Ireland’s most prestigious coursing title, the Irish Cup; was first run in 1905 won by Mr R Phelan’s Peerless De Wet, who beat Charon’s Choice in the final. Over the following 109 years, the race has been abandoned on four occasions and hosted by other clubs seven times, but it is undoubtedly associated with Limerick, the County Limerick Coursing Club, and the Earl Of Dunraven.
Historically the Irish Cup was run on lands owned by the late Earl Of Dunraven at Clounanna, near Adare. By all reports, the coursing grounds where a challenging open space with undulating turf and even a drainage channel within. The event was held over such a distance that was challenging to the most balanced and good-winded of greyhounds, and it was the event most dear to the heart of the Seventh Earl Of Dunraven, Thady Wyndahm Quinn; that he tried to win the Cup over many decades.
The Earl of Dunraven inherited his title of Irish peerdom when his father the Sixth Earl of Dunraven passed in 1965. The Earl inherited the many acres of land known as Adare Manor and Kilgobbin House, that included the lands of Clounanna where the Irish Cup had traditionally been held.
Through the financial pressures of maintaining the huge estates, Adare Manor was sold in 1985, and ultimately the fabled coursing ground known as Clounanna became unavailable for the Irish Cup. The event was moved to Tralee for a number of years, before the County Limerick Coursing Club brought it back to Limerick Racecourse at Patrickswell, where the cup can be enjoyed by coursing enthusiasts today.
Despite the late Earl’s passion for coursing and the Irish Cup, it wasn’t until the time honoured event had been moved from the Earl’s lands that in 2005 he finally won his much cherished coursing cup with his greyhound Castle Pines. Coursing die-hards we spoke to who witnessed the win first hand in 2005, say it was one of the greatest moments of the sport they have ever seen, with the much loved Earl and the crowd clearly behind Castle Pines in the final with rapturous scenes in the aftermath.
The Earl, who had suffered polio as a child and had been wheelchair bound, passed in 2011 leaving behind his wife, the Countess Of Dunraven and his only daughter Lady Ana Johnston. The title of the Earl died with him, as he had no male heir to carry the title forward.
The 2014 Irish Cup saw 64 of Ireland and the UK’s best coursing greyhounds each pay the equivalent of $660 to enter and be eligible for the $125,000 to the winner prize money, and the time honoured cup. And there was no shortage of greyhounds lining up for their chance with at least another six greyhounds denied entry by the Irish Coursing Clubs ranking system.
Fittingly though, it was a greyhound deeply associated with Earl Of Dunraven who started favourite for the first round of 2014 Irish Cup on Friday. Newinn Wonder, nominated by the Countess Of Dunraven and daughter Lady Ana Johnston; went to the slips for the first round of the 2014 Cup as a firm favourite for the late Earl’s family.
Eshwary Leader was well supported in early betting after being pre post favourite for this years Derby and coursing well at the arduous National Meeting at Clonmel just a month earlier. Last year’s winner Carricktobin Lad was on the third row of betting, looking for back to back fairy tale wins for battling trainer Billy Kehoe and nominator Tony Redden. To emphasise the challenge ahead of Carricktobin Lad, he was looking to become the first dog since Lusty More in 1976 to defend the Irish Cup, only the third since the first running in 1905 to win back to back Cups.
Sir Mark Prescott’s Make Peace was starting on the fifth line of betting, but it was not for lack of knowledge behind the blue brindle and white dog that saw him down in the market. Sir Mark Prescott, is well known amongst racing circles in the UK as a horse trainer of considerable note, and as the driving force behind the famed Waterloo Cup, which unfortunately fell fowl of animal welfare pressures in 2005, thereby ending 169 years of tradition.
Popular sentiment, but not the punter’s hard earned, sat with the only bitch in the 64 strong field, Catunda Magic. The blue brindle daughter of Mafi Magic and Miss Solitaire’s best credentials were the fact she was a kennel mate of cup favourite Newinn Wonder, but a horror draw meant she would meet him in the second round giving credence to the long odds she had to win her way through all six courses.
The opening round of the Irish Cup saw few surprises but fewer standouts from the top quarter of the draw. Best performed were Hi Black Jack, Sturdyandstaunch and Game Miller. Journey Of Life was a very fortunate round winner after winning a contentious decision and receiving the judges flag.
For the novice live hare coursing spectator, the judge awards the course by raising a red or white flag to represent the winner. The greyhound with the red collar always starts form the left of the slipper, while the white collar always starts to the right. Unlike track greyhound racing though, the winner is not measured as the fastest between two points. The judge awards a course based on chase, speed and what the locals call “the hunt”. The hunt occurs when the two muzzled greyhounds get close enough to the hare to cause it to change direction. There does not need to be any contact between greyhound and hare, just enough presence to make the hare turn before it escapes in to the safety of the hare enclosure. Not every course results in a hunt though and in most cases the hunt does not come in to play, but the judge will award a course based on a greyhounds commitment to follow the hare should they run offline.
The second quarter of the draw saw Newinn Wonder set the time standard of the first round, running 10.66 between the marks, almost a full length quicker than his nearest rival. In Cahoots also impressed advancing over Go Conquer, while the only female in the field Catunda Magic; set up a second round meeting with the favourite after winning her first round over Cuine Boy.
2013 winner Carricktobin Lad won his opening course of the first round but was not impressive in his action or time. Second favourite Eshwary Leader ran a 10.71 to raise the red flag and set up a second round clash with Carricktobin Lad raising alarm bells for connections. However Eshwary Leader’s connections had their own concerns as his course was not without controversy as the hare doubled back in to the field and caused the greyhound an arduous further chase after the course had been decided. It was an expression of energy the second favourite didn’t need at this early stage of competition.
Needham Danger staked his claim for the ultimate prize winning his course comfortably in 10.73, while Needham Simple proved he would be no pushover raising the white flag in 10.81. Latest Trick proved the consistency of the third quarter of the draw running 10.84 in icy cold conditions and hard rain and sleet.
The final quarter of the draw produced another gut busting course for one of the main fancies when Phoenix Frankel upset Tilford Tom in a close course, but had to contend with a hare that didn’t head straight for the escape tunnel, requiring an exhibition of chase over a much longer period of time than preferred.
Mr Blonde impressed, running 10.80 to win, and set up a second round course with Legion Express who was determined after getting a run as reserve and raising the flag. Yippee Kiyay was another who looked very good winning while Make Peace justified his backing running a flying 10.80 as the final course of the first round and securing outright second favouritism for his nominator Sir Mark Prescott.
It was an easy day for the Irish Cup contenders, with only the one course necessary. All winners returned on Saturday for the second and third rounds, while losers were eligible for entry in to the Irish Purse, but it was the cup dogs all the talk was about who would have to produce their best of five further courses to be called the 2014 Irish Cup winner and add their name to the immortal honour roll of winners.
A duller sky and cool conditions of just four degrees greeted contestants on Saturday morning for the second and third rounds of the cup, but the gusty headwind and rain that had tested on day one had all but abated.
The first quarter of the draw had seen little attention from punters and bookies had firmly wound in Newinn Wonder’s chances to 5-2 to win the cup from the second quarter of the draw, dominating the upper half of the cup chances. The bottom half of the draw was a little more open with bookies unable to separate Eshwary Leader, Needham Simple and Make Peace at 6-1.
As expected the were no real upsets from the upper quarter of the draw with Fleetwood Nova and Crafty Boohoo setting up a third round clash in 10.69 and 10.75 respectively. Journey Of Life upset Game Miller in a debatable course getting the flag in 10.68. Sturdyandstaunch looked very impressive beating We Have Bob in 10.75.
The second quarter of the draw featured the Countess’ greyhound and cup favourite Newinn Wonder and he didn’t let supporters down, winning comfortably in a flying 10.51 over the sole bitch and kennel mate Catunda Magic. Kingdom Call however set up a tantalising third round clash with the favourite pulling out a stunning 10.57 victory over young pup Crafty Yahoo.
Other runners to advance from the second quarter of the draw were Wyken Power in 10.68 over In Cahoots; and Barefoot Magnus who raised the red flag over Corriga Rebel in an identical 10.68.
The opening course of the third quarter was to be a tantilising clash between second favourite Eshwary Leader and last year’s winner Carricktobin Lad, but the match race never eventuated with Carricktobin Lad pulled out after his disappointing first round win, and Eshwary Leader given the bye. However Eshwary Leader didn’t cop the easy run, and put in a very good 10.61 solo effort to advance to the third round.
Needham Simple showed his first round run was no fluke, putting in an outstanding 10.47 run to raise the white flag over Coyote and take time honours for the second round of the cup. Latest Trick was an extremely lucky winner with the judge raising his flag as the winner over Needham Danger despite being beaten for speed and chase at vital stages in a close battle, officially being recorded as a 10.57 winner.
In the final course of the third quarter Grayacre Star did enough to get past Skellig Sunrise who couldn’t produce his first round form and was easily beaten in 10.58.
But it was the bottom quarter of the draw where all the interest was held outside the favourite, and as usual the Irish Cup did not disappoint with the first sensation being the non arrival of Pheonix Frankel in the slips, giving Cracking Jet the “walk”; running 10.69 solo to advance.
Mr Blonde bolstered his supporters confidence with a dominant performance over Legion Express, raising the flag comfortably and running 10.58 to put him right in to calculations for the quarter finals. Yipee Kiyay produced another business-like performance putting Coolvackagh away in 10.64.
The greyhound from the bottom of the draw, Make Peace made light of his second round course leading Dale Pinnochio by several lengths and holding the margin comfortably on the time section of the course, winning in a sensational 10.48; but warning signs emerged when he knuckled pulling up to the end of the slip and walked away from the course favouring his offside front leg slightly. The drama went largely unseen by punters and bookies alike, sending Make Peace to his third course as a solid equal second favourite to win his way through form the bottom of the draw.
After the lunch break greyhounds and coursing fans alike were greeted with sunnier conditions, but a gusty breeze prevailed for participants. The betting was all centred around Newinn Wonder in the top half of the draw and split between Eshwary Leader and Make Peace in the bottom half of the draw to advance to the finals.
The opening course of the third round set the tone for the round, with an upset right off the bat when Fleetwood Nova raised the red flag over the favoured Crafty Boohoo in 10.76. In the second slip, the lucky Journey Of Life continued his charmed run getting up over the promising puppy Sturdyandstaunch conclusively in 10.69.
The third course promised much with booth Wyken Power and Barefoot Magnus running identical times to meet in the third round, but the match race never eventuated with Wyken Power controlling the course from the outset and cruising to a comfortable victory in 10.76.
The fourth course and the last of the upper half of the draw saw Newinn Wonder justify his perpetual favouritism, putting paid to Kingdom Carl easily depute the fact the two had run similar second rounds times. Newinn Womder kept the dream of the late Earl and his family strongly alive running a scintillating 10.48 to take time honours for the third round by over a length and half from his closest rivals.
Second favourite Eshwary Leader did a tradesman-like job of promising puppy Needham Simple belying the time difference between the two to cruise to a red flag victory in the second best time of the round, running 10.59. Latest Trick continued his chambered run accounting for Grayacre Star in 10.67 to set up a fourth round clash with Eshwary Leader.
Cracking Jet couldn’t capitalise on his second round bye coming up against Mr Blonde who put himself right in to finals calculations dominating the course from the slips and cruising the the finish in an equal second best time of the round in 10.59.
The final course of the third round saw Yippee Kiyay leave the slips from the red collar against Make Peace from the white and the betting suggested Make Peace would raise the white flag, but it was not to be. Make Peace left the slips balanced, but immediately was under pressure and could not make ground against Yippee Kiyay. The small injury seen in his stumble in the second course was obviously starting to tell and valiant though he was, Make Peace could not bridge the gap, chasing Yippee Kiyay to the line with the winner recording a good 10.62 that would normally have seen Make Peace raise the flag.
The stage has now been set for the final day of the 2014 Irish Cup and $125,000 and immortality awaits the winner. Ahead of the 16 combatants is a further three tests of strength, speed and stamina; along with the inevitable ice cold Patrickswell winter weather and a crowd of several thousand coursing supporters.
At the centre of that noise and passion will be Newinn Wonder, who will head to the third day of the Irish Cup as the bookmakers favourite, and perhaps the sentimental favourite with the Countess and her daughter racing their charge for the glory the late Earl could only enjoy once.
2014 Irish Cup Coursing Quarter Final Draw
|1st Rd Time||2nd Rd Time||3rd Rd Time||Red Collar||vs||White Collar||3rd Rd Time||2nd Rd Time||1st Rd Time|
|10.97||10.69||10.76||Fleetwood Nova||Journey Of Life||10.69||10.68||10.94|
|10.92||10.68||10.76||Wyken Power||Newinn Wonder||10.48||10.51||10.66|
|10.71||10.61||10.59||Eshwary Leader||Latest Trick||10.67||10.57||10.84|
|10.80||10.58||10.59||Mr Blonde||Yippee Kiyay||10.62||10.64||10.88|
Australian Racing Greyhound will be covering all the final day of the 2014 irish Cup of coursing in detail, including video footage of the finals plus the highlights from days one and two.