MY GREATEST GREYHOUND MEMORY
"It was 1984 and our horse Zaius, trained by Liam Browne and ridden by Stephen Craine, won a Group race in the Curragh at 6/1. It beat the favourite Magic Mirror, owned by Stavros Niarchos and trained by Vincent O’Brien, which had won last time out at Royal Ascot. We liked a bet and decided to have a right few punts on. You can imagine the thrill when Zaius won, albeit by a head, but that win totally paled into insignificance come September of the same year when the dog I jointly owned with Noel Ryan won the Irish Greyhound Derby.
We bought the dog from Joe McNally, RIP, on the condition that Dipmac would continue to be trained by his brother-in-law, Seamus Graham, also passed.
At that time, Seamus was a farmer who trained very few dogs. They were mostly his own and he was virtually unknown to our eternal foes, the bookmakers.
We entered Dipmac for the last ever greyhound Derby to be hosted at the famous White City Stadium in London. As Seamus was an unknown trainer we were able to bet our dog at 100/1.
Seamus set up in the kennels at Potters Bar, Hetfordshire, which was owned by the BGB.
He was accompanied on a rotating basis by his two great friends, Phonsie King and Donal Murphy.
Dipmac won his first two heats convincingly and was installed as 6/1 favourite. Unfortunately he injured his wrist in a gallop and had to be withdrawn and Whisper Wishes went on to win the Derby.
That meant a new target and we set our sights on the Irish Derby, which if I’m honest, we entered on a wing and a prayer.
Reinstated back in County Laois, Seamus decided that Dipmac needed as much rest as possible and advised against any long journeys for treatment and physiotherapy. That meant that I would have to ferry Plunkett Devlin, the legendary greyhound vet based in South Dublin, back and forth to Ballickmoyler on a regular basis.
I was more than happy to drive, in fact I insisted, as Plunkett drove even faster than my great friend Cathal Curley, but with about 10 per cent of his assurance and skill.
There were no motorways in those days yet the journeys passed in an accelerated heartbeat as Plunkett regaled me with tales of his numerous experiences of greyhound people and races. I quickly learnt, on a purely confidential basis, who were the best-payers, the non-payers and worst of all, the payers who could pay but wouldn’t pay. Needless to say there was a lot of talk about the betting coups that were successful and not surprisingly, not too much talk about the numerous coups that went astray.
We were also both Gaelic Football fanatics. In those days my county team, Antrim, were almost a match for Tyrone, who once had a certain Plunkett Devlin as their right half forward. Art McCrory, ex-Tyrone manager will verify Plunkett’s talent on the pitch. As for my career with Antrim, I was a brilliant left back when the team were travelling! I suffered the same fate when I played in London with Clann na Gael. I played every match until the Championship came around, at which time our teammates abandoned us and jumped aboard team Aer Lingus. Sadly my Antrim team is in now Division 4, while the mighty Tyrone have gone on to win three All Irelands.
Anyway, onto Greyhound Final night.
We were drawn trap 5 and given a 6/1 chance by the bookies. My very good friend Cathal McCarthys ‘Count Five’ was the hot favourite in trap 6.
In 1989 Cathal’s dog Latrigue Note, trained by the brilliant Ger Mc Kenna, won the English Derby in Wimbledon.
Dipmac showed incredible early pace to lead into the corner and after a thrilling race just held on to beat Glencorbry Celt, owned by another friend of mine, Stephen Barrett and trained by Jerry Melia. We won the Irish Greyhound Derby!
Needless to say we celebrated with some enthusiasm that night and had quite a few celebratory evenings after.
Thank you Seamus and Noel and Plunkett and of course Dipmac for so many wonderful memories and my greatest greyhound experience ever.
There were many other great experiences, thanks to magnificent dogs like Droopys Jet, trained by a really great trainer and friend Frazer Black. Unfortunately luck just wasn’t on our side quite as much that time, but such are the ups and downs of the sport we all love, Greyhound Racing."
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