MEMBERS of Limerick’s horse racing community are putting their weight behind a fundraising concert which takes place in Knockainey on Friday, April 12 in aid of the Irish Injured Jockeys Fund.
Former jockey, David O’Connor - a native of Ferns, County Wexford will perform with his three piece band in St John’s Church, Knockainey with all proceeds going towards assisting injured jockeys across the country.
“All this had been organised some time ago but now it is more important than ever that it is supported because we have one of our own injured,” explained Frankie Ward, regional secretary of point-to-points.
The racing community in Limerick were left deeply saddened when Croom jockey, JT McNamara, suffered a serious neck injury during the Cheltenham Festival.
“It brought back a lot of memories of Shane Broderick,” said well-known horse trainer, Michael Hourigan, who is a strong advocate of the Injured Jockeys Fund.
Michael, whose stables are based in Patrickswell, organised a series of events all over Ireland to raise over €1.25 million for Shane Broderick.
The promising young jockey who was most associated with the Hourigan-trained Doran’s Pride and had an exiting future ahead of him, suffered a serious fall at Fairyhouse on March 31, 1997 which left him paralysed.
Shane is now enjoying a successful career as a trainer and was in Fairyhouse on Easter Monday to see his horse, Black Benny, in action.
“It’s 16 years almost to the day since Shane had his accident. He is doing well,” said Michael.
“He was in Cheltenham this year. The racing people are great people and they will rally,” Michael added.
“When tragedy strikes, people really are absolutely fantastic and rally around the families and I’m sure everybody will rally in a very, very big way for this cause,” he added.
The Injured Jockeys Fund provides immediate and effective help to all newly injured jockeys in whatever way is appropriate to ensure a reasonable quality of life for them and their families.
“Shane needs 24-hour care,” Michael explained. “Outside of treatment, houses for jockeys may have to be renovated as well to make them accessible depending on the severity of the injury.”
Michael also pointed out how the thoughts of the racing world are also with 18-year-old jockey Jonjo Bright, who remains in hospital with serious neck injuries after a fall in a point-to-point in the North a month ago.
The hope, according to Frankie Ward, is that the Irish Injured Jockeys Fund will, one day, be able to match their UK counterparts in terms of the assistance they provide for jockeys and their families. “This is what we are aiming for here – that if a jockey has a bad accident and he or she is in the spinal unit in Dun Laoghaire, that the Irish Injured Jockeys Fund would be able to provide accommodation for the wife or partner or children to go to see them, because it is very expensive if somebody is in hospital,” Frankie explained.
“When you find that somebody has provided all these wonderful facilities, it gives you a lift and you can concentrate more on the injured person as well,” she added.
The long term goal – or dream as Frankie puts it – would be to build a centre for injured jockeys.
“At the moment, in the point-to-points, they have an ambulance supplied by the Turf Club which is kitted out – it is almost like an emergency unit at a hospital.
“It has all the facilities for somebody if they have a really, really bad fall. It would be wonderful to have a facility at the Curragh or elsewhere, where people could go to recuperate after their hospitalisation. People could call to see them. It would provide physiotherapy services and all the other things they need,” she said.
According to Frankie, David O’Connor is “absolutely delighted” to be supporting the Irish Injured Jockeys Fund and is looking forward to performing in Knockainey.
Originally, David’s intention was to become a full-time jockey but a serious back injury sustained in a schooling fall, put paid to that plan. David continued singing while his body recovered and won the Irish Karaoke Championships and RTE’s You’re A Star competition.
Nowadays, he is the travelling head man for trainer Colin Bowe and recently won a stable staff award for services to Irish racing.
The fundraising concert takes place in Knockainey on Friday April 12 at 8:30pm. Tickets priced at €25 are on sale from Frankie Ward on 087 6722745 and booking is essential.
Meanwhile, there will be a fundraiser in the INEC in Killarney on Sunday, May 12 during the Killarney Races, also in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund.
“There is a friend of mine, David Rea, who is an All-Ireland step dancer and he will be performing. It won’t be up to the standard of Michael Flatley but apparently it’s not far behind it,” said Michael Hourigan.
Tickets will be available online through The Turf Club, and HRI, closer to the time.