ANOTHER major shock in the Gurranabraher Credit Union Senior All-Ireland draghunt as a 50/1 shot Captain James trained by Barry O’Keeffe of Shanakiel Harriers spread-eagled the field to win the Blue Riband title at Whitechurch.
Going into this race this hound had only achieved one point for the entire season and that was back in July in the Munster championship.
The hounds were slipped at Whitechurch before they crossed the main Whitechurch/Bottle Hill Road.
From this vantage point they raced onto the School Road before heading on to Animo Bridge that took them in the townland of Pearcetown.
The pressure was now taking its toll on some hounds as they raced to Dun Bolg as they veered towards Carrig Na Bhfear.
On the home stretch of sheer open terrain they raced up the Whitechurch Road towards the finish.
The entire distance of the draghunt was 14 miles that took the hounds 39.14 minutes to complete and shows the wonderful athleticism of these wonderful genuine animals.
Right from the flag dropping the hounds drove the hunt at a ferocious pace and reports from the various vantage points suggested no checks of any significance.
When the hounds showed on the finish one hound had got a break on the pack as he came closer to the tape it was evident it was Captain James who was a clear 50-yard winner.
The connections of the winner were elated as winning the biggest draghunt on the calendar is everybody’s dream and Barry O’Keeffe and his family were visibly shocked and delighted with the performance of their hound.
Joe Freyne, Clogheen Harriers, at the Gurranabraher Credit Union All-Ireland Senior Draghunt at Whitechurch.Picture Denis Minihane.
William Freyne, Clogheen Harriers, (left) and Andrew O'Callaghan, Mayfield Harriers, at the Gurranabraher Credit Union All-Ireland Senior Draghunt at Whitechurch.Picture Denis Minihane.
“I suppose the great thing about this draghunt is that every trainer came to Whitechurch today hoping they could win it and we were simply in that group,” said Barry O’Keeffe.
The O’Keeffe family are used to winning this draghunt as this was their third success in this championship and in the words of Barry, they are all special.
O’Keeffe added: “I don’t think you can select any one of them as special but certainly I think today is the one that came right out of the blue.” IHT trainer Gerry Murphy has a good record in major meetings and that continued as his charge Northern Daisy finished a gallant runner up.
Clogheen went into the meeting as hot favourites to land the big prize and although managing three tickets they just fell short on the day.
Slievemish Spring trained by Damien Wade ran another cracking draghunt to take third place that concluded a very good season for this young hound.
Dave and Damien Kidney’s Southern/Carrigaline Harriers charge Samantha’s Lass finished her season on a high note by finishing fourth.
Jamie’s Lady concluded her season in fifth but more importantly for the Clogheen trainer Aaron Freyne it secured the Senior championship for his talented hound.
The Ryan Duffy and William Freyne trained Jazzy Whizz ended a magnificent season when he filled the remaining sixth ticket.
The dedication of draghunting folk was epitomised when Davy O’Shea a 70-year-old member of Shanakiel Harriers pulled the hunt on the finish which is a great achievement by any stretch of the imagination.
The Cork City and County Harriers association would like to thank the farming community for ensuring the success of this great day.
Many trainers departed Whitechurch with mixed emotions but for Barry O’Keeffe it was a day when his rank outsider Captain James steered his kennel to the coveted title.
1. Captain James (Shanakiel Harriers); 2. Northern Daisy (IHT); 3. Slievemish Spring (Clogheen); 4. Samantha’s Lass (Southern/Carrigaline Harriers); 5. Jamie’s Lady (Clogheen); 6. Jazzy Whizz (Clogheen)
57 ran 39.14.