‘Missing Clonmel's National Coursing Meeting was like missing Christmas’

National Coursing Meeting Clonmel.

GERRY HOLIAN (Trainer)

This weekend in Clonmel is:

“Is the biggest greyhound event in the world. Some may challenge it in terms of prize money but in terms of prestige and importance nothing comes near Powerstown Park and the next three days.”

What makes it so special?

“The atmosphere, the crowds, the passion. Everyone wants to have a runner, everyone wants to win a trophy.

"There is no other sport that has that connection between those inside and outside the fence.”

My first Clonmel memory was:

“Getting out of school early on a Wednesday to see the finals. It wasn’t easy to do but missing Clonmel was like missing Christmas.

"Gayline was the first dog I saw win the Derby. It was my first time in the place and I will never forget that day.

"We were late arriving and I can still remember how anxious we were trying to get in - we could hear the crowds cheering inside and we were so worried we were missing something.”

The greatest display I witnessed was:

“One of my own. At a push I’d go for Rith Gan Gaisce the year she won the Oaks. I liked her and had her a long time.”

My personal highlight of the Festival:

“That is a tough question. We’ve won 14 trophies there so it is very difficult to nail it down to one. Any winner you have is important in Clonmel.”

I’ve a sneaky fancy this weekend for:

“This year our biggest chance is in the Oaks, we have three runners - Skellig Sky, Moate Matilda, Laurdella Dani - and a second reserve. If I was to pick one I’d go for Laurdella.”

Coursing in 2016:

“Is going very well for the most part. Some clubs are brilliant. In Munster it is very strong. But some clubs are homeless.

"Tubberycurry, Loughrea and Roscommon are doing great work for coursing in Connacht but more needs to be done.

"Each club should course close in the locality. Some clubs are doing huge trips; that is fine for the big fella with a good few dogs but for the lad with the one dog it is a tough ask to travel those huge distances and all the expense that entails.

"If we are not careful coursing will start shrinking in those areas.

"However, considering its all volunteerism, the sport is generally strong and clubs like Glin and Templetuohy must be given great credit for the massive strides they have made in upgrading their grounds.”

AOIFE DUNPHY (Droopys Kennels)

This weekend in Clonmel is:

“Both exciting and busy. I work for Dublin Coach who will be providing transport from around the country each day and it is the first year Mr O’Sullivan and his family are sponsoring the Kitty Butler stake.

"It is the most exciting and hotly anticipated weekend of the year for greyhound people both nationally and internationally and the ICC do a great job in showcasing the sport we love over the three days.”

My first Clonmel memory was:

“Collecting Droopys Caesar after he won his first round in the Derby. I was about 13 and he was a massive 105lbs dog.

"He was a fantastic dog both on and off the field. Another great memory is getting the lunch supplied by the Powers every day. They fed everyone and anyone each day at the meeting since I can remember and will always be hugely respected.”

The greatest display I witnessed was:

“I have two. Needham Time winning her first round in Clonmel in the Oaks was brilliant. She put out one of the favourite’s Newinn Allin, who went on to be a fantastic brood.

"I just remember the commentators being lost for words. Similar to that was a bitch called Gowayoudat. She was drawn in the hottest quarter I have ever seen at the National meeting and put out favourite after favourite to be beaten in the semis.

"Sean Lucy and Kevin Cummins owned her and there was a great buzz around her every time she ran. We had bred her with family friend Jim O’Donnell, so it was extra special.”

My personal highlight of the Festival:

“Showcasing Dublin Coach to people of the greyhound world. I love the craic on the phone with the greyhound people booking their spaces in the weeks leading up to it and it is nice that I can marry my passion for the company I work for with the love I have for the greyhounds.

"I also love meeting people throughout the three days. We have a great group of friends within the game and we have great days and nights throughout the national meeting. A Derby this year might rival that though!”

I’ve a sneaky fancy this weekend for:

“Bower Wonder! His owner John Saunders, is a respected man in the game and he decided early on that he wanted to keep him for a tilt at the Derby.

"We have him at home and he has worked well for us over the past couple of weeks. We have our fingers crossed for this fella and his sire Newinn Wonder who has hit the ground running with his first runners this season.”

Coursing in 2016:

“Is in an OK place. I don’t think it is in a good or bad place if I’m honest. I saw smaller crowd numbers at local meetings this year. I think a lot has to be done to get younger people into the game.

"Also I think prize money needs to be looked at. I remember the Tipperary Cup being for 32 dogs and the winner would receive €4,000. You could have Derby finalists and Irish Cup winners in the same half.

"I’d like to see the re-introduction of more 32 dog cups, which would entice the high profile dogs to come out for the meeting, setting a higher standard at local meetings, in turn drawing higher crowd numbers.”

ANTHONY DALY (Former Clare hurling captain and coursing enthusiast)

This weekend in Clonmel is: “ sort of Holy Grail that comes round at the end of January every year. People go through their entire greyhound lives just hoping to have a runner in Powerstown Park.

"For some the dream comes true but others unfortunately go to their graves never having witnessed one of their own going to slips at that magnificent stretch. Every October the quest begins to fill one of the 128 starting positions in the Oaks and the Derby.

"Approximately 4,500 or so pups begin the season so you can see how difficult it is to qualify.

"The festival itself is a mixture of brilliant sport and brilliant craic. A once a year meet-up of people with a passion for the game. And more than any sport I know, everyone gets on brilliantly together for three days.”

My first Clonmel memory was:

“Although I was brought to the festival for finals in my younger days, because of the hurling commitment it’s only really in the last 20 years I’ve been a regular for the whole festival.

"Mounteden Guest winning the Derby of 2000 was the one that stands out for me as I had a small wager on the dog at 33/1. The craic of the 1999 Derby with Big Fella Thanks owned by the legendary punter Harry Finlay also stands out.

"Some money exchanged hands that year!”

The greatest display I witnessed was:

“Adios Alonso was an amazing winner in 2010 - after picking up a slight injury in the first round he showed incredible pace and toughness to hold off Mafi Magic in a great final.

"Although I didn’t see him in the flesh coursing people still rave about 1978 winner Master Myles as possibly the greatest ever.”

My personal highlight of the Festival:

“Has to be our own dog Murtys Gang winning in 2002, owned jointly with my brother Michael and our great friend Tom Howard. Ironically he was due to meet his litter brother Cillowen Harbour in the final but received a walkover as Harbour was too fatigued after a hard semi.

"In some ways it was a slight anti-climax not getting to run the final as Murtys was flying on the day but it didn’t take away from one of our greatest sporting achievements and for the Gallery family from Ennis to breed and rear both Derby finalists.

"He was never beaten in 18 courses and his first round buckle with Judicial Affair still puts the bit of hair I’ve left on the back of my head standing when I watch it on DVD.

"They went toe to toe up the famous hill before he pulled clear by a length. It was a dream come true to bring the Derby back to Clarecastle with the first dog we owned as a syndicate that we christened the ATM - it certainly kept on giving.

"Almost incredibly another Clarecastle dog qualified the following season and lighting struck twice with the great Danaghers Best winning the Derby for the Moloney family. It hasn’t happened since.”

I’ve a sneaky fancy this weekend for: “This year looks wide open in both Derby and Oaks. In the Derby it should be the year trainer Michael O’Donovan breaks his hoodoo as he has eight fancied runners. He has been desperately unlucky in the final so many times.

"Of the bitches our trainer in Athenry, Gerry Holian, has a couple of strong fancies. Gerry is a master of getting them to peak for Clonmel and I think Moat Matilda might offer real value at 16/1.

Coursing in 2016:

"Has never been stronger. The recession hit coursing as much as any sport or industry in Ireland but things are looking brighter all the time.

"Club facilities all over the country are getting better and more comfortable for supporters of the game.

"Moving the Festival to a Friday, Saturday and Sunday from its traditional Monday to Wednesday slot was a big call but I can totally understand the ICC’s rationale for it, it’s certainly more user friendly.”

ASHLEY MANGAN (Greyhound owner with Clonmel qualifier)

This weekend in Clonmel is:

“The highlight of the year for all coursing fans. Everyone dreams of having a dog running at the festival. To have your dog take on the cream of the crop up the field of dreams is just priceless. It is the conclusion of a season of hard work, hopes and dreams, muddy vans and boots, and lots of fun!

"It is some feeling waiting to catch your dog at the top of the field, those 12 or 13 seconds seem like an eternity. Your heart is in your mouth with excitement and nerves, but it’s the best feeling in the world to be there!”

My first Clonmel memory:

“Was the thrill of seeing all the owners and trainers in the car park getting their dogs ready.

"The smell of embrocation, the rugs and towels, the loudspeaker announcing who is in slips, the cheers from the crowd! I got the coursing bug there and then!

"I am relatively new to the coursing scene and I always recall looking at Adios Alonso winning and thinking, “what a dog”. Everyone dreams of having one like him.”

The greatest display I witnessed was:

“Thomas The Tank getting to the Derby final where had a walkover as his opponent was injured. He was a special dog and a joy to watch.

"He was a powerhouse of a dog, a machine. He has bred some fast dogs too, and of course we all can’t wait to see his son, Timber House, in the Champion Stakes this year.”

My personal highlight of the Festival:

“Was when my own Oh Banba got to the semi-final of the Oaks in 2012. She was my first ever coursing dog so it was just brilliant.

"The excitement travelling up and down every day, the crowd around our van in the car park, the cheering, the tears, all my family being around, those days are special.

"I remember someone cheering from the crowd “Go On Banba” and I had tears in my eyes. You feel so proud. Hopefully we will make more memories and highlights this weekend when her daughter Banba Be Lucky runs for us in the Oaks!”

I’ve a sneaky fancy this weekend for:

“Smokey Zara in the Oaks. I saw her win in Nenagh and I thought she was special. She is in exceptionally good hands and could cause a few upsets.

"In the Derby I will be cheering for Black Barracuda, a Limerick dog, who has a great chance. I would love to see him win for his trainer and owner; it would be so well deserved.”

Coursing in 2016:

“Is in a great place. The atmosphere at coursing meetings is electric. Family and friends gathering to watch the speed of the dogs, the excitement, the banter, the endless tea and sandwiches and hot whiskies!

"Young people getting involved in the sport is great, they love it. The Irish Coursing Club are doing an excellent job to improve the sport with better rules and regulations.”

BRIAN DIVILLY

(ICC President and trainer of five qualifiers)

This weekend in Clonmel is:

“One of the greatest sporting events in rural Ireland because the festival is about coursing people enjoying the atmosphere associated with the culmination of a season of qualifying, years of breeding and in most cases a lifetime of trying to achieve the highest honour in our sport and yet knowing that they can also witness a fairytale success for someone new to the game.

"The build up over the three days to the finals on and off the field creates a buzz that just has to be experienced to appreciate.”

My first Clonmel memory was:

“The frustration I felt at not being in attendance to see Master Myles’s victory in 1978.

“I was in the process of building up the family business and had committed to a workload that prevented me from attending.

"I subsequently decided to make time to attend but it was two more years before I finally made it to the festival. That was the year of Ballyglass Rusty in the Derby and Wingbell Wendy in the Oaks and I have been coming ever since.”

The greatest display I witnessed was:

“That of the great Rossa Rose in winning the Oaks in 1986 for Colm and Mary McGrath who also lifted the Derby that day with Rose’s little brother Sir Lancelot.

“She was in my opinion, the best bitch ever to grace Powerstown and her displays throughout the stake were awesome.”

My personal highlight of the Festival:

“Are plentiful! Even though I have had two Derby runners up and an Oaks runner up, there is nothing like winning a stake in Clonmel.

“So my personal highlight has to be winning the Champion Stakes in 1990 with Crafy Roberto.

“The previous year he had lost a judge’s decision to Donovans Ranger in the Derby semi-final and had he won that course, I would have divided the Derby as Crafty Hotshot had already made the final.

“It was great to get him back the following year to win the Champion Stakes. The meeting of 2009 which was my first as President of the club also stands out as a personal highlight, I am humbled at the thought of overseeing our Centenary celebration’s this week.”

I’ve a sneaky fancy this weekend for:

“In the Derby my personal fancies are True North and Portane Ash, while in the Oaks I like Banba Be Lucky and Vim and Vigour. In the Champion Stakes, Timber House is the stand out contender while Tobar Na Molt will take beating in the bitch stake.”

Coursing in 2016:

“Is in a good place at the moment. Since I became President, we have introduced a number of initiatives which have been well received by the grassroots, not least the introduction of drug testing at club fixtures this season and all participants now feel they have an equal chance of success.

Standards have improved in general but we can’t afford to rest on our laurels, as we have to be able to stand over our sport especially with an election on the horizon.”


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