The greatest of them all still causing a stir

Lurgan’s second most famous son was in the news on Wednesday night when he guided Celtic to the group  stages of the Champions League but it wasn’t Neil Lennon causing ructions in his home town.

He may not have been born in the county Armagh town but he made his home there and the great Master McGrath was the main talking point in Lurgan this week as local historians and politicians squabbled over where his statue would be located. Indeed he was front page news! This story however goes back a few weeks. The local paper reported:

The Master McGrath statue has finally returned to Lurgan town centre following a six-year campaign. The bronze icon has spent its first weekend in Lurgan, having been moved on Friday to High Street. Craigavon councillors backed the move for his return following a campaign spearheaded by Dermot McCabe and Charlie Gardiner. The statue had been gifted to Craigavon Borough Council by the Brownlow family in 1993 on the condition it was kept in a secure location.

A council spokesperson said: “It was decided to locate it at the Civic Centre due to its secure location and high footfall, so all members of the public could view and enjoy it. In February 2013, permission was sought from the Brownlow family to relocate the Master McGrath sculpture from the Civic Centre to Lurgan town centre. There was an opportunity to carry out this work through the public realm scheme at no additional cost to council, and a planning application was submitted seeking approval to site the Master McGrath sculpture within the scheme.”

It would now appear a row has broken out between campaigners and local councillors. Still it’s nice to see he hasn’t been forgotten! Bred in Waterford and owned by Lord Lurgan, the 53lb dog made history becoming the first greyhound to win the Waterloo Cup three times, winning the prestigious title in 1868, 1869 and 1871.

Three time Waterloo Cup winner- Master McGrath

Three time Waterloo Cup winner- Master McGrath

In his day he was so well known that Queen Victoria herself requested an audience with the great man. He has been immortalised since in poem and in song and remains perhaps the best known greyhound ever to grace the plains at Altcar. Given that he caused quite a stir in his day it is no surprise that the famous hound is still being talked about.

Master McGrath 2

I’ve known many greyhounds that filled me with pride,

In the days that are gone, but it can’t be denied,

That the greatest and the bravest that the world ever saw,

Was our champion of champions, great Master McGrath

Sure to be missed

I’ve had this one in cold storage for a while but seeing as Paddy has raised the issue on Nuts it’s probably worth posting now. The photo below may not be the kind associated with this blog but it will have great significance for many of us this year.

Micheal McNamara

The picture of course features Micheál McNamara aka Lettersonapostcard, the man behind many of the coursing videos that have appeared on Youtube over the past couple of years, videos that have helped greatly to give the sport a wider, better educated audience.

Now, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Michéal personally but from the chats we’ve had on twitter he’s certainly a very passionate doggie man.

Currently residing in the San Clemente, California, Micheál has left some very big shoes to fill shoes this season. His video clips were an invaluable source of information for those of us trying to assess dogs that we otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to see.

We can only hope and pray (if you’re the praying sort) that someone follows Micheál’s lead and assumes the responsibility he so generously took on over the past couple of years.

Best wishes on your travels and thank you for the service you have provided the coursing community with. It’ll be all the poorer without you and your camera Micheál! I hope it’s not too long until we see you back.

The Crooked Slipper

A few of the oul lads to consider

One of the best ways to pick up points on your fantasy coursing team is to pick the right third and fourth season dogs. They may be getting on a little but as Kyle King, High and Mighty and Class Attraction (amongst others) showed last year a dog doesn’t know how old he is.

So what dogs should we look out for this year? What dogs will even return? I’ve taken a look at a couple of dogs who if they make a come back could be of interest.

Hopes and Dreams

The son of Oaks winner Chubbys Accord promised so much when he impressively won the Derby Trial Stake at Glin at the beginning of the 2011/12 season. He posted the third fastest time of the opening round of that Derby behind only Blueview Sam and Blueview Dan before falling in the second round to the latter.

After reaching the semi-final of the Desmond Cup last October he demonstrated he realised his potential as he captured the North Kerry Cup in Ballyduff sending him into the expanded Champion Stakes in Clonmel.  Here he clocked the fastest first round time enroute to winning the stake outright.

At his best he’s as good a dog as there is in the country and his connections have shown with High and Mighty that they hold no fear of campaigning a dog into a third season. Certainly one to consider.

Skellig Sunrise

Skellig Sunrise didn’t do a whole lot wrong last season and for a dog entering his third season is still relatively unexposed. Out of the first Mafi Magic litter to hit the ground Sunrise was a September pup and so it wasn’t a great surprise when he didn’t win a Trial Stake in his debut season.

Bred out of Skellig Beag, a daughter of Rith Gan Gaisce, Sunrise showed last season that he’s a dog to take seriously. Having won the All Age Stake in Ballinagar and Doon for trainer Charlie Faul he narrowly missed out on a Champion Stakes place beaten by Ashmore Sambo in a back to slips in the Ulster Cup.

He re-emerged in the Irish Cup with connections keen to make up for the disappointment of missing out and gave a great example of his talent narrowly losing out to Pocketrocketben in the quarter final.

Cuine Boy

I can see no obvious reason why this man won’t be seen on a field near you at some point next season. I’ve to confess that I’ve a real soft spot for him but he repaid the faith last season with some excellent performances. Having won a Trial Stake in Galbally he performed admirably in the Derby reaching the third round in his first season.

Last year he had three ‘regular’ season outings posting winning efforts in both Mallow and in Clonmel and Kilsheelan. Unfortunately he wasn’t seen again until the end of the season suggested something was amiss.

He returned in the Irish Cup and for a dog who hadn’t had a competitive course in three months performed well reaching the third round before losing out to Intacta Bamba. If he returns he’s worth consideration

Not totally wasting my time…

As if we needed any more reminders that the season’s crawling closer (I know I’ve been saying this for a month now) but we got a further reminder with today’s Sporting Press.

The ICC AGM has come and gone, the fixture list is published, the hare husbandry seminar is over and today the provisional list for dogs and bitches for the fantasy coursing appeared in the paper today. So I’m officially not wasting my time completely as off today.

Mr Big

The aptly named son of Adios Alonso and Ougham Miss made a big impression last year not least because of stature. Trained by Owen McKenna and owned by the Newinn Coalition Syndicate that includes new Junior Minister Tom Hayes, Mr Big showed plenty of promise in his first outing in an extremely competitive Castleisland TS losing in the third round to Spruce Bolt.

He made no mistake in his next outing winning the 64 Trial Stake in Knockgraffon in impressive fashion entering the betting prior to Clonmel at 16/1. He produced a decent first run in Clonmel producing a 12.54 clock in the opening round eventually losing out in the third round to Windsor Forest.

King Rooney

After a couple of false starts (unsighted courses if memory serves me right) King Rooney, trained in Newry by Brendan Matthews finally secured his Derby ticket at the North Kilkenny meeting. A son of Razor Ashmore and Needham Time, Rooney’s success in North Kilkenny was given further weight after his success as both Connells Cu and Crushers Mania (now Cuine Sam) secured their passage to Clonmel in the weeks that followed.

A well fancied hound Rooney went to the National Meeting at 10/1  and didn’t disappoint reaching the final morning with a clock of  12.66 the fastest of the third round. The next morning he bowed out to Kyle Leigh but he’d left a marker for this season.

A dog that looks like he’d appreciate a longer field, he’s sure to fancy at the business end of cups this season if repeating his form in Clonmel.

Phoenix Frankel

A litter brother of King Rooney and owned by the same Keogh-Matthews-Reilly syndicate (though trained by Ian Reilly) Phoenix Frankel showed plenty of ability last season when capturing the  Dog Trial Stake in Dungannon and then claiming the Corn Cuchullain in Dundalk after Christmas.

He was well fancied in Clonmel but never really produced his best form losing disappointingly to Windsor Forest in the opening round and to Man Of War in the TA Morris Purse final. Frankel has plenty of potential and should he repeat his performance in winning both his trial stake and the all age cup then he could be in the Champion Stake mix come January.

Ladies to look out for

I’ve said here on a number of occasions that I find picking bitches for fantasy coursing particularly difficult and that being the case this might be  a post best ignored! For the connections of each of the bitches however I hope I’m wrong. Here goes another four…

Crafty Divisio

Sparingly coursed last year, Crafty Diviso could well big a significant player on the All Age bitch scene this year. She won on the opening weekend of the season last year, taking the Oaks ticket in Kilflynn in what looks to have been  a fairly competitve Trial Stake.

Crafty’s next outing might have seen her beaten in the semi final but it was not without great credit  giving the real ‘iron lady’ of coursing Class Attraction a great buckle before going under in the semi final of the bitch stake in Lixnaw.

Crafty alerted many people to her potential with this run and was duly cut for the Oaks. She was progressing very nicely in that competition until she ran into Miss Fury in the third round and was beaten. With a little more luck this year then she could well pick  up more silverware.

Blades of Steel

Perhaps the most talked about puppy of last season was Blades of Steel.  As with so many of the others already listed here,  Blades is the equisitely bred daughter of Musical Time and Blades of Glory, a Grace Bruton Champion Bitch Stake runner up.

After making her  debut appearance in Regional (withdrawn third round) Blades began to become talked about as a possible Oaks winner. Her next appearance in Miltown Malbay appeared to be going swimmingly until she bumped into Stop That Ger at the semi final stage and was duly dismissed but she did the business emphatically come the Rathkeale Trial Stake in mid November.

Like her  mother Blades exited the Oaks at a fairly early stage going down on the Sunday afternoon to Gowayoudat in the fastest time of the round. She went onto Limerick and the Patsy Byrne Select Bitch Stake falling to winner Central Heroine in the semi final.

She certainly has plenty of pace and if campaigned right she should have no problem picking up a cup or two.

Miss Fury

The unheralded Miss Fury was the subject of a great deal of discussion following last year’s Oaks, indeed the decision in the semi final to give Smart Ali the course was the major discussion point in the weeks following Clonmel.

Owned and trained last year by the McGarry’s in Antrim, Miss Fury was beaten in her first appearance in Lifford before going onto win the Trial Stake in Cavan on the same day as Central Heroine. From the Cillowen Line the grand-daughter of Hollyhill Blonde, may only have been a June whelp but she demonstrated great heart at Clonmel to progress to the semi-final stage before exiting the stake.

Having been sold in the days following the Oaks, the bitch is now registered to another Antrim man Victor McDonald. Having enjoyed success last year with Dunsilly, McDonald will be hopefully that Miss Fury can replicate her success.

A quick sketch of the Kingdom

I’ve had a hectic week so I’m running a little behind. In this post I’m paying a trip to the Kingdom for this fantasy preview with 3 dogs who could be worth a closer examination.

Tilford Tom

A little like Dawn Approach, Tilford Tom made his debut appearance on the opening day at the first meeting of season as he ran away with the Derby Trial Stake at Liscannor. The first trial stake winner for Adios Alonso, Tom represented his sire admirably throughout the season the highlight coming as he claimed the Corn na Feile in Abbeyfeale, clocking with and on occasion better than the pick of the All Age Dogs at the Limerick venue.

It should be noted that the leading fantasy dogs may not necessarily perform to their very best at Clonmel and Tom would appear to fit the bill. He clocked an excellent 12.46 on the first morning of Clonmel before his exertions in Abbeyfeale seemed to get the better of him. If he can repeat the form he demonstrated in Limerick he will win cups this season.

Windsor Forest

A Derby quarter finalist last season this Pa Fitzgerald trained hound is one that can’t be overlooked in 2013. Having won a 64 Trial Stake in Newcastlewest beating Jacksons Lane along the blue dog owned by  Patsy Byrne and Niall Quinn got the better of a well fancied Phoenix Frankel in the opening round of the Derby in Clonmel.

He was  beaten in the last 8 by the eventual winner Thomas The Tank, this son of Janey MacAroo demonstrated plenty of class last season on each of his four outings to give him real claims for a place in the Champion Stakes next season.

Kingdom Call

A litter brother of Windsor Forest, Call is owned and trained by the same connections. After capturing his ticket to Clonmel in Ballyduff, Kingdom Call was put under wraps for the Derby.

He disappointed here and again in the Irish Cup losing out to Crushers Mania (Cuine Sam) and top bitch Fives Treasure respectively but just when we were beginning to doubt him he produced a brilliant performance to win the Irish Purse beating a number of Champion Stakes contenders in the process. Certainly another worth consideration when picking your fantasy selections.