Sunday 25 February 2018

'You can get great craic out of people at the track'


Tommy Donnelly

It was through Arthur Fenton that I first got involved with Mullingar track and at the time I never thought I would be still involved all these years later.

I had worked in the mines for four years as a young lad and then I started working for Arthur at his garage. Occasionally he would ask me to do a few little jobs, welding and the likes, at the track. That was the start of it and I actually became groundsman back in 1984.

It has become part and parcel of my life and I spend almost six days a week here. I come in on Saturdays for a few hours to get the track ready for racing. I am entitled to a day off, but I rarely bother with it!

To be honest, I enjoy the outdoor life and I have no regrets at all. On top of that, you meet all the people and there are some great characters. I get on well with most of them, but you get great craic out of the likes of Pat Scally and there are plenty of others as well.

Over the years, of course, I have seen some great greyhounds running around Mullingar, the likes of Kingo, Subway Ruth, Mega Delight, Definate Opinion ... there were so many of them.

I see my job as trying to prepare a safe track for every day of trials and racing. You have to keep a cushion on the track and I do my best to keep it 100pc.

We power-harrow the track regularly and put lots of water on it. Watering is the secret of the sand tracks, but so much depends on the weather.

You will get caught out occasionally when the weather turns out wetter than forecast and you have already applied plenty of water. But at least it would be a safe track. It is very important that the water can run off on the bends.

Mullingar, with its tight bends, is not the easiest track in the world to work on. It would be lovely to work on the likes of Shelbourne or our other local track Longford.

Things are much quieter at the tracks compared to before the recession. People just don't have the money, but hopefully it will recover in the near future. But what I find is that dogs are getting very scarce. We wouldn't be doing a quarter of the trials now that we used to have here. Just now, I hope the SIS (TV channel) deal goes through. That would help Mullingar greatly.

Kathleen and I have three kids, Owen, Sharon and Catriona. Sharon is into the dogs big time and has been going to the track with me for years. She has a few dogs now with Eddie Dunne.

I have a few years to go yet before I have to retire, but I like it as much as I ever did. I just enjoy being in there and try to keep the track the best we can and help out as much as I can. I wouldn't swap it for anything.

* Tommy Donnelly has established a great reputation as groundsman in his 30 years in the position at Mullingar Greyhound Track.

Irish Independent

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