Sunday 26 January 2020

Billy Keane: Never be slow to take a shine to greyhounds

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Mike Shine is happy again but when Mom died three years ago he was heartbroken. She was 113 when she passed away. Mom was the mother of 37 babies by six different fathers and she spent no more than 10 minutes with any one of them.

Now he has Young Mom, a sprightly 67-year-old. She sleeps with Mike every night. Says Mike, "she keeps my toes warm."

Young Mom is Mom's daughter and they were two of the fastest bitches ever seen at Tralee greyhound track. By the way, all dog ages are shown in canine years in this piece. Divide by seven for the human equivalent.

While old Mom was as game a greyhound as ever left traps, Young Mom was "a bit of a thief". She had to be in front at the break and if she wasn't, that was that. She chucked it in.

But Young Mom is very good in bed. "Old Mom," says Mike, "tossed and turned all night. The minute Young Mom hits the mattress, she goes straight to sleep. And there isn't a stir out of her until morning."

Mike never married. "I always preferred the Longtails." Longtails meaning greyhounds.

He had his chances

Rose, a Hampton's heiress, asked Mike to marry her when he was a butcher in New York. He declined, politely.

"That girl was crazy about me. She married a sax player from Tijuana, Mexico, the week after I left New York. The marriage was over a week later."

Mike paid Rose the ultimate compliment. He named a dog after her. Family Rose is due to be mated to the Derby winner Skywalker Puma when she comes in season. Mike was the first man to cut Skywalker's toenails. The Derby winner was bred by his good friend Paddy Purtill, a second cousin of your correspondent and we had a right touch on him. At 50s.

There are other floral women in Mike's life. His platonic next door neighbour Violet brings Young Mom White Buttons every night. "Isn't breedin' a fright," says Mike. "Mom was stone mad for 'em too." Violet is very good to Young Mom when Shine is away.

Mike has done well from Young Mom. "The doggy men nearly knocked down the door trying to buy her pups."

But, says Mike sadly, "she'll have no more. Young Mom is past breeding. Now when she sees me feeling for the keys of the van in the vase with the pusheen's face in the front of it, her eyes light up and her tail lifts. Young Mom thinks I'm going to bring her to stud. I feel very sorry for her."

Her son Jockey Joe is the kennel star now. We left Kieran and Tracy's wedding, for a while, to back Jockey Joe in the local Gain final at Tralee track. It was my fault the dog lost. I was in company with Mike at the excellent dancing wedding and we had a drop or two. Mike was too drunk to walk the dog. Jockey Joe sensed something was wrong and he was well beaten.

I had to call my cousin Adrian Kirby, who is also on honeymoon, with his beautiful bride Maura. For a consultation. Adrian is known around here as the Minister for Sport. He has been the stats man for this column for many years. The Minister is quicker than the internet and infinitely more reliable.

The stats man in the ever-romantic Adrian broke out in him at the wedding. Having described Maura as the finest female alive, he went onto say it was exactly seven years, seven months and seven days since he met his beloved.

The Minster for Sport confirmed Jockey Joe had won four of his 16 races and there was a story behind the name.

I have Mike's permission to tell it. Mike's nephew Joe O'Hanlon rode a bumper winner on Woodford Dawn for his dad Charlie at Listowel, beating a Willie Mullins hotshot into second. Joe died in an accident nearly four years ago.

He was a lovely lad and Mike was mad about him.

The dogs keep Mike going. He's up early every morning. The dogs are fed, watered and walked. You mention his name to anyone around here, the immediate response is "ah Mike. Mike Shine -- some gentleman."

This is the fifth column in the Mom trilogy and I'm still not sure if he always tells me the truth.

But Mike is a very holy man. He says his Rosary every night. There are always a few prayers for poor Joe.

That much I definitely know to be true.

Mike told me without so much as a stutter or a blink: "Young Mom jumps off the couch and walks around the room when I'm praying. Then when I finish the last decade and the trimmings, she jumps back up on the couch again."

Mike maintains Mom is doing 'The Stations of the Cross'.

I was just finishing up this exclusive interview with Mike in Browne's Bookmakers when Kempes Kelleher came over to us.

"Billy," he says, "don't forget to put a bit in the paper sayin' I scored the opening point in the charity game in Moyvane last Sunday and I made a goal." Then he thought for a second.

"Put down assist instead of made."

Kempes is 53 and a half. "That man should be playing for Shangri La Shamrocks," says his friend John Leahy.

Mike turns back on his way out the door: "Get one of the free biros. Quick, before I forget. I have a headline for that story your doin' on me for Saturday."

All are all ears.

"We'll call it 'I Married A Greyhound'."

Irish Independent

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