonakilty-based West Cork Rally.

Several Kerry competitors are making the trip across the county bounds for one of the most popular rallies in the calendar with current British Junior champions

Rob Duggan and Ger Conway the top local seeds in their Lyons of Limerick supported Ford Fiesta. Escort crews like Mike Quinn/Donal Balfe, Fergus O'Meara/ Brian Doherty and the BMW M3 of Kevin O'Donoghue and Dave Randles are all likely Class 14 front-runners.

Ken O'Neill and Ronald O'Riordan compete in their Ford Puma while Tadgh O'Sullivan/ Eoin o'Leary and John Hickey and Ian Creedon are also on the 150-strong entry list.

Kerry Motor Club will launch the Rose Hotel Circuit of Kerry with a special function at the hotel in Tralee on Monday night.

The rally takes place on April 2 in the wider north Kerry area.

Kerryman

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