Monday 23 October 2017

I'm tailor made for this labour of love

Liam O'Rourke

I was born in Bray, Co Wicklow – that's where my mother was from – but my dad was a Dub. We moved to the capital when I was young and I grew up in Finglas.

I started off in tailoring at 14 and worked as a tailor until the firm closed in 1993. By then I had become well involved with the greyhounds.

That all started back in 1968 with my brother and an uncle who used to go to the bookies on a Saturday and they decided to buy a dog.

They bought a bitch called Keen Valley from Joe Daly and Sammy Easton, but they didn't have enough money between them and so they got me to buy a share.

We trained her in Finglas; she was by Lovely Chieftain out of Dumbless Valley. She won 13 races altogether and she won two in a week at Harold's Cross two weeks before I got married. I bought two suits out of the winnings for the wedding.

When the tailoring firm closed down I started training greyhounds. Our next move was to Garristown.

Most of our dogs wouldn't be world beaters, but we've been lucky enough to come up with a few really good trackers, the best of them would have been Ballymac Bondi, Ballymac Tipp and Bogside Jake.

Bondi could have been a great dog but he tore a muscle in his shoulder early on. He beat Accordello in 28.48 on International night at Dundalk in 2008 and went on to be runner-up in the Puppy Derby at Harold's Cross that year, where he was only beaten two lengths by Droopys Noel. Bogside Jake finished third behind Ardkill Jamie in the Ladbrokes 600 final, while Ballymac Tipp won the Tote Gold Collar.

That was my biggest win, but Bondi earned more for finishing second in the Puppy Derby. The three dogs are now standing at stud here with me and doing very well.

Normally I keep between 35 and 40 dogs and I have my son Robert here with me while my granddaughter Deborah – my eldest daughter Imelda is her mum – is another great help. She walks out most of our runners on race nights.

I always ran most of my dogs at Harold's Cross and Dundalk but I am very limited in my runners at Dundalk nowadays as my daughter Margaret is the manager there; but I can hardly complain about that.

I differ from a lot of people in my outlook on the sport. I feel it is going all right. I like the new grading system as it means you can get dogs back in grade quicker and it gives them a chance.

My ambition would be to win a Classic – that would be great. Greyhounds were my hobby and now they're my livelihood.

We put a lot of hours into it every day and night, but if you weren't enjoying it you wouldn't be doing it.

Liam O'Rourke is currently lying third in the trainers' table for the number of winners in Ireland and is on his way to being top trainer at Harold's Cross for a seventh time in eight years.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport