Troubles soon forgotten as sun shines on famous track
A MIRAGE of the past shimmered over Ballybrit yesterday. It could have been the heat at the track, with the sun belting down on the 17,510 punters on the second day of the Galway Races.
It could have been the lift in the atmosphere, even from the day before, as the event got into its stride.
It could have been the presence of the Batman and Robin of the boom, de Bert Ahern and Charlie McCreevy, sauntering around the racecourse, with developer Bernard McNamara also spotted in the crowd.
There was an easy atmosphere to it all. Even though the takings at the Tote were 30pc down on last year, the mojito cocktails flowed and there were even one or two helicopter landings.
Leave all your troubles behind, forget the blues -- just look at Galway hurling manager John McIntyre, pictured right.
Fresh from his team's exit from the championship at the weekend with a dismal performance against Waterford, he was MC-ing events in the winner's enclosure.
"I'm all in black, I'm still in mourning," he said. "The Galway Festival is an annual pilgrimage for me and it helps keep your mind away from last Sunday."
But, like a scratchy needle interrupting your favourite record, the mood was interrupted by Brendan McCarthy, from Castleconnell, Co Limerick.
As Bertie entered the track, the 24-year-old reached into his arsenal of insults, dusted down an old reliable and hurled the succinct, yet classic: "Bertie ya b****x!!"
"Cos he got out when the going was good," Brendan explained afterwards.
And that was it. You remembered it was 2011, not the halcyon days of the Celtic Tiger.
You remembered people now thought so little of Bertie and Charlie that they'd pay to see them parade in public with their underpants outside their trousers, just like the slapstick 1970s Batman and Robin.
Not that the reminder of the times stopped people enjoying themselves -- Ballybrit bounced in the sun yesterday.
True to form, Champagne Charlie was with wife Noeleen in the Moet and Chandon tent where the cheapest bottle of pop goes for €65 (sparkling non-vintage brut, since you ask, with Dom Perignon vintage going for €160).
Noeleen's horse, the Dermot Weld-trained 'Catch the Eye' was the roaring favourite in the last race of the evening -- and won, netting the owners €11,385.
The McCreevys were delighted afterwards.
"I bred her myself," said Noeleen. "She's my baby." But Charlie said the horse was too short a price to back, so he didn't throw a few bob down.
De Bert had earlier agreed with his former finance minister.
"I fancy he'll win but I'm not sure he'll be any price," he said. Now that his state car has been taken away, he was driven down to the races by his son-in-law, David Keohane, who is married to Cecelia Ahern.
"He got me down on time," said Bertie, who was there for the €180-a-plate fundraiser for the Marie Keating foundation.
Fine Gael presidential candidate Gay Mitchell also arrived yesterday, coming the day after rival Michael D Higgins paid a visit.
Did all these presidential candidates make Bertie feel a little tinge of regret that he wasn't running for the Aras?
"Let them at it," he laughed, a tad unconvincingly. "They're welcome to it!"
If only he could transform every "ya b****x" thrown his way into a vote, he'd have the presidency in the bag already.