Saturday 23 September 2017

A week of style at the Galway Races wraps up with weird and wonderful Mad Hatters competition

Mary-Kate O'Shea at the Galway Races
Mary-Kate O'Shea at the Galway Races
Laura Fox from Galway at the Galway Races on the last day of the summer festival. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure
The Hen Claudine Loughrey from Offaly with the rest of her party at the Galway Races
Amy Connolly from Bullaun, Galway at the Galway Races
Milliner Caithriona King, a judge in the Mad Hatter competition
Mad Hatter Sophie Kearney at the Galway Races
Oliver Bohan from Galway at the Mad Hatters competition at the Galway Races
Laura Fox from Galway at the Galway Races on the last day of the summer festival. Photo: Andrew Downes, xposure

Sean O'Grady

They came, they saw and they conquered. Proceedings at the Galway Races came to a close on bank holiday Sunday as thousands of punters descended on Ballybrit for one last hurrah.

The hectic pace of the annual festival eased off in the last few days with day seven focused on family fun.

The day began on a more muted note. While punters normally flock to the champagne tent to toast their winnings, they were seated bright and early for the annual mass service.

The voice of Father Michael Riley, chaplin of the Galway Races, boomed through Ballybrit as he prayed that gamblers would walk away happy.

coveted

He also correctly predicted Dream Walker would be first past the post in the coveted Irish Stallion Farms Handicap.

"The mass is popular. We've had six, seven hundred at it (before)," he said. Day seven saw the annual Mad Hatters competition take place with hundreds of punters struggling against the wind to keep their millinery masterpieces in place.

The competition was won by Mary-Kate O'Shea, inset, originally from Co Kilkenny and now living in Connemara, Co Galway.

The former art student, who described her hat as a "creature of inspiration", walked away with flights to Lanzarote and seven nights' accommodation for herself and her family.

"I started it on the May bank holiday," she said. "I said I'd start in advance and see where it went. I've been at the races once in all my years. When you live in Galway, you find you don't do what's on your own doorstep. I'm so impressed. This is my first time at the Mad Hatters Day and it certainly won't be my last."

Ladies Day winner Aoife MacCana was back on the racecourse to enjoy the final day. While still enjoying the high of coming first, the Galway project manager admitted it hasn't been all smooth sailing since.

"Somebody did send me a screenshot of some negativity but you know, it's not something I concern myself with.

"I still feel very honoured that I won but sometimes I think, 'God, is it really deserving?' People will always pull you up on something."

Trainer Willie Mullins looked back on the week with satisfaction. "Trainers have confidence in Galway to produce lovely ground and fantastic prize money as well. It's a win-win," he said.

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