Meath’s Golden Mile – Part 1

After St Peter’s, #Dunboyne won the #Meath Intermediate Football Championship in 1992, the first outing in the primary competition at the top table was against Moynalvey. Obviously, this was a fairly big deal and – as far as I was concerned – a stiff task given that the maroon and whites had an iconic figure like Liam Harnan in their ranks. As well as other talented performers such as Cathal Sheridan any his brother Barry and Adrian O’Halloran.

That said, Dunboyne football was on a high at the time. Indeed, the group that competed in the race for the Keegan Cup between 1992 and 1996 were in my view decidedly unlucky not to attain the said silverware. Anyway, the game was originally fixed for Dunshaughlin before being transferred to Summerhill due to the intended venue being waterlogged.

It happened to be my first time in Summerhill but, again, there was no need to explain the reverence in which the place was held in the annals of Meath football. It being the home of the Lyons family and Mattie Kerrigan. What wasn’t realised, admittedly, was the proximity of the venue to our opponents on the night.

That came back to mind recently during one glorious sporting week. The stretch between Moynalvey and Summerhill really did take on the aura of Meath’s Golden Mile. Owing, of course, to Gordon Elliott – principal sponsor of the GAA club in the latter – annexing the Cheltenham Gold Cup thanks to Don Cossack and, then, Moynalvey’s Devin Toner scoring his first try for Ireland in the Six Nations win over Scotland.

Two different stories from very different sporting spheres, and, truthfully, the distance between the two places might be a little more than a mile, but it’s surely doubtful has as much sporting glory visited two places so close to each other within such a short time frame.

Mind you, neither should be in any way surprising. Remember, from the time Elliott began training he’s been making waves. Garnering the Aintree Grand National with Silver Birch so early in his training career put down a fair marker but, you suspect the waves may yet reach tsunami levels!

Steadily, in recent years, his trajectory in the training ranks has ascended. Playing second fiddle to Willie Mullins in the current era need not be scoffed at. And Elliott is surely the anointed successor whenever the time does arrive to pass the baton.

Now, just like jockeys or indeed punters, isn’t it only natural that trainers might have favourite horses? To that end, Gordon has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds Don Cossack. To be fair, questioning the logic of the loyalty has always seemed futile after seeing Nina Carberry undertake steering jumps in bumpers at the beginning of the 9-year-old’s career.

Bumpers may not be everyone’s cup of tea – in fact The Don’s owner is a known non believer – but they will generally give you a fair idea of whether a horse possesses raw ability or not. In this case, it didn’t require highlighting. Yet, there were doubts. Primarily fuelled by the giant’s tendency to allow the odd sketchy jump blight his otherwise eye catching performances. Often at the most inopportune time as well. As most unfortunately evidenced when he jettisoned Bryan Cooper with the King George seemingly at his mercy on St Stephen’s Day.

Flaws can be ironed out, however. Wasn’t it instructive enough that AP McCoy intimated pre-race that he’d pick the Gigginstown House Stud representative above all comers were he still plying his trade? All the horse ever needed was a day on which everything went right for him.

Upon his coronation, it did just that. Well, almost. There was one occasion when Cooper had to his mount’s nose up out of the ground, but other than that, from a long way out the first set of maroon and white silks could be called the most likely winner. Simply because, for all that Djakadam is admired, gut feeling is that he may not, after all, be a fan of Prestbury Park’s famous incline. Similar misgivings pertaining to Cue Card persuade one that, notwithstanding his unfortunate defenestration of Paddy Brennan, he too may well have succumbed to the will of The Don.

The showpiece wasn’t, though, the only chapter in the Elliott story for the week. Naturally, the devastation felt by the Cullentra team following the loss of the potentially precociously talented No More Heroes will have resonated with folk with even a passing interest in the sport. However, the trainer’s reaction to and demeanour in the aftermath of such an awful setback was very telling.

There’s something about Gordon which currently sets him apart. Something underlined by leading owners in Britain such as Diana L. Whateley and Ronnie Bartlett stationing horses in Longwood. The former hard one of the most impressive winners of the week in Diamond King. Vying for that accolade also, though, will have been Jamie Codd’s master class aboard Cause Of Causes for the same yard.

There’s something about Gordon which convinces that Mullins may have plenty of competition for racing’s top gongs for many years to come!

One comment

  1. Nice article but you can add quite a bit more to that golden mile. Jockey Robbie Power, father Con, trainer Tony Martin and Olympic Qualifier Sara Treacy national champion at 1500m and 3000m steeplechase and European team gold medallist at Cross Country.

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