Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Moving time

As I write we are loading things into boxes and clearing out cupboards in Straffan ready for the big move to Rathangan.
The new clinic is 95% ready with just a few minor things to finish which should be done in our week off (16th-22nd June).
It's hard to believe that I have been in this location for ten years. I'm looking forward to lots about the move: being in my own place, having windows, not commuting.....
I'll miss the people around here- Anne my landlady who lost her husband Charlie far too young, Tony across the road and Pat Hanafin, more obliging people you couldn't meet.
I hope that you the clients will follow me into the unknown. I can promise you a brand new purpose built clinic with a bit more room, a nice kitchen to make tea and plenty of room to walk the dogs!
See you in Rathangan!

Monday, March 3, 2014


I was prompted to reflect on our sport when I read an interview with Willie Mullins the top National Hunt racehorse trainer today. He spoke of his frustration at the failure of the racing authorities to deal swiftly and effectively with a recent case of drugs possession in Ireland and how the episode had put a cloud over the sport just before Cheltenham.
Our own sport has a similar cloud over it since rumours began circulating about possible positive tests at the National meeting at Clonmel. We can still hope that these turn out to be inaccurate, but even if they do, we have no reason for complacency.
The truth is that drug abuse in coursing is endemic and widespread and anyone who thinks otherwise is naive. The fact that there is no drug testing except at Clonmel is widely known and the dopers take full advantage.
I have had many coursing men say to me that they would gladly pay extra in entry fees or club subscriptions to ensure a level playing field and a drug free sport. My suspicion is that the political will from the top down is not there to make this happen.
Tackling this wouldn't be that difficult: a two-man "Flying Squad" possibly ex-Gardai with no coursing connections could be employed to travel the country and descend unnanounced on any trial stake and take random samples. This would be sufficient deterrent to introduce doubt into potential miscreants' minds.
The second plank of this would have to be in the area of procedures and enforcement. Judging by the number of court cases the I.C.C. has been dragged into as a result of past positive tests, procedures are not legally watertight. They need good legal advice as to how to set the sytem up to be highly resistant to legal challenge. If penalties are then a sufficent deterrent (Surely a ban of more than one year at a minimum) the system should work. If horse racing can do it, there is no reason coursing can't.
People often ask me if I keep a coursing dog or buy a pup. In truth one of the main reasons I don't is the sure and certain knowledge that during its career it will have to meet more than one opponent getting more help than food and water. That has to change.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Time for a rest?

This has been a terrible winter for greyhound people. However bad last year was, the weather this time around has been more severe and has gone on longer than any year I can remember before. The recent flooding at Shelbourne Park made things even worse and many dogs are now "out of time" and need to retrial before they can run again.
People are wondering if this is a freak event or the start of a new trend. Whatever turns out to be the case, isn't it time to revisit the question of a midwinter break in the track season? Even with kind weather in January tracks are struggling to break even and most owners and trainers I spoke to about this in the past few weeks welcomed the idea, saying it would be much easier to plan a greyhound's year if they knew this break would happen- better than the uncertainty of the past couple of seasons.
The most popular idea seems to be shutting down from the New Year until after Clonmel (excepting the Festival itself) a break of about a month. One advantage would be that when the money available to us is tight spreading it over 11 months rather than 12 could help a lot. Another is that we could all concentrate on the coursing without distraction!
One man who won't make it to the National meeting is Paddy Fitzgerald who was killed in a terrible car accident late last year- larger than life and with the name of being the best neighbour and friend anyone could have he will be desperately missed by his family and many greyhound friends, especially his namesake Pa Fitzgerald- there weren't many days they didn't spend some time together. Ar dheis De go raibh a hAnam.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Some have accused me of being overly negative with regard to our great sport. This stems mostly from frustration at how much better things could be with a bit of leadership and integrity. I'm going to reinforce that perception by failing to join in the rejoicing about the new Limerick track but instead in asking:
Why in 2010 do the authorities persist in giving two fingers to the punter by allowing "private" trials on our tracks, especially one as high profile as the new Limerick? Those on the inside will have had crucial information denied to the ordinary Joe paying in for the first few meetings there- why should he invest his hard-earned trying to pick a winner when he doesn't have the full picture? Indeed, I was in a Hackett's shop in Sallins recently and saw a notice on the wall saying that they no longer accepted bets at Shelbourne Park except on big nights where early prices were available- what does that say about the integrity and transparency of our racing?
The Bord need to put the integrity of the racing product at the top of their priority list- more testing in trials, in early rounds of stakes (it can be done) and at sales would be a good start, as well as the immediate banning of unrecorded trials, however lucrative these may be. If someone wants a trial on the quiet, let them go to the local schooling track.
What the Bord don't seem to realise is that the more of an insider culture they foster and the more they alienate the casual punter the fewer of these people will click through the turnstiles and have a bet or a drink or a meal. There seems to be a perception that most attendees don't know or care about things like these but neglecting the more involved fan base is a very dangerous game indeed- from where else are the next decade's owners, trainers and punters going to come?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

General thoughts on the World

The recent controversy about the proposed dog breeding bill has demonstrated that few people bother to research anything before making public comment. I am thinking specifically of the public statements of Bord na gCon chiefs Adrian Neilan (for which he had to apologise to the Agriculture minister) and Dick O'Sullivan, who made an impassioned speech to a captive audience in Shelbourne Park recently apparently claiming that the bill would finish greyhound racing were it introduced. This is patent nonsense. The bill was drafted after extensive consultation with the veterinary profession and its main aims are the safeguarding of animal welfare and the prevention of unregulated puppy farming, both surely in the interests of any well-run animal sport. I for one would welcome the cessation of indiscriminate breeding for profit which does occur and for which there is no legal censure at present. The initial draft did have some anomalies, namely the requirement for anyone with 4 bitches of breeding age to register as a breeder and the proposal to limit bitches to one litter per year but both of these have been addressed. The revised bill looks to hold few fears for responsible greyhound owners and triners to me.
Messrs Neilan and O'Sullivan would be better occupied with building safer greyhound tracks to reduce injury levels, but that's another discussion...