NOTE: A correction to this article is published at the end of the text.
A somewhat sombre air hung over Ballybrit as the memory of racing broadcaster Colm Murray dominated the second day of the Galway festival.
Just before 5pm, you could hear a pin drop as thousands of punters bowed their heads in silence in honour of a man universally loved in the racing community. From champion trainers like Dermot Weld to the ordinary punter putting on a €5 bet, everyone had an anecdote about the man who had time for everyone. Later in the day, an RTÉ tribute running on the giant screens drew rapturous applause from the crowd
Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh said the racing community owed Colm Murray a debt of gratitude for passing on his enthusiasm for racing to a younger generation of racegoer.
“Everyone in Irish racing will be affected by Colm’s passing,” he said. “Colm has always been a true friend of Irish racing and so well-liked by everyone connected to the sport. His passion for racing was legendary and he communicated this in his professional and private life. We owe him a debt of gratitude for passing on that enthusiasm to a new generation of racegoers and he will always be remembered wherever race meetings are held.
“The board and executive of Horse Racing Ireland extend their sincere condolences to his wife Anne and family.”
Hayley O’Connor, of Ladbrokes, said the racing was secondary in everyone’s mind since hearing of Colm Murray’s passing.
“He was a gentleman through and through, an extremely special person and the community of racing will miss him dearly,” she said. “His enthusiasm for racing was a joy to behold and his commitment to the sport was remarkable. He had time for everyone and it was a privilege to have known him.”
But in life and death, some things about Galway never change. While the wining and dining of developers is a distant memory and the Fianna Fáil tent a toxic phrase, if you look hard enough you’ll find a politician in Ballybrit.
Sure enough, Fianna Fáil stalwart and former tánaiste Ray MacSharry was not exactly reminiscing about the demise of the most infamous tent in Ireland.
“We used to bring Fianna Fáil clients from all over the country there on business,” he said. “A lot of good work was done there but, no, I don’t miss it. I always prefer to be out here among the people. Tents can get too hot this time of the year.”
Along with politicians, another guarantee for Ballybrit is the presence of a rugby player. Yesterday, it was former Munster and Ireland star Alan Quinlan. A regular in Galway, he said he was looking forward to a good night but admitted he was recuperating after Paul O’Connell’s wedding.
“I’m just back from Paul O’Connell’s wedding so I’m tired after that but it was wonderful, an absolutely beautiful few days,” he said.
“It was great to catch up with all my former teammates. A lot of us are retired now, a lot of the older lads were there as well, and the new Munster players and the old crew were all mixing together so it was lovely. It was kind of like a reunion because it’s difficult to catch up. Everyone has their own lives now and everyone is busy and I wouldn’t see the lads as much. It was great to get all the players together and it was a beautiful weekend for Paul and Emily.”
As for the racing, the bookies managed to claw back some hard-earned cash from the punters after a bad start on Monday.
Leon Blanche of Boylesports said bookies were in more confident mood.
“Its been a much better day two for us bookmakers. There was an almighty gamble on Tandem in the main event which was foiled,” he said.
Correction: Ray McSharry
This report from Galway races quoted former tanaiste Ray McSharry incorrectly.
We wish to clarify that Mr McSharry was never involved in the organisation of what in previous years became known as the Fianna Fail tent at Galway races, and he did not bring 'clients' to the event.
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