In a recent interview, St Peter’s, Dunboyne and Meath star Emma Duggan said it was “very tough” to be preparing for her Leaving Cert without the distraction of GAA matches and/or training.
The audaciously talented 18-year-old went on to say that “You have to realise it’ll be back soon enough. That’s what’s keeping me going at the minute”. I hope you’re right Duggy but I wouldn’t punt on it.
Not when you’ve the ‘leadership’ of the Association saying there’s “No rush” on a return to matches and trotting out every tired, stale old line under the sun to justify the antiquated, self-defeating stance.
Mind you, they’re not the only ones spewing self-serving dross. As maddening and upsetting as the GAA’s predictably negative viewpoint has been, the stance taken by the British Horseracing Authority with regard to amateur riders at the Cheltenham Festival – that they’re not allowed – is as insulting as it is ridiculous. It is, effectively, word play at its most devious.
Anybody with even a scintilla of knowledge about horse racing knows that ‘amateur’ riders are thus in name only. Now, Patrick Mullins probably isn’t the best example to deploy here given that he has taken the status of amateur riders to another level on account of his record breaking feats in the plate. Not forgetting that he is also Assistant Trainer to his dad Willie.
Meaning that, as well as partnering all the Closutton bumper horses and whatever representatives the yard may send out in contests for amateur/conditional jockeys, he is also hands on with all the establishment’s residents in one way or another. Whether Hunter Chases or otherwise. Taking account of the stellar book of mounts the multiply-crowned Champion Amateur would have been looking forward to at Prestbury Park in two and a bit weeks, it’s hardly any wonder the 31-year-old is considering taking the plunge at what would be considered a relatively stage in his career and turning professional.
While Champion Bumper favourite Kilcruit and leading Champion Hurdle contender Sharjah would be the trainer’s son’s most recognisable engagements during the frenetic four day’s epic action, others from his father’s ranks like Billaway in the Foxhunters and Lord Royal in the National Hunt Chase. There would also be a chance, or probability more like, of PW Mullins having mounts available in practically every race throughout the best four days sport of the year.
With no disrespect intended, as much of a blow as this will be to Patrick (if he doesn’t turn pro) it will be indefinably worse for other riders for whom such opportunities may not come around as often as it might for some of the more high profile pilots.
At a more basic level, it deprives the Festival of some of the most talented performers in the sport. As well as Patrick Mullins, the unjust obfuscation also removes Derek O’Connor, Jamie Codd, Lisa O’Neill, Will Biddick, Lorcan Williams and probably otħers whose names momentarily escape me from the equation.
The BHA would probably protest that they are acting in the best interests of what and who they represent. In fact, they are doing all concerned a disservice.