Jimmy Barry-Murphy was inducted into the Greyhound Racing Hall of Fame at last night’s Rasaiocht Con Eireann Awards for 2020.
Barry-Murphy has been involved in the sport his entire life, including as chairman of Curraheen Park, and his remarkable efforts in 2019 ensured the Laurels would maintain its status as one of the leading competitions on the racing calendar for at least four years.
In the words of the GRI Chairman Frank Nyhan, he “headed up a committee which effectively saved the Laurels.”
Nyhan added: “As an industry, we owe Jimmy Barry Murphy a debt of gratitude, and I am delighted that he has agreed to accept the award.”
Upon receipt of the award, Barry-Murphy said: “Greyhounds have been a huge part of my life, and I repeat what I said before: some of the most fantastic people, and greatest sports people I ever met in my life, are involved in greyhound racing.
“I love going to the track. It’s the social aspect of my life, meeting all my friends and old colleagues there, and hopefully we’ll be back able to do that soon.
“I think the support we got for the Laurels fundraising showed there is a groundswell of support for greyhound racing in this country, and it’s something we have to build upon.”
Brenda Powderly was recognised with the Special Merit Award. A trainer who runs her greyhounds under the Painstown prefix, she is a familiar face to Shelbourne Park regulars as she and her retired greyhounds, Ted and Brandy, meet and greet racegoers as part of the Ambassador Programme at the track.
Sarah Hensman, an Essex native who has made Kerry her home, was the recipient of the Welfare Award. Involved in the rehoming of greyhounds in Ireland for more than a decade, she assists with the preparation of greyhounds for rehoming and organises transportation for those greyhounds, and in 2020 was responsible for the rehoming of over 200 greyhounds.
Derby and Produce Stakes winner Newinn Taylor, trained by Graham Holland for Simon Taylor, was revealed as Dog of the Year and added the Supreme Award to his spoils. Bred by Jim and Shari-Ann O’Donnell, he had sensational early pace but also had the class to come out on top in the Derby decider despite missing a beat at the break. The Bitch of the Year went to Michael Corr’s Meenagh Miracle, who won the Cesarewitch, finished runner-up in the Derby, and finished third in the Leger. She had a remarkable season, during which she held her form brilliantly.
The award for the leading sprinter went to Irish Sprint Cup winner Grangeview Ten, trained by Pat Guilfoyle for Michael Hogan. While he also had a good season over four bends, he was unbeaten in six runs over two bends, and broke the Dundalk track record along the way.
Ballymac Kingdom, who won the Corn Cuchalainn and finished second in the Cambridgeshire, won the Stayer of the Year Award for Liam Dowling, whose Ballymac Ariel was given the award as Future Star. Coolavanny Pet, dam of Champion Stakes winner Pestana and Oaks heroine Ballymac Beanie, made it a great evening for the Dowling team as she was announced as Broodbitch of the Year.
Droopys Jet had another great year with his progeny and was revealed as Stud Dog of the Year.
Speaking prior to the award winners being announced, chairman Frank Nyhan addressed the ceremony, broadcast live online. Though full of optimism for the future of the sport, he was also forward in putting across his frustration at the way the industry has been treated by some organisations in the country.
“Notwithstanding, and in a way, because of Covid, there have been many exciting innovations in the past year,” Nyhan said. “We have greatly increased our social media presence, showing people the real story of the Irish greyhound.
“But there will be challenges ahead as we emerge from Covid. Unfortunately, and in the face of the evidence, elements of official Ireland remain hostile to us. It remains a puzzle to me how organisations and individuals who are so supportive of horse racing are so against greyhound racing.
“We support horse racing in all its forms. There is a large crossover in support and in participation in both industries. Indeed, this year our own Paul Hennessy took time out from his greyhound training exploits to train a winner in Cheltenham.
“We are sister industries in all matters other than scale. On any criteria you choose to judge us, be it regulation, welfare, security, drug testing, traceability or rehoming, Rasaiocht Con Eireann performs at least as well as Horse Racing Ireland, yet RTÉ continue to refuse to show greyhound racing, and Fáilte Ireland refuse to let us promote our stadia.
“One has to ask why. Is it because our national stadium is in Ringsend and not in Rathmines or Rathgar? Is it that not many Arab Sheikhs own greyhounds? Is it some form of rural bias?
“As always, the road ahead for us will be challenging but, as always, we will rise to the challenge.”