Friday 17 January 2020

Declan Lynch: 'Making Cheltenham bigger not entirely unrelated to insatiable greed'

So long: Larry Gogan. Photo:
So long: Larry Gogan. Photo:
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

For those of us who commemorate the time when the Cheltenham Festival was a three-day event, the first really bad idea of the decade was the hint from the new course chairman Martin St Quinton that he wouldn't rule out making it a five-day thing.

This is the kind of revisionism that we really don't need, especially in relation to what is essentially Ireland's national holiday.

St Quinton admitted that a fifth day "would get a lot of opposition, but people don't like change. People complained when it went from three days to four, but now everybody loves the four-day festival".

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I don't love it, I never even liked it, and I can tell you that most of the aficionados of my acquaintance are of like mind.

The three days were perfect for a festival which rightly claimed to be bringing us the top, top, top races of the National Hunt season. Yes, three was just right, not too much, not too little, and of course it worked.

Then, for some strange reason perhaps not entirely unrelated to insatiable greed, another day was added, and no more was Cheltenham bringing us only the top, top, top races, in fact it was bringing us races that weren't top at all.

If they were to devalue it further, parts of the festival wouldn't be much more than an upmarket Kilbeggan or Ballinrobe, without the honesty and the charm.

And it's not right to say that "people don't like change" when many of us would be happy for the four days to be changed back to three. More than happy.


Larry Gogan was born in 1934, which had the slight downside that World War II was about to start - but the major upside that when he was a teenager, he was there for the birth of rock'n'roll, the most important cultural event of the 20th Century.

Of course, Ireland's intelligentsia, its poets and playwrights and mystics, were there for it too - but unlike Larry, most of them didn't get it.

With the second coming of rock'n'roll in the late 1970s, Larry might have been expected to fall back on his memories of Elvis, to consider himself too old for The Clash and The Ramones and The Radiators and The Blades, to give it all a swerve.

But he connected with that great outpouring too, effortlessly so.

Anyone who was "out" at such a time knows how lucky they were, but Larry was there or thereabouts twice.

He was about 18 when it happened the first time, and when it happened again, somehow he was still about 18. And when he died last week, they said he was 85 but in truth he was… about 18.

Sunday Independent

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