Becoming PRO of the local GAA club nigh on 20 years ago was one of the luckiest developments ever to have befallen this wordsmith. It became far more than a hobby, even surpassing what could be described as a passion, to actually morph into the very fabric of what made life worth living.
Luck manifested itself in more fundamental, thankfully glorious, ways during the formative part of the 11 ensuing years. During just my second season in the role, St Peter’s, Dunboyne won the Meath SFC for the first occasion in their history while the following year the club regained the senior status in hurling they had long juggled with but have maintained and enhanced since.
Recalling the SFC triumph of 1998 is interesting. It was at some juncture along that historic journey that the superstitious element of one’s nature became more obvious. How it began isn’t exactly clear, but, before some of the matches I began to wear a particular baseball cap – that of the New York Giants – and it remained part of the match day ritual throughout that unforgettable run. Similarly, as with the breakthrough success, when the Keegan Cup was again attained in 2005, the County Final day ritual of donning shirt, tie and sports jacket was also wheeled out.
Traits of superstition – or perhaps sentimentality would be more accurate – have festered ever since. Often cropping up in relation to horse racing. Such as ensuring to be ‘on side’ whenever Ruby Walsh was and is employed by Tony Martin, or, when either Dermot Weld or Aidan O’Brien send out runners over jumps.
Paying particular heed to Arthur Moore-trained runners in Fairyhouse has also always been of the utmost importance. Similar sentiments carried credence in relation to the late and much missed Dessie Hughes. Both at the Ratoath venue and, maybe in particular, during the summer months in Kilbeggan.
Therefore, in the instance of the most recent incarnation of the Irish Grand National one was left ruefully regretting not allowing oneself not be ruled by sentiment! In so far as not having a few euro on the eventual victor in the blue riband of Irish jump racing – Thunder And Roses – in the care of Dessie’s daughter Sandra – was concerned. Especially given that the family affinity with the track has obviously passed to the next generation as the biggest achievements in Sandra’s training career to date have occurred thence.
Now, a few caveats pertain. Most pointedly, if a wager was to be placed on every steed there was an inkling towards, the troika could be summoned. However, in less stark terms, compensatory satisfaction was easily derived from having a small each way punt on Jim Dreaper’s Sizing Coal at 66/1 prior to the race. Johnny Burke’s mount delivered a performance of consummate bravery which will hopefully have tempered disappointment that things didn’t work out for Los Amigos and, furthermore, imbued all concerned with justifiable hope of greater days going forward. It is hoped that satisfaction would also be the feeling of those connected to Mydor after the pride and joy of the Mulvanys Bar Syndicate – and by extension all of Dunboyne – again performed with distinction in a valuable handicap hurdle on Easter Monday.
Sometimes, though, the simplest of uplifting flickers can prompt the greatest germination of reassuring positivity. In essence, it all comes down to inner belief. And even though one might be gravely bereft thereof in the first person, often instances arise which allow what may oft seem frivolous belief in the simplicity of some aspects of life to be vindicated.
Maybe foremost among them the necessity, ability and – arguably most profoundly – inclination to dream, regardless of prevailing circumstances in anyone’s individual life. That said, it’d be openly admitted that the idea of a ‘Bucket List’ is absolutely abhorred in this corner. Simply because it’s marinated in a sense of defeatist finality which could’ve been succumbed to several times over.
However, balancing such wild and whirling thoughts is a comforting realisation that, no matter what anyone thinks, it’s ok to dream at any age. Thus, here is an unashamed admission that the undoubted highlight of what is, for me, the nearest there will ever be to Cheltenham was two long hold ambitions being realised on the same day. Namely, being introduced to and photographed with both AP McCoy and JP McManus.
My heartfelt and eternal thanks are bestowed upon both Peter Roe, General Manager of Fairyhouse, and the supremely talented portrait artist and photographer John Fitzgerald for making it possible. Being in a position to have enjoyed the brilliance AP has espoused throughout his remarkable career has been privilege enough in itself but to have made some sort of connection with Ireland’s most decorated sportsman – and his gentleman employer – is an even greater honour to treasure.
Mind you, it must be said that the entire three days were enjoyed immensely. Furthermore, it was fantastic to see the efforts of Peter, his staff and all concerned blessed with the good weather, huge crowds and top class racing. No more than is deserved for an amenity it’s a blessing to have on one’s doorstep.