IN the words of Denis Guiney ‘one would be great but two is the stuff of dreams’
And, stuff of dreams it was for local coursing followers in Clonmel’s Powerstown Park this Monday as the Derby and Oaks titles were returned to Limerick.
Quite literally Limerick dominated the 92nd National Coursing Meeting.
The Boylesports Derby title was shared for the first time since 1981 when littler brothers Blades of Fire (Adios Alonso-Blades of Glory) and Reikers Island (Adios Alonso-Blades of Glory) won the coveted crown for Rathkeale’s Guiney clan. Officially the owners of the two finalists are Rathkeale’s Mary Guiney and Mullingar’s Mary O’Kelly.
Not to be outdone, the Horse and Jockey Oaks title was brought home to Athea by a father-son combination - teenage owner Liam McAuliffe and his father Bill when their Knockout Glory (Adios Alonso-Knockout Kate) surprised many.
“We went in under the radar a bit,” smiled Bill McAuliffe this Tuesday, recounting the odds of 25/1 from the outset for Knockout Glory.
“If we were told on Saturday morning that we would be in the final, we couldn’t have believed it,” he joked.
”If you get one dog like this to win an Oaks it’s a once in a lifetime thing and we know how lucky we are. We are just delighted - we are in this for the enjoyment and the craic, not for the money,” he outlined.
”We are only small fry. There are so many small kennels and they are the ones keeping the whole thing going,” outlined McAuliffe, adding that it’s a family operation with wife Rose and sons Liam and Lorcan.
”There is a lot of work that goes into it. Liam is excellent with the dogs - he is out every evening and the mornings when there is no school. Monday turned out to be a real parish affair and everyone around enjoyed it and Liam’s school mates - it was great to show the youth all about Clonmel,” said Bill.
”We go all the way back to my Dad, who died two years ago at the age of 90. Its back 20 years back that we won our first stake. We won a Corn na Feile and back about 1997 we went down to Clonmel with one of the favourites (Knockout Rose) for the Oaks but lost in round one to a 100/1 shot!”
This week the McAuliffe’s wrote the family name into the history books.
”When she qualified (in Charleville) she was impressive and we thought a lot of her but she picked up virus in November and that had her out for a while. But in hindsight she went down fresh,” recounted the Athea man.
She ran ok in the first round but needed that as a blow out and it just got better. On the Sunday she was fresh but of course you need a bit of luck and when it came she took it in the quarter final.”
The final was the pit the McAuliffe’s four dog kennel against the might of five time winning trainer Brendan Matthews with Gadget Queen.
It was a final that was to see the Athea dog lead all the way much to glory.
There may not have been a derby final, but that certainly didn’t diminish the joy for the Guiney’s of Rathkeale. Indeed last Monday was just the fifth time in history that the final was shared.
”It really hasn’t sunk in yet - to get two dogs into any trial stake final would be great to be have two dogs in a derby final in Clonmel is the stuff of dreams,” said Denis Guiney this week.
The Guiney’s bred both finalists from Blades of Glory, who they bought back in 2007.
Denis Guiney trained Blades of Fire to win the local trial in Rathkeale. Blades of Fire was then sent to Athenry to train under Gerry Holian for the countdown to Clonmel.
Holian is the long time trainer of Reikers Island, who qualified as Corn na Feile winner in Abbeyfeale.
“It’s a great feeling - I can’t describe it,” said Denis, whose mother Mary is one of the official owners.
”It goes to show that if you keep at it, your time will come.”
He explained: “Dad (Con) had greyhounds since we were young. We were in a semi final of the Irish Cup back in 1988 but nothing as good as this. It was 2007 when I bought Blades of Glory and what a brood bitch she has turned out to be”.
”We are after a great year,” he gasped.
”Blades of Fire went up to Loughrea but lost the final up there and it was only on Monday that we heard four different dogs that have lost the Loughrea final have gone on to win the derby in Clonmel! After Loughrea we then won the trial stake in Rathkeale,” he outlined.
“Reilkers Island is unbeaten all year. Winning the Corn na Feile is like a small derby in itself.”
While both dogs were on many a shortlist from the 64 entrants last Saturday morning, there were still doubts admitted Denis.
”There was all this talk that Blades of Glory dogs don’t have stamina - that they are all speed. I was scratching my head and beginning to think the same myself, that they had the speed but not the toughness for Clonmel. But after two or three runs it was clear they were both flying,” smiled Denis, who paid tribute to his nephew Eric Jacobsen for his work in the kennel.
Much coursing attention now switches to next big national event, The Irish Cup, taking place at Limerick Racecourse in Patrickswell on February 24-26.
After a historic National Meeting in Clonmel for Limerick there is also sure to be local interest in the Irish Coursing Club awards and dinner dance in the Charleville Park Hotel on April 1.