Barry Drake

Tralee Track Honoued Johnny Kelly last week, and it was fitting that he is our first Hall of Fame recipient, after a career full of illustrious achievement and memories.

Johnny Kelly actually won six races one night at the old Ballybunion track, a truly incredible achievement and one which will always carry a special aura about it.

All the big events were won on a regular basis by him, such as four Rory O’Connell Cups, three Lohercannon Cups, two Hannafin Cups, two Harp Lager Sweepstakes, two Gold Collar Sweepstakes and a sizeable number of puppy derbies.


Probably his greatest greyhound was a bitch called Manhattan Bell, which won no less than 28 open races for him.

Another star was Dungeel Ranger, which gave him one of his Gold Collar victories –and this after being brought back from stud.

In those days, Tralee Track closed for the winter and Johnny Kelly brought Dungeel Ranger over to England for races. While there, Dungeel Ranger beat some of the best sprinters in training.

England, of course, wasn’t exactly foreign territory to Johnny because he had previously worked for a period under the famous Jimmy Rimmer at Wembley.

Under Rimmer, who was slipper at 22 Waterloo Cup coursing meetings, Johnny gained invaluable experience and, through contacts he established, he was to subsequently send a lot of greyhounds to England, particularly Crayford.


Johnny’s uncle, the late Paddy Kelly, won the English Derby with Dunmore King and he had other renowned greyhounds in Hi There and Crazy Parachute.

Paddy Kelly was also the man, who invented ear-marking. Johnny Kelly dabbled a fair bit in coursing going back the years and one of his charges, Spa Road, was deemed particularly unlucky not to have been given the flag in the final of the Kingdom Cup.


Johnny’s wife, Nora, shares his passion for the longtails and the two of them are very much part of the scene just about every night at Tralee Track where they have runners on a regular basis with varying degrees of success.

Their daughter, Liz, is married to trainer, Padraig Regan, of Kilmoyley South, son of classic-

winning trainer, the late Donal, and they have two sons Sean and

Dominick. Johnny’s son George lives in Boston and is married to Ellen and they have two children Maeve and Eoin.


The remarkable success which he enjoyed going back the years rests very lightly on the shoulders of Johnny Kelly and he would definitely be the last man to talk about that famous six-timer at the old Ballybunion track, or about all the big pots he won.

Johnny remains one of the most popular trainers at the Kingdom Greyhound Stadium and I think there will be universal approval of Johnny being the first to be inducted into Tralee’s Hall Of Fame.