Rathfarnham’s hockey star Nicci Daly says she has enjoyed “the highest of highs” over the last fortnight as she got to fulfil her lifelong dream at Mondello Park and follow in her father Vivion’s tyre tracks.
Alongside childhood friend Emma Dempsey, their Formula Female team made its debut last Sunday as part of the Co Kildare track’s 50th anniversary in the Future Classics class.
For the Hockey World Cup silver medalist, it was a special chance to honour her father, one of Ireland’s most successful racers, who sadly passed away from cancer in 2002. Indeed, her family is steeped in motorsport with her uncle Derek a Formula One and Indycar driver while her cousin Conor is making his way in the sport in the US.
And she admits that the sport is her first love, helping her dad by timing laps and helping with car setups, only taking up hockey when openings for her in a car as a teenage girl were financially and logistically out of reach.
As such, her podium dreams were always in a jumpsuit and a helmet rather than with a stick in hand. Sunday’s race, though, saw her finally get her chance on the Mondello track and she loved every minute.
Dempsey finished seventh while Daly was eighth with only a “small mistake” seeing her drop from fourth as she made an excursion onto the grass.
In a field of 34, it was a confident debut while – perhaps more importantly – raising close to €7,000 for the Irish Cancer Society in the process.
Reflecting on yet another milestone in her life, Daly reflected: “What a weekend, what a month, what a story! From World Cup silver to racing a car in my dad’s honour, it’s been the highest of highs over the last few weeks.
“The message is clear, if you want something, go get it! There are no barriers, there are no excuses.”
“The two of us were very nervous,” she says of the race itself. “We weren’t used to the track, never been around it and only got a curtailed 10-minute practice.
“We were wary about how we would do but we probably exceeded our expectations. We were ‘racy’, passing guys who do this every weekend and surprised ourselves. The day couldn’t have gone any better.”
Initially, Daly had envisaged a longer lead-in time from the World Cup to focus on the race but the epic run of the hockey team to the final meant there has been precious little time to reflect amid a flurry of new-found media requests to add to the mix.
She said Monday was “the first time I have had to do nothing and just think about what has happened” in recent times.
“Looking back on the success of it all, I am jumping back and forth in my mind from the two things constantly. It is just amazing.”
Daly hopes the Formula Females initiative can help push open the door for young girls to get involved in motorsport and was heartened by fathers with young daughters looking to pursue it. While it was initially proposed as a one-off, Daly and Dempsey are keen to see it continue.
“After how well it went, we want to keep it going as much as we can.”