Tralee man Jimmy is flying high after his pigeon racing record
If you thought trainer Michael Dickinson's feat of having the first five horses home in the 1983 Cheltenham Gold Cup up was some achievement, how about Tralee pigeon fancier Jimmy Quilligan's triumph of having the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th pigeon home in a race from Monaghan and Tralee.
That's the remarkable record set by Jimmy who is flying high right now after his birds set an historic record that is unlikely to be matched anytime soon. To top it off, Jimmy became the first Kerry man to win the Munster Federation race when his pigeons made the 179 mile journey home to Tralee like a squadron of Spitfires on Sunday, May 12.
The success is even more significant considering the geography involved, as the location of Jimmy's loft meant his birds flew an extra 50 miles than the standard 130 mile journey for other contestants in Munster.
"I was over the moon. I was watching out for them when suddenly six birds landed. I knew they were in good order but I wasn't expecting them all at the same time," Jimmy said.
"I treat the pigeons like athletes, training them and putting them on a special diet. It's like any sport. We're at a disadvantage here in Kerry as we're flying further than other competitors. Take Roscrea, for example, those birds would only be flying 80 or 90 miles out of Monaghan."
Jimmy is now the toast of Tralee Pigeon Club where he has earned a lifetime's bragging rights over his fellow competitors! In 2018 he twice had birds home first from races in Scotland, while Sean O'Mahony, Garry Fernane and Kevin O'Carroll are others to have had birds return from Scotland to Kerry in the past.
Jimmy has kept pigeons all his life and has been racing them seriously for the past 18 years. It's a sport he is totally devoted to and he prepares the birds by starting them off in places like Templeglantine, Abbeyfeale and Newcastlewest - building up the distances each week ahead of their first race.
"I put a lot of time into them. I wouldn't say it's work at all. I'm fascinated by pigeons and my motto is that you only get out what you put in. I would say most people that race pigeons are fanatical about them. I'm delighted with this success but it's on to the next race now."