It’s hard to reconcile that, in terms of sport, where such inspirational feats as those achieved by Ireland’s magnificent participants in the Special Olympics and other wonderful people often alluded to here before shine like beacons, there co-exists a world of deceit and mistrust which tugs at the very fabric of what sport should be about.
Admittedly, some of it is regrettably warranted as has been evidenced by some of what has been exposed within certain codes over the years. However, the firm belief remains that there must be an avoidance of tarring entire sports for eternity – and consequently those involved therein – with the one withering brush stroke.
Go down that route and you not only call into question the integrity of those partaking in sport, but also put weight behind the growing, and worrying, culture where nothing that’s observed tends to be believed anymore. Look, the hardest thing to resist – in any facet of life – is temptation. This corner is no different to anyone in that (a) temptation can be notoriously difficult to stave off and (b) there have been occasions when it was succumbed to. Could it be guaranteed that there wouldn’t be a recurrence? Not in prevailing circumstances.
The last man that never made a mistake was crucified on a Good Friday. But here’s the thing – it essentially comes down to a choice between doing something the right way or the wrong way. To some degree, is it a case that the choice, and it is clearly that, to do something in a nefarious way only occurs when there is a prevailing tendency to let it happen?
It shouldn’t transpire anywhere, but the reality is that it does. As happenings in recent months have revealed, there existed dark secrets in the last place many would even consider looking. Belief remains, though, that such instances are the exception rather than the rule. Simply because so much of sport in Ireland is interlinked with business that it couldn’t and wouldn’t be tolerated.
Take horse racing. Notwithstanding discoveries regarding one since jettisoned trainer, absolute conviction would be held that goings on therein are without scruple. Nobody would chance anything because it just wouldn’t be let go. For it’s paramount to remember that what’s sport for many is business for so many more.
Not only relating to owners, trainers and riders but, perhaps even more so, taking cognisance of the national bloodstock industry and the esteem in which it is held globally. Not to mention the multiplicity of other businesses directly and indirectly benefitting from same. That’s why the latest incarnation of the Galway Races was yet another modicum of reassurance in a sporting world which is, in ways, beset by contradictory logic.
Though at this juncture it must be said that even Ballybrit brilliance was subject to its own bout of contradiction. While Dermot Weld not training the most winners over the course of the seven days at the Connacht venue may have been unthinkable that’s exactly how it played out. Yet, for whatever reason, the top trainer accolade at the racing highlight of the Irish summer is decided by what’s surely an unnecessarily complex system. As a result of which the master of Rosewell House gathered the top gong for a 29th time despite others training more winners. Go figure.
Weld’s fifth and final winner of the week, Almela, certainly looks like a filly with a bright future – provided she’s not reliant on the arduous conditions encountered on her debut – while Willie Mullins put on display classy types in the shape of Long Dog, Thomas Hobson and Bachasson to again indicate – though it was scarcely required – that he will once again have heavy artillery with which to go to war in the novice hurdle division during the winter ahead.
As ever, though, a bit of local success upped the levels of captivation still further and it came in bountiful lashings as Summerhill native Jessica Harrington enjoyed a stellar week, particularly courtesy of Modem, to whom it’s believed there are Meath connections too, while Kiltale’s Ger Lyons was also among the winners courtesy of the talented Speculative and then the stunningly impressive Waipu Cove who opened his career account without coming off the bridle. Said steed then franked first impressions about its potential precociousness when scoring again at Tipperary.
The biggest local impact out west very much centred on a case of déjà vu as – for the second time in recent seasons – Tony Martin seemed to make the place his own. Attaining success in high status handicaps is not easily done and while the Moynalvey handler has long ago proven himself a genius at exactly that, annexing two Galway Hurdle wins in a row is different gravy!
Some years ago, when Martin last strode into the west and conquered, the mare, Busted Tycoon, owned by Kells man John Breslin, was the star of the show when becoming the first horse to win at the Festival three times in the one week. Last year, the familiar green and gold silks scorched up the hill as Quick Jack sauntered to the Connacht Hotel Handicap.
This time round, it was a case of completing unfinished business as, after failing to get a run in the Hurdle, the quirky but highly consistent Footstepsinthesand gelding turned a traditionally notorious to decipher handicap into a procession. Thus ensuring that jockey Denis O’Regan continued what has been an exceedingly fruitful association with trainer and owner in recent times.
O’Regan’s interjection into the story uncovers another Meath link. Remember, the Cork native first came to prominence when based in Noel Meade’s Tu Va stables in Castletown. And, in ways for the second season in a row, one of the biggest things to take out of the week was the burgeoning potential of Finny Maguire – son of Kilmessan native Adrian.
Now it’s on to Listowel and National Hunt action ratcheted up still further.