Neil Kernohan on comeback trail after suffering broken neck in Armoy crash

Ballymena’s Neil Kernohan will make his Irish road racing return next month at the Cookstown 100 after breaking his neck in a crash at last year’s Armoy road races.
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Kernohan sustained the injury when he came off during the 250 race last summer at Acheson’s Leap, where Paul Jordan and Darryl Tweed suffered similar crashes.

The former Ulster Grand Prix winner revealed he only realised the extent of his injuries two weeks after the incident, when he was summoned to the Royal Victoria Hospital for an emergency operation.

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“I had to get two steel rods in my neck and it came as a bit of a shock because I didn’t realise it was actually broken for about two weeks afterwards,” said the 34-year-old.

Ballymena man Neil Kernohan with the Yamaha R1 and R6 machines he will race in 2022. Picture: Ryan Crooks/Hi-Cam Images.Ballymena man Neil Kernohan with the Yamaha R1 and R6 machines he will race in 2022. Picture: Ryan Crooks/Hi-Cam Images.
Ballymena man Neil Kernohan with the Yamaha R1 and R6 machines he will race in 2022. Picture: Ryan Crooks/Hi-Cam Images.

“I had started back at work and was feeling pain in my neck, but I just thought it was muscle pain or whatever. The next thing I knew I received a phone call from the Royal Victoria Hospital asking me to come in for an emergency operation.

“I had broken vertebrae and the injury I had is quite common in horse racing apparently. It must have happened when I went into the wall head-first when I crashed.

“I crashed at the same spot where Darryl Tweed and Paul Jordan came off,” he added.

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“It was strange because there were never many accidents there before and I think Bill (Kennedy, Clerk of Course) is going to look at maybe getting the corner resurfaced this year.

“The same thing happened me that happened everybody else – the front end just washed out and down I went.”

Kernohan is running his own team this season under the Kernohan Racing umbrella and has a Yamaha R1M at his disposal for the Superbike class plus a Yamaha R6 Supersport machine, along with the McCloy Home Developments Kawasaki Supertwin.

He plans to contest the Irish national meetings plus the North West 200, which returns in May for the first time since 2019.

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“I’m running my own team this year and I’ve started a supporters club as well,” he said.

“I’ve got the Yamaha R1 Superbike and a 600 Yamaha, plus a Kawasaki Supertwin. I’m just going to ride the Supertwin at the Irish nationals, I won’t bother with it at the North West.

“I’ve still got Bobby Logan’s 250 Honda and we’ll look at maybe getting out on that a few selected road races.

“I’m hoping for a good year and it’s going to be good to get back out racing again. It’s going to take me a few races to get back into the swing of things and get my confidence back but I’m looking forward to it.”

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As a former winner at Dundrod, Kernohan said he was ‘gutted’ by the news that the Ulster Grand Prix had been cancelled this year after a funding package for the event and the North West 200 fell through earlier this month.

“I was really looking forward to the Ulster Grand Prix and we were hoping to have another good run on the 250 at Dundrod, which is the perfect place for it,” he said.

“So when we heard it wasn’t running we were gutted because it’s one of the best races we have. I don’t know if it will ever come back now.”

Kernohan has welcomed a number of new sponsors this year, including Sean Crawford, MJF Building Services; BMFS Ballymena, mortgage and financial services; James McClure & Jason Hunter and SJ Trials.

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Sponsor opportunities are still available and interested parties are asked to contact Mark Fenton at [email protected].

Supporters Club packages are on sale now and details can be found on the Kernohan Racing Facebook.