COURSING IN THE PARISH

OF ABBEYDORNEY

BY DAN BRASSIL

It was in 1946-1947 Coursing Season when a Greyhound by the name of Ballymacaquim Glory was all the rage in Clounanna. Owner Johnny Reidy from Ballymacaquim Abbeydorney ran up the Irish Cup and that was the encouragement for Denis Buckley and John Paul Reidy to form their own Club in the Parish.  It was on one October night in 1948 that the said Denis Buckley called for a meeting in Bobeens Hall.  The Bobeen being Robert Brosnan.  Present at that meeting were. Denis Buckley, James Reidy, Robert Brosnan, Tom McKenna, John Joe Mull, Garrett Fitzgerald, Patsy Stack, Denis Hennessy.  The meeting was chaired by Denis Buckley.  Another meeting was called two weeks later but only the same eight attended.  Money then, like now, was a problem.  The first 5 on the table for the Club was by the great motivator of those days, Tom McKenna, Cahernade, whose daughter Mrs Chrissie Maunsell , lately has enjoyed tremendous success with her dog - Fireheight Boy.  From that night on, Abbeydorney Coursing Club grew from strength to strength.

First that had to be done was to arrange with the people of Kilflynn and Abbeydorney to preserve their lands to protect the hare.  1 shares were then allotted to the Club by members and it did not take long before a dance was arranged.  The dance left a profit of 37.  The band for that night cost 7.10s.0.  When the Club was allocated a one day meeting in the 1949-50 season, it's bank account stood at 486.  At that meeting there were 4 All Age Dogs, 8 Dog Puppies, 8 Bitch Puppies and 16 Dog and Bitch and a Local Stake with the spoils being divided between Ned Sheehy and Denis Buckley.  Entry to the field on that day was two shillings and 6d for the programme.  The first Dog Trial Stake proper was not run until 1953-54 season.  It was divided between Kilmorna Drake and Kilmorna Bullett owned by Maurice Lane.

Coursing in those days was run in Harty's Field as it was called.  The Escape for the hares in that field was where  Kevin Roche's (Clounametig) house is now situated.  Tom Harty, the then owner of the present Silver Dollar Bar, was the Chairman so it is no wonder that Coursing is till the main topic of conversation with Ned McElligott and company from Tralee Races to the Waterloo Cup each year.  

Years passed on and the name of Fr. McElligott, the now Parish Priest of Lixnaw, appeared on the scene at Abbeydorney when he captured the Abbey Cup which was the main event of the Meeting.  His dog, Mac's Scamp, took the 26 Dog Stake in 1963.  On November 24th 1963, the then Chairman, Tom Harty, died and on the following year the Harty Perpetual Cup  became the feature event for 32 permanent nominators.

In every Club there are always a few Fairy Tales.  This one is called The Helicopter Dog.  In 1965 a black 70 lbs dog called Clearboy by Dandy Man and Pardy owned by Harry Travers, a scrap merchant in London was to arrive in Dillon's field next to the Parish Hall at about 5.00 p.m. in the evening prior to the meeting.  The Nominator for whom the dog would run was to be on the road holding a Daily paper as if he was reading it.  The helicopter never arrived as planned, but instead it touched down on the Knight of Glin's land in Limerick.  It took the wrong side of the Shannon river from the Navigator.  Just before Coursing was about to commence, Denis Buckley was called by the Public Address System - owner, trainer and dog had arrived.  The dog won the Harty Cup at the end of the second day as planned and by what we are led to believe a very nice few pounds were put aside by all concerned.  By coincidence, Clearboy was a half brother to the great Newdown Heather.

The Harty field was the setting for many fast four legged animals, Swanky Pa, owned by John Prenderville of Tarbert of Swanky Fame, Master Murty who ran up the Derby in 1955 after winning his Trial Stake in Abbeydorney, Spring Twilight, the dog with the big heart owned by P O'Sullivan of Tralee and trained in Ballinclogher by Tom Thornton , won his Trial Stake in Abbeydorney and went on to win the Irish Cup in 1964 and 1966.  1969 was the Club's last year in the Harty Field and a bitch puppy that year called Gentle Echo won the Trial Stake and later in the season won the Oaks in Clonmel.

Next season saw the Club in new hunting ground of Dangien O'Mahony's in Aulane, more famous for his skills in Ploughing who brought honour to the Parish with his work.  Back to coursing - Gentle Echo had brought fame to County Kerry earlier that year but she did not leave her Abbeydorney supporters down because she was back to add The Harty Cup to her list of honours.

Through the years up to then the names of James and John Paul Reidy had been synonomous with dogs and particularly coursing and it was fitting that their lands became available to the Club at no cost.  John Paul Reidy was one of the great all round sportsmen in the County.  He played in the Munster Colleges Hurling team and wore the Kerry Jersey with distinction on the Hurling field for a decade.  Their all round contribution to the Parish was never, or could never be repaid.  Their first love was the coursing and these men left no stone unturned to make their field one of the best in the County.  When the two brothers went to their eternal reward it was fitting that the Dog Trial Stake should hold a perpetual trophy in their rememberance.  It also seemed fitting that the inaugural running of the Reidy Perpetual Cup should be won by a member of the Club, sure enough it was won by Denis Brassil's Easter Thunder  who the following year won Corn na Gaillimhe.

 

Through the years the Coursing Club had many key figures but without a certain individual a job cannot be done.  Two of these jobs on the coursing field is the Slipper and Judge.  The late gentle giant himself, Mickey Murphy of Lixnaw was always available to use his skills at the end of the field as Slipper.  He has passed on these skills to our present day Slipper, his son, Tom.  Kevin Laide was our Judge in the early years who later became a very successful Manager of Tralee Dog Track.  He, in turn, was followed by the Trants, the late Paddy and Bernard who were horsemen of renown.  Donie Walsh of Cappa must have been a very proud man on the first Wedneday in February of 1977 when his marvellous dog, Boston Point won the Derby.  That same man was on the podium in Clonmel last year with Boston Cha who captured the T.A. Morris Stakes.  We in the Coursing Club are glad to have his name on our present Committee.

The Club is now in the happy hunting ground of Dromcunnig thanks to that other great doggy man, Domnick O'Brien.  What a tribute it was for that man and our Club to see the Derby winner of the previous year Big Interest rise to glory on our second year in that ground, well done to all concerned.  As stated at the begining, Denis Buckley was the first Chairman on the October night and it was only fitting that he should have held the position of officer for twenty five years, he has recently been promoted to the pedestal of our Club President.  Our present Chairman, Fionan Harty has long been  associated with us.  His guidance at the top has seen the Club go from strength to strength and with the present working committe of 35, what more can you expect from a small Club.  Long may the Sunday hunting of our forefathers and the present winter weekend of sport continue.

 

Committee of the Abbeydorney Coursing Club in the 1950s

Front Row (l to r); Pat Flaherty, John Stack, Denis Buckley, Sec., Bill McCarthy, John McCarthy.

Back Row; John Reidy, Tom Harty, Chairman, James Sheehan and John O'Connor.



THE COURSING IN ABBEYDORNEY

In Childhood days, without a care,

When fears were few and troubles rare,

We watched with glee, the hound and hare,

At the Coursing in Abbeydorney.

From boyhood's bloom, to manhood's prime,

We cheered the hare, o'er vale and climb,

In  weather foul, or so sublime,

At the Coursing in Abbeydorney.

They came from near, they came from far,

Clonmel, Clounanna and Altcar,

But none of these is on a par,

With the Coursing in Abbeydorney.

As long as I can wield a pen,

I'll praise the hearts of Coursing men,

Who smile all through, come lose or win,

At the Coursing in Abbeydorney.

So lift your voices, shout and holler,

When the flag is raised for the final collar,

We'll drink your health in the "Silver Dollar",

At  the Coursing in Abbeydorney.

                                                          Cormac O'Leary.



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