Sport Punchestown

Sunday 19 November 2017

Punchestown draws a record crowd for sun-drenched opening

Niall and Gillian Quinn. Insets: Sinead Kearney and Gemma Gleeson
Niall and Gillian Quinn. Insets: Sinead Kearney and Gemma Gleeson
Sinead Kearney
Elma Byrne, Ciara Clarke and Aine Casey
Cian and Ruth O'Connor

Eimear Rabbitte

A RECORD crowd attended the first day of racing at the Punchestown festival.

A sun-drenched racecourse drew 19,459 punters, the highest number ever recorded for a Tuesday at the Kildare racecourse.

And it must have been a quiet day in Montrose yesterday as a string of RTE stars, including radio host Sean O'Rourke, GAA man Marty Morrissey and news reader Aengus MacGrianna, took some time out from work to enjoy the start of the five-day festival.

Temperatures soared and some fashionable ladies braved bare legs in the late April sunshine with bright colours the order of the day.

There was plenty of glamour in the form of former model Gillian Quinn and Poppy Desmond, the daughter of financier Dermot.

Mr O'Rourke told the Irish Independent that he was making the most of his mid-morning programme, which allows him to get out of work two hours earlier than his previous slot on the 1pm news.

Pat Kenny's radio replacement feels he has now stamped his authority on the high-rating show after a tense transition period. "It was always enjoyable but at the start there was a certain amount of tension attached to it – because of the unknown and getting used to people, all of the public attention," he said. "I am getting to do a broad range of material and my confidence is growing with that."

The 58-year-old said he was not particularly worried about the release of the latest JNLR radio figures this week as it was always a guessing game with ratings.

"Figures go up and go down. We're just hoping for the best," he said.

Olympian and show-jumper Cian O'Connor enjoyed a day off his horse as he turned out to his local racecourse with wife Ruth.

The couple are smitten with their eight-month-old son Ben and doting dad Cian said: "Nobody can prepare you for it and the sleepless nights, but he is doing great and it is a change for the better. I have a big competition in France this Friday so we were lucky myself and Ruth could leave our baby with her mum for a few hours so she can enjoy a break."

The brother of model Pippa O'Connor has fond memories of the Punchestown festival as a youngster.

"I grew up in Naas and all the schools were closed and I remember the town had a big festival so it is still as big as ever for us."

Fresh from his appearance at last Friday's VIP Awards, GAA broadcaster Marty Morrisey had a lucky day after throwing his money behind winning jockey Ruby Walsh.

Mr MacGrianna said he was happy to get a break from RTE where he is getting used to the newly revamped studio.

More than 100,000 punters are expected at the racecourse over the five-day festival with Ladies' Day on Friday a huge attraction.

Irish Independent

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