Cleary's special night
Ballyanne Sim powers to victory in greyhound derby
It was a fairytale night for former Wexford All Star hurler Eamonn Cleary when he took the honours at Shelbourne Park on Saturday in claiming Irish Greyhound Derby glory with 12/1 outsider Ballyanne Sim.
It was a first Derby triumph for Cleary and for young Kildare trainer James Robinson in front of a packed house of 5,000 supporters.
Breaking smartly from trap one, he was never challenged in the race and took home the €140,000 winnings. Amid a cauldron of excitement, he turned over the predictions when racing to an all-the-way victory.
Cleary, the proud owner, saw Ballyanne Sim repeat his semi-final performance to deny Pat Guilfoyle's Magical Bale victory in the Premium Irish classic.
The James Robinson-trained Ballyanne Sim had his own ideas as he flashed out of the traps and led from Magical Bale and Clona Blaze.
Sim was a length and a half in front of Magical Bale entering the back straight and then shut the door on the challengers at the third bend.
It was a decisive move since Ballyanne Sim raced home a length and a half winner from Magical Bale in 29.28, with Clona Blaze third.
The time was the fastest recorded in a Derby final and the victor was the first dog in 13 years to win the big title from trap one.
A delighted Cleary, who also bred Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power, said: 'Six weeks ago, I wasn't going to run him. Eugene Robinson asked me to reconsider and another friend of mine, Ian Reilly, asked me to have a go and said "there's only one Derby".
'We were drawn in trap one but we knew we had a fighting chance.
'We knew we were improving. I knew all week and told everyone and anyone who wanted to listen to me that this dog was going to win.'
It was a proud night for Cleary who called the dog after his native Ballyanne, while the Sim no doubt is in memory of his late father, Sim, who gave so many years to the promotion of handball in Ballyanne and also at county level.
During his early sporting career, Cleary turned in many outstanding performances for Wexford in all grades of hurling from the full-forward position, with those displays catching the eyes of the All Star selectors in 1990.
A no nonsence full-back, he mixed both physical combat with skill, and during his time was one of the leading full-backs in the country.
He also played football with Wexford at all levels and is a former stalwart in both codes with the Rathgarogue-Cushinstown club.
Cleary's latest sporting success has been lauded in the Model county.
A regular supporter of Wexford teams in Croke Park and throughout the country, this is a huge achievement for the Ballyanne native.