PAT KEANE: No turning a deaf ear to Curragh noise levels

I DID not enjoy the Curragh last Sunday one little bit and I’ll tell you why: noise, noise and more noise!

Between a band determined to torture us for the entire day and an endless stream of loud and meaningless waffle, which came tumbling from all directions on the public address system, there was just no escape.

If this is what racing has come to, and at the Curragh in particular, then the game really is in a sorry mess.

Apparently all of the noise had to do with “creating an atmosphere”.

Well, if the Curragh cannot stand on its own two feet and rely on the magnificent product it has out on the track then it would be just as well if it simply waved the white flag and accepted the inevitable.

You can’t “create an atmosphere”. Large sporting events take on a life of their own and all any organisers can do is, perhaps, add to the atmosphere.

But when something is as bombastic, overdone, annoying and irritating, as patrons were subjected to on Sunday, then it becomes utterly self-defeating.

Look, we know racecourses, at least in some cases, feel the need to put on sideshows in an effort to get more people through their turnstiles. But there has to be a happy medium.

The Curragh was a nightmare. The unnecessary noise just went on and on and was a dreadful assault on the senses.

When you go racing the plan surely is to have a relaxing day out, something nice to eat, a drink or two, maybe, and sufficient quiet to be able to hold a normal conversation.

But at the Curragh you just couldn’t anticipate the second the need would arise when you had to literally scream in order to be heard.

The press room was close to much of the noise and a hard place to work, but we had it easy compared to RTE and ATR.

They were even closer and how the likes of Robert Hall, Ted Walsh, Michael Kinane, Gary O’Brien and Dave Duggan were able to gather their thoughts in any meaningful way, as a savage cacophony of sound constantly tumbled in their direction, one will never know.

I asked a seasoned punter at the Curragh if he’d any thoughts on the matter and had to wait until he landed, after jumping about six feet in the air!

He was raging. “I found the PA system and the music overpowering, it was incessant, went on all day and, as a punter, you could not hear yourself think.

“I made, and received, a few phone calls and was forced to walk as far away from the noise as I could.

“I went into the betting office to watch a race from Limerick and a guy on the PA system totally overpowered the commentary. I left the office in disgust.

“I have not missed an Irish Derby for many years, but have already decided I will not be going this year.”

We have got to question at this stage who actually thinks that filling silence with noisy ramblings is the way forward for Irish racing?

One of my colleagues asked: “do the people who decide these things go racing anywhere else?”

Is there any evidence that what went on at the Curragh added in any meaningful way to the attendance?

What we do know for certain is that it clearly had the capacity to more than irritate the punter who goes racing at every opportunity.

When you are fed a diet of quite often witless interviews, which strangle the normal conversation of punters, then it is time to cry stop.

And then there are those fashion shows or best dressed ladies’ competitions, or whatever the hell they are. The Curragh hosted one.

I mean they have limited appeal for some and that’s fine. But the vast majority of us should not be subjected to bellowing interviews reverberating through the enclosures.

Most don’t care that Mary’s shoes came from a jumble sale in Finglas, that her mother, who survived two world wars and is now 103, made the dress, and that her hat was found in the toilet at Royal Ascot.

Anyway, let’s look for a second at how the Cheltenham festival - the most successful race meeting in these islands - does its business.

From early morning there are constant interviews to be heard and no shortage whatsoever of sideshows.

But once racing starts then that signals an end to the distractions. Now it is all about what is happening out on the course and nothing else is tolerated. It is the perfect mix and it works.

You will not have the Channel 4 team competing with a band banging away nearby, or someone let loose with a microphone given carte blanche to do as he likes.

Putting a microphone in the hands of a person who doesn’t know when to fold is a mistake and one for which hundreds, nay thousands, of punters suffer over numerous hours.

And so now our thoughts turn to the Irish Derby at the Curragh next month and the expectation of more of the same.

There will be these sideshows, various attractions, plenty of razzmatazz and that is only right and proper.

But the racing will be superb and can stand alone. By all means entertain the troops on the lead-in to the first contest.

But then, for God’s sake, put a lid on it. The people are in now and there is no more to be gained by crucifying them with asinine drivel.

If the decision, however, is taken to “create an atmosphere” then that will be sad, seriously sad.


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