Saturday 21 October 2017

Greyhound Racing: I love the buzz and characters in Kilkenny

Tom Kinane

When I was in college in Galway studying business, the last thing on my mind was that I would end up as manager of the Kilkenny greyhound track.

It was pure chance back then that an advertisement appeared just as I was looking for a job. Anyway, I was offered the position and found myself in Shelbourne Park as an assistant.

I had been involved in greyhounds all my life in Borrisoleigh. The family had great luck with the dogs back then and my dad brought me to Thurles, Kilkenny and Shelbourne regularly.

Our best dog was Concentration, which won the first Red Mills Unraced at Kilkenny in 1990. We bought a pup out of every litter of Minnie Maher's great bitch Minnies Nikita and one of her daughters, Live Commentary, reached the finals of the Oaks and the Laurels and became a really good brood.

But back to Shelbourne. I really loved grading the Saturday cards, in particular. We were really spoiled by the quality of the dogs. I had great times there with Paddy Ryan and Declan Carey.

However, I wanted to try something else before it was too late and I didn't want to be an assistant for the rest of my life. I was interested in betting and I got a job with Paddy Power in their head office.

I enjoyed my spell there, but I was anxious to move back closer to home and the opportunity arose with Kilkenny, which had only recently been reopened.

I did the sums in my head and I thought it had to work and I don't regret the decision. It was tough, but the supporters' club did a great job and they paid a lot of the overdue bills.

I enjoy being general manager. Kilkenny is a unique track. There's a great atmosphere and a real buzz on the big nights. There's an excellent betting ring and it takes a good dog to win there. It's a tough test.

The introduction of the Red Mills Juvenile last year worked out very well. It was won by Derby winner Skywalker Puma, while the third dog was Priceless Sky, which ran up the Leger and has won the SIS Live Gold Cup.

We have a good pool of dogs and there is no bother in filling two cards every week, but it would be tighter if we had to run more.

Dogs nowadays are softer than they were and I would love to see a tougher breed coming back in.

We have some really genuine dogs, the likes of Welesbourne Dan, Mickys Trickster and Dublinhill Boy and they are a joy to watch week in, week out.

The latest prize money increase was encouraging and the IGB have done a very good job in keeping all the tracks open in difficult circumstances.

I would like to see more young trainers coming through and perhaps more education for everyone concerning injuries and their prevention.

There are great characters down here – the Borans, Lennons, Hennessys, Leahys and others, all great doggy names – and, you know, the only way to deal with them is to throw them all into the one race.

Irish Independent

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