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Thursday 23 November 2017

Prince tries his hand at hurling - and King Henry is impressed

Left: Prince Charles and Camilla at the Farmers’ Market in Kilkenny, about to try some Dragon’s Fire health drink from one of the stalls. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Left: Prince Charles and Camilla at the Farmers’ Market in Kilkenny, about to try some Dragon’s Fire health drink from one of the stalls. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

His first question was "how hard can you hit it" but they told him to just keep his eye on the ball. "Don't worry about hitting them lads, they're grand," advised Brian Cody of the unfortunate onlookers standing around in their best suits.

There may have been a deep and meaningful Brexit parable lurking somewhere between the sliotar and the smooth ash wood of the hurley stick, but Prince Charles took the bull by the horns and gave it a lash.

It landed neatly at the back of the net and Cody gave the kind of surprised roar that has launched the career of countless fledgling stellar Kilkenny hurlers down the years.

The prince explained that he used to play hockey - but if only the Cats had got their hands on him 60 years ago.

Prince Charles shakes hands with locals. Photo: Damien Eagers
Prince Charles shakes hands with locals. Photo: Damien Eagers

Even Henry Shefflin - the only 'King' Kilkenny recognises these days - was impressed.

Charles the hurler might have expected payment though.

"Does it cost a lot to buy all these players?" the prince asked Ned Quinn, chairman of the Kilkenny County Board.

"They cost nothing and we pay them nothing," said the chairman, to the prince's clear astonishment.

Camilla meets Kicking King as she visits the Irish National Stud in Kildare. Photo: PA
Camilla meets Kicking King as she visits the Irish National Stud in Kildare. Photo: PA

Afterwards, Prince Charles expressed a patent relief "not to have disgraced myself entirely by missing the goal and hitting a member of the press corps between the eyes".

Tempting though it may have been.

The day dawned sweetly in the Marble City and hundreds came out in force to risk certain sunburn as they welcomed the first British royal since 1904.

Back then, it was King Edward VII and his wife Queen Alexandra, along with their young daughter Victoria.

Then, the distinguished travellers arrived by boat at Dún Laoghaire and travelled by train to Naas, attending the Punchestown Races before hopping back on the train to Kilkenny.

This time, they were ferried about in the royal chopper - maroon with a gold crown stamped on the side.

But things haven't changed all that much and Camilla got to meet the legendary Beef or Salmon at the National Stud, while Charles inspected helicopters and spoke of military things when he became the first British royal visitor at the Curragh Camp since the foundation of the State.

It was another historic first.

One or two in Kilkenny had even found a Union Jack to flutter and a roar went up as the royal pair arrived - Camilla wearing a sage green suit in light tweed - made from a bolt of MaGee fabric she was presented with last year in Donegal.

The prince wore a light grey suit in his very own Prince of Wales check and burgundy shoes.

They enjoyed perusing the Farmers' Market in Kilkenny - with Camilla buying chocolate truffles from the 'Truffle Fairy' and a spotty pottery jug with an actual €20 note proffered by a lady-in-waiting.

Were the chocolates a little gift for Charles, perhaps?

"No, they're for me," the duchess said rather firmly.

The prince was offered a herbal shot but sniffing cautiously, recoiled.

"The most fiendish-looking drink I've ever seen in my life," he described it later in his speech. A royal endorsement if ever there was one.

Then Camilla went to check out the National Stud, while Charles took off to the UN training school at the Curragh where he was met by Brigadier General Joe Mulligan, the General Officer Commanding of the Defence Forces Training Centre and Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe. He met students of the United Nations Training School Ireland for personnel preparing for Peace Missions.

Des Wade from the National Ambulance Service College in Tallaght talked to him about the new cross-border healthcare initiative while Dathan Brennan from Baldonnel and Frank Noonan from Cork spoke to him of their stint in Sierra Leone in 2015 fighting the outbreak of Ebola.

"He was very interested in how it was on the ground," they said of the prince.

Irish Independent

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