Funeral details for Darren Keys as fellow racers pay tribute to family man

Darren Keys' funeral will take place on Friday
Darren Keys' funeral will take place on Friday
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The funeral of Ballyclare road racer Darren Keys will take place on Friday at 12noon in Ballylinney Presbyterian Church followed by interment at Ballyclare Cemetery.

The family has said that casual clothes are preferred at the service while donations in lieu of flowers would be gratefully accepted to Air Ambulance NI.

Ballyclare man Darren Keys was killed in a crash at the Walderstown Road Races on Sunday. Picture: Pacemaker Press.

Ballyclare man Darren Keys was killed in a crash at the Walderstown Road Races on Sunday. Picture: Pacemaker Press.

Meanwhile tributes have continued to flood in for Mr Keys, including a heartfelt message from the last racer to speak to the father-of-three before he died.

The 34-year-old was killed following a high-speed accident at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday.

He had been in pole position for the race with Armoy racer Tommy Henry taking second place on the grid.

Mr Henry, 46, said: “He was a real gentleman, a great competitor. He would always have come over and had a chat. I was talking to him three or four times during the weekend, and then yesterday just before we went out in the holding area.

“He was in pole position, I was in second. We shook hands and wished each other all the best. And then he went out and he was gone.

“My heart’s going out to his family. It’s a hard time for them.”

Mr Keys leaves behind his wife Justine and three children – Charlie, Harry and Molly.

Fellow Ballyclare racer Glenn Irwin, 29, said: “I’m a father as well, that’s the bit that is very hard to take.

“It’s heartbreaking that there is three children without a father. That’s the really cruel side of road racing.

“To win a road race is an incredible feeling, especially to win locally.

“I guess some comfort for his family might be that he got to achieve what a lot of people won’t.”

He continued: “From what I could see he was doing a very good job. He was started to get local press. He’d jumped onto the radar.

“He would have been enjoying that moment. There’s no better feeling than when racing is going good for you.”

Mr Irwin, a multiple superbike champion at the North West 200, said: “I know there will probably be the same old people saying road racing needs to stop but it’s like any extreme sport, people pass away, it goes with the territory.

“Until you’ve been in the road racing world I don’t think you understand what it’s like. The highs are so high and the lows are so low.

“It’s an incredible way of life, it might be long, it might be short, a lot of people are quick to diss it but you really do need to experience it.

“We’re still human beings, we’re devastated when a racer loses their life, when children are left without a father.”

Mr Keys was relatively new to road racing, having made his debut at Armoy in 2016.

In a statement directors, management and club members of the Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club said: “Darren was really making a name for himself on the Irish national scene.

“A proper gentleman both on and off the bike, he was loved by everyone in the paddock – fellow riders, officials and fans alike.

“A bright talent taken much too soon and he will be greatly missed.”

Mark Sanlon, who is clerk of course at MotorCycle Road Racing Club of Ireland commented: “Darren was a very likeable family lad, a gentleman.

“He always seamed to be smiling and polite. He had the most infectious smile.

“He recently switched to road racing and proved his ability in the senior support class taking several wins this year.

“Darren will be missed from our paddock and my thoughts and prayers go out to Justine and his family.”

Anne Forsythe, clerk of the course at the Tandragee 100, said: “He made a debut at Tandragee this year and got a wonderful second place. He was doing so well at all the road races this year.

“Anytime I met he was always so pleasant, he always had a smile on his face.

“His family would have come to the events with him. Road racing is a family sport, something you mightn’t see if you’re not involved in it.

“Our thoughts are with Justine and the children at this terrible time.”