McCullough’s participation at the JWC now in doubt – MCUI to block it?

Cole McCullough as we all know, has been doing a great job representing Ireland contesting the EMX125 championship for his third year in a row and showing great pace against some of the best young talent in the world.

The past two years, McCullough has also contested the Junior World Championship events in Finland and Romania. Team Ireland (MCUI/MRA) have never sent a team to the Junior World Championship before this year, so McCullough raced the event in both previous years as an individual which FIM rules allow. Young talent from across the world battle it out for the Junior World title as individuals, factory riders and as teams.

Philip McCullough (Cole’s father) has exclusively told us that he sought some funding from the MCUI the past two years to help with the budget of the long trips abroad, but the MCUI declined to offer any financial (or other) support. McCullough had to fund the costs to the event himself.

McCullough behind the JWC start gate in Romania last year.

This year, the MRA/MCUI have decided to enter a team for the Junior World Championship which is obviously fantastic as it will be nice to see multiple Irish riders race the event next month – the 13th and 14th of July in Heerde (Netherlands).

This article continues below

McCullough was contacted and asked to represent team Ireland this year but politely declined as they didn’t receive any support in the past so would rather contest the event as an individual again. Cole also wanted to remain under the watchful eye of his father and race in a way that is familiar to him. These reasons were communicated to team manager, Richard McKeown, who we believe had no hard feelings with the decision from the McCullough’s.

However, the MCUI have now contacted McCullough and have DECLINED McCullough from contesting the event next month as they won’t grant approval for his license and entry to this event in 2024.

In previous years when Ireland didn’t send a team Cole’s approval wasn’t a problem but now they have got a team, they have appeared to have changed the goalposts. McCullough is a young rider and trying to make a name for himself in the Motocross world racing all over Europe which isn’t easy to do and he is now having issues with wanting to race the JWC – something he has done the last two years without any issues.

Image: MX July

Another young rider, Daniel Devine who races an 85cc machine requested to race as an individual – this was blocked by the MCUI albeit for a different reason. He was blocked because as per the regulations each country can only have five riders and Ireland already have five riders contesting the 85cc class. So, this raises the question that if this wasn’t the case (and Ireland didn’t have five 85cc riders) – would they have approved his license and entry into the event as an individual? At the moment it is our understanding that there will be no 125cc Irish riders contesting the event for Team Ireland with the exception of 5 riders in the 85cc class and 2 riders in the 65cc class.

This leaves 3 spaces within the 65cc class and 5 spaces within the 125cc class as per the FIM regulations which state that only 5 riders class, per country can enter. If the MCUI/MRA do not have enough riders for their team within these two classes the question must be asked as to why self funded individuals are being denied an opportunity to enter this prestigious Junior World Championship event.

The MCUI sent the following email to McCullough:

“On behalf of the MCUI MX Commission, we would like to congratulate you on your achievements to date this season and we would like to acknowledge and support the invite to compete as part of Team Ireland at the Junior World Championship event in the Netherlands on the 13th and 14th of July 2024 that was extended to you by the sole team manager, Richard McKeown. As the rules of the event stipulate only one team can be entered per Country, therefore should you wish to compete at this event, please confirm in writing you are happy to do so under MCUI Team Ireland invite already extended to you by the 30th of May 2024. Please note any application submitted by any rider to the MCUI to attend this event must be approved by the MCUI MX Commission”.

On a later follow up MCUI stated the following via an email to McCullough:

This article continues below

“Cole, with regards to your request to get a licence to enter the Junior World Championship even at Heerde, Netherlands on the 13th and 14th July 2024, we also acknowledge that you declined the invite from MCUI Team Ireland manager, Richard McKeown to ride at this event for Team Ireland. As you have declined to ride for MCUI Team Ireland at this event, we wish to advise we shall not be granting approval for your license and entry to this event in 2024”. End of email.

We at GateDrop and I am sure the whole of Ireland hope that this can be resolved and McCullough will be able to race the event as an individual because if he doesn’t go it sounds like not one Irish rider will be participating in the 125cc class which is the toughest class of them all.

Image: MX July

Philip McCullough told us the following on the situation:

“To receive this email today from a made up MX commission, is totally disgusting but not surprising. The MRA and MCUI have stumped to an all time low. As you know, my son has competed at the Junior Worlds for the last two years and has had absolutely zero funding from North or South. We paid our license for the European, we paid our license for the Junior worlds for the previous two years. Absolutely nothing, no support has been given at all towards Cole. Very, very disappointing and disgusting that the commission made up from five people from the North and five people from the South have come to this conclusion. The previous two years we’ve attended the event and Cole applied for the license. I was part of the commission the last two years and within those two years there was never any meetings, any agenda or any minutes of meetings were it was mentioned about approving Coles license to compete at this event. So why are they blocking him now when absolutely nothing has changed between this year and last year other than they want to send riders themselves? I can only assume that if Cole won’t ride for them (which he is entirely in his right to do so) then they will make up a rule to try and stop him riding at all”. 

“The riders that they haven’t given permission to are all minors. Is this a personal vendetta against Cole McCullough, the only rider from Ireland the past few years to ride at a higher level than British standard and this is the way you get treated? It sounds like Daniel Devine would have got going as an individual if they had space but they don’t and that is understandable, but they have five 125cc spaces and are telling Cole he can’t go. It seems like a personal attack, but for us this isn’t personal, Cole just wants to race the event like he has the past two years, with his Dad as that is familiar for him”. 

“I think they have got it wrong. The Junior World championship is primarily an individual event so for Cole to go and compete as an individual – I do not see what the problem is. The MRA, MCUI and the MX Commission seem to be making the rules up as they go along – disgusting behaviour towards a 15 year old”.

“It is one that we will not take lightly, I am still confident that my son will still line up at Heerde in the Netherlands on the 13th and 14th of July but it will 100% not be with team Ireland after this email I just received. Totally disgusted and I am ashamed to come from a country where our main sports governing body very clearly operates within their own agenda. It suited them to ask Cole to ride for them but when he declined simply because he wants to attend the races himself, then suddenly they won’t allow him to go. Can anybody make sense of this for me please?”

If someone from the MCUI wants to comment on the situation – feel free to contact us.