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an overnight success years in the making

It was a new kind of normality that I woke up to on Tuesday morning. As I made my way to the bathroom for a shave, my wife Heidi came to tell me there was someone on the phone for me. It was Des Cahill wanting to discuss Lion Na Bearnai's Irish Grand National triumph the previous evening on 'Morning Ireland.'

Ever since the horse shocked everyone by winning a Grade Two novice chase at Navan in February, I had avoided the media. I just didn't want to tempt fate.

When you are knocking around at the level I am, with so few horses, the consequences of the smallest setback are massive. If you have 50 horses in training and one of them goes wrong, there is another one filling the stable before you know it.

Lion Na Bearnai may have been a 33/1 shot, but I would have been genuinely disappointed if he hadn't finished in the first three or four on Monday.

Put it this way, I entered him for the Grade One novice chase at Punchestown last week because I knew that, if he won at Fairyhouse, it would be the only other viable option for him.

I was simply afraid to pre-empt anything, though, so I closed ranks. Once it did happen, I was only too happy to speak with everyone, and have done all week.

The attention is welcome, because it has been a real struggle setting up over the past few years. Through the winter, Lion Na Bearnai is the only horse that I have had to run, and there were times when he was all that motivated me to stick at it.

We love what we do but, economically, when you have two young kids, it doesn't make sense to keep going with five horses. We were living hand to mouth for a while, and Heidi and I would be looking at each other wondering what we were doing.

There was one point when Lion Na Bearnai was running over hurdles that I turned him out practically every two weeks, just so that people didn't forget that I still had a licence.

Outside of the locality in Kells, practically no one knew who Thomas Gibney was, but I have had some wonderfully loyal support from the locals.

The Lock Syndicate, Lion's owners, have been with me right from the start, so it was hugely satisfying for me that they got something back on Monday.

They came away with an Irish National winner, having backed it at huge prices, and now have a horse that might well bring them to Aintree for the real thing in 12 months' time.

People who know me and have horses with me know that I am always trying to do right by them. Our horses get all the time they deserve, and I have established my own way of doing things, which is what training is all about.

Years ago, I stopped carrying a whip riding out, simply because I felt there must be a better way of doing things.

I tried to figure out how to make horses go forward without it, tried to understand what it was that was going on underneath me, and eventually I did. Ultimately, it's all about communication and body language.

Lion Na Bearnai wouldn't have encountered a stick until the day he first ran, and the fact that he is still improving at 10 years of age suggests that he is all the better for it.

The village here in Kilskeer has been buzzing since Monday. Because it wasn't unexpected, I was quite calm after the horse won, but I must admit that I found it hard to concentrate for a couple of days afterwards.

I have gradually returned to some form of routine, and the hope now is that things will pick up. While I'd love to have a couple of horses ready to run just to keep the thing going, we don't have the numbers right now to capitalise on the National triumph.

Thankfully, there have been a few interested clients on the phone this week, so that might change soon. In the meantime, we'll enjoy our moment in the spotlight -- it has been a while coming.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie

Irish Independent