Thursday 29 September 2016

Billy Keane: HRI must be reined in to safeguard the people's meeting - and our livelihoods

Published 10/09/2016 | 02:30

I would ask the HRI to publish the comparative spend on promoting Listowel and the Champions meeting. Remember, Listowel attracts thousands more customers than the Champions weekend Picture: AFP/Getty
I would ask the HRI to publish the comparative spend on promoting Listowel and the Champions meeting. Remember, Listowel attracts thousands more customers than the Champions weekend Picture: AFP/Getty

David 'Classy' Fitzmaurice has come up with a segregated women-only bus. It's mostly to do with heels and I'm sure there's no problem with the issuing of boarding cards to men wearing stilettos.

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David is the chairperson of Listowel Races and as the father of three daughters and the husband of one wife, he has come with an ingenious plan which will make the lot of women so much better on Ladies Day. And while it is often said sport is a matter of inches, well then this is a matter of feet.

David's double decker bus will bring the women to Listowel Races, which start tomorrow. His slogan is "save your heels, we've got wheels".

Even though I would gladly have swapped every penny of turnover for a Kerry win over Dublin, the Kingdom defeat will ensure more money will be spent in our little town. The defeat is a huge loss to The Palace, our Dublin HQ. There's talk of a church gate collection and food parcels.

My mother always accused me of getting a dose of PRT around now. PRT must not be confused with PMT, although I'm told the symptoms are similar. PRT is pre-races tension. I get very edgy. It is a pub after all and you never know who is going to walk in the door.

We'll miss the mother. Mam was an 85-year-old bouncer. She used to sweep drunks and "undesirables" out the door with the brush at Listowel Races.

And yes I am aware there is a school of thought which suggests PMT was invented by men to dismiss the legitimate complaints of women. And yes I am also aware there are many racing men reading this column who might well be of the opinion PMT is short for the Pari Mutuel, the French tote.

Indeed I knew a soccer man who was sure that the La Leche League, an excellent organisation founded to promote breast-feeding, was the French Second Division.

It is has been said too that breast-feeding makes for better footballers. I'm not sure about jockeys. You don't want them getting too big. Here's a true enough story, from Kerry, which admittedly may have the ring of fiction to it.

It was back in the late '40s, at quarter to eleven, and it was the custom in those times to breast-feed the children until they were eight or nine years of age. Mrs Suck, as she subsequently became known as, was doing her bit of shopping in her local grocery and she was dressed in a long black shawl, as was the custom of the time.

Back then, shopkeepers had plenty of time to talk. Mrs Suck asked for a pound of tea and a pot of jam, "to be put in the book". Mrs Murphy, the owner of the shop, offered some friendly advice. Mary was Mrs Suck's name before she became known as Mrs Suck. "Mary", advised Mrs Murphy, "you're getting very pale and worn-out looking, isn't it about time you weaned off that young lad?"

With that Jereen Suck, as he subsequently became known as, shoved his head out from underneath his mother's shawl and shouted out "Mrs Murphy would you ever f**k off and mind your own business?"

Jereen almost made the Kerry minors but was far too big to become a jockey by several stones, and more so after he discovered porter.

The HRI must not be confused with PRT or PMT. The HRI run racing in Ireland. The HRI giveth and the HRI taketh away.

There was a grant this year for a superbly built bar and dining area in Listowel. The amount is but a fraction of the monies being pumped in to The Curragh, even though Listowel is the second biggest race meeting in Ireland after Galway.

The HRI arranged a meeting on in Laytown this week, which clashes with Listowel. Huge sums have been pumped in to promoting the recently formed Champions Weekend which runs in to and clashes with our meeting. Today's Champion Stakes is the best race in Europe and we have no crib there. But tomorrow's racing in The Curragh clashes with our opening Sunday.

I would ask the HRI to publish the comparative spend on promoting Listowel and the Champions meeting. Remember, Listowel attracts thousands more customers than the Champions weekend.

And now we hear that next year Gowran Park will clash with our Saturday. Would the HRI award days to courses that compete with Punchestown and Galway? The HRI are chipping away at our sporting heritage.

Listowel Races is our biggest week of the year and is vital for the survival of our town and region. And I'm not being selfish. My bar is small and fills up anyway. The HRI must be reined in. Rural Ireland is under threat and Listowel has always been the people's meeting.

Michael Henigan passed away this summer. He fought for his town. Michael was a former chairman of our race committee and served as a director for a good many years. Michael was solid, honest, dependable and decent. All our directors work in a voluntary capacity. All profits are put back in to the track.

Abraham Lincoln wrote: "I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him." Michael was proud of his home place and we were proud of him.

Lincoln won in the end and we will too. Leopardstown and The Curragh are state-owned. Listowel is owned by the people and there's a massive difference between the state and the people.

Irish Independent

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