Beal Bán races extends to beat the tide

Credit: Photo by Ted Creedon
Credit: Photo by Ted Creedon

THE annual Béal Bán horse and pony races is to be extended this year to a two-day meeting, which will be held during the Whit weekend on June 4 and 5.

The races were revived in 2001 by a local committee led by Séamus Cosaí MacGearailt, who acted as chairman up to last year ,and the committee decided to mark the 10th anniversary with a twoday rather than the usual one-day event.

"As well as that, we found that trying to run 12 races on one day, which depended on the tide, was just too much pressure. We're hoping to run up to 16 races this year but that will depend on the number of entries," race committee secretary DJ Ó Cinnéide told The Kerryman.

"We have €7,000 on offer as prize money this year thanks to the great support from our sponsors. It should be good for the local economy too with people staying in the area for two days," he added.

The committee has applied for the requisite foreshore licence to operate the event and also has waste disposal and traffic plans in place. The event will be fully insured with the support of the South of Ireland Horse and Pony Racing Association (HPRA).

The Béal Bán races were started back in the 1950s by an American man who married a Bowler girl from nearby Árd na Caithne, according to DJ.

"He set up the races with Jed Bowler and Dónal Keane and a few others. But the local parish priest, Father Tom, put a stop to them after they were run on a church holiday," he said.

"Timmy and Stevie Kelliher, from Dingle, told me that the prize money at Béal Bán was better than at the Dingle races in those days. The brothers had a horse called Eileen Óg and Timmy cycled to Beal Bán, on a roasting hot day, with the horse tied behind him. She ran in two races and the boys went home with £30 which was big money in those days," he said.

Maria Hand, daughter of the late Mikeen O'Sullivan who was also very involved in the revived races, is the first woman to serve on the race committee.

Other committee members are: Séamus Leahy, chairman; Micheál Sullivan, vice chairman; Pat Lawless, PRO; Diarmuid Sayers, treasurer; Colm MacGearailt, vice secretary; Liam Baker, vice treasurer; and Breandán Ó Cíobháin, safety officer.