Punters, not the hurlers, take the beating

The Galway Plate normally brings out depressed Tribesmen hurlers, but it was the punters that took the beating yesterday.

Galway star Joe Canning was given the honour of presenting the famous Plate to JP McManus as Bob Lingo took the big race of the day. In a blow to the punters as we reach the halfway mark, the 16-1 long shot cost them about €500,000.

Not that it bothered Joe much. As the man himself admitted, usually a trip to Ballybrit is a tonic for another year of disappointment but, after beating the supposedly unbeatable Kilkenny, he was wearing a far happier look than usual.

“This is the first time in years that I’m not here to drown my sorrows. We come every year because we usually get knocked out around this stage, but this year’s different and it feels great. All Galway people should drop into Ballybrit and they usually do when the weather is good. I tried to enjoy as many festivals as possible, but it’s tough with the hurling,” he said.

In fact, far from having a few beers, Joe was driving for his better half and his parents.

Another famous sporting family who are familiar with Ballybrit and probably every famous racecourse in the world are the O’Briens. With Aidan and son Joseph cleaning up at every major event this year, you’d be forgiven for thinking there are no other O’Briens who know how to handle a horse. At just 16 years old, Ana O’Brien is already a gold medallist from the European eventing championships. She’s already applying for her jockey’s licence and was on hand at Ballybrit to watch her brother Joseph, 19, and sister Sara, 17, who both had mounts yesterday. Like her siblings, she only wants to ride horses for a career.

“Hopefully, I’ll get that jockey’s licence in the next couple of weeks. It’s all I want to do. Hopefully, I’ll follow in Joseph and Sara’s footsteps and maybe be competing here next year,” she said.

Proud father Aidan said it was another special day for the family, but said the success of his children was nearly all down to their mother Anne-Marie.

“Anne-Marie does a lot of work with the lads with the events. I’m lucky, I kind of sit back and watch,” he said.

For her part, Anne-Marie — herself a jockey and trainer in former times — was delighted to see Ana net another medal for the O’Brien household.

Another man with a head for horses was celebrating €500 in his pocket for the big day in Ballybrit. Matthew Lynch, 21, from Dublin won the money for creating the new Galway Plate. His sister Heather rode for Ireland in three-day eventing, but Matthew was more than happy to be designing prizes these days.

“I always wanted to do car design and I looked into an industrial course at the NCAD, so I started it and that’s where I saw this competition to design a new Galway Plate.

“It had to be sympathetic to the original with a modern twist, so that’s exactly what I did, ” he said.

Whatever about the odds on the nags, the real talk of the course was what colour the Best Dressed Lady will wear. Last year, cream and white were the tipped colours but, with all the rain, apparently it’s black and red that are being tipped to be the most popular choices. You can get 20-1 on the winner wearing wellies.

Now that might just be the best bet you’ll get all week.


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