Cats and horses keep us
Published 02/09/2011 | 05:00
There has been a great buzz about the place all week ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland hurling final. Where I'm based in Windgap, Co Kilkenny, we border Mullinahone, Grangemockler and Carrick-on-Suir, so you can imagine the banter in the locality. Even here at the yard there is no shortage of ball-hopping between the three lads that help out.
Pat Cody, my excellent headman, is from Dunnamaggin; Joe Byrne hails from Waterford and Mark Byrne from Carrick. All three of them love the hurling too, so there is usually plenty to talk about of a Monday morning during the summer.
My own priority these days, though, is the horses. Hurling has always been a passion but racing takes up a huge part of my life now.
On Monday, I drove up to Downpatrick with Warwickshire, which was odds-on for the bumper with Nina Carberry on board. His action went coming down the hill and he lost a few valuable lengths, something that probably cost us the race in the end.
Having spent four and a half hours driving up there in the lorry, to finish second was a pity. Still, Warwickshire came home safe, so there'll be another day in him.
Last night then, I was in Clonmel with Dr Tommy. Somehow or other I found a race for him called the 'Best Of Luck To Tipperary Maiden Hurdle'. He needed the experience, but I got no end of stick from my old friend Theo English for running in it! It was a pleasure to see Theo still so fit and well.
Sunday should be another ding-dong final. It will be tough and fiercely contested, and that's always the way it is when Kilkenny meet the likes of Tipperary and Cork.
The game could turn on how we cope with Lar Corbett -- if we can hold him, I think we'll shade it. Dealing with someone that can run like him is another thing, though.
The thing may be to nominate someone to tail him for the day, but who would be the right man for that challenge?
While Paul Murphy has been having a fine year, Sunday will be his first All-Ireland final and that brings its own pressures.
There has been some suggestion up here that Jackie Tyrrell might get the job, but would he have the legs? It's difficult to know the best way of tackling the situation.
If Kilkenny are to win, Henry Shefflin will pull the strings, but we need the likes of Richie Power and Eoin Larkin to have big games, too. And they are due big games.
Win, lose or draw, this Kilkenny team has given us wonderful highs. In many parts of Kilkenny, not least my small parish, hurling is just about all that there is for people. Ultimately, there's nothing like watching your team playing on the big days at Croke Park, so it's a privilege to be born into a county with a tradition like ours.
During the 1970s, I was lucky enough to play in five All-Ireland finals and win three alongside greats such as Eddie Keher, Pat Delaney, Frank Cummins and the late Ollie Walsh.
I am on the other side of the fence now and it doesn't help that my wife Josephine is a Tipperary woman.
We will go to the match together on Sunday, but it's in the best interests of everyone that we sit separately during it. Put it this way, I like to enjoy the game without getting too carried away. As for Josephine, well, lets just say she likes to get involved!
In previous years, I have always loved taking in the Kilmacud Sevens on the Saturday morning before the big game, but unfortunately I am too busy with the horses at home at the moment. That means I won't be getting to the Champion Stakes at Leopardstown tomorrow either, but it's a good complaint to have.
We have some wonderful owners here right now and the horses have been performing really well. At Kilbeggan tonight, I run Bridgets Pet in the bumper, while I'm also looking forward to Autumn Windfall in Monday's bumper at Roscommon.
I'll be disappointed if both don't go close, although Bridgets Pet may be the more likely winner. He was fourth at Bellewstown recently, and that will stand to him now.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie