The Leeside legend series: Christy Keating set the standard in draghunting

The Leeside legend series: Christy Keating set the standard in draghunting

Christy Keating with senior International Maiden winner Molly’s Boy, and his grandchildren Westley and Maddison Mackey.

THE famous Kerry Pike club was founded in 1823 and now in its 197th year it’s success in the sport of draghunting has made them the most successful club in the history of the sport.

Try and imagine, if you can, the lifestyle of 1823.

People of that era spent most of their leisure time sitting around the house fire enjoying (or tolerating) every minute of each other’s company. There were no cars, TV, radio or telephones and street lighting was powered by gas as people lived simple lives.

At this time the sport of draghunting was founded to help pass the long days and to keep the youth of the time amused and busy. Almost 200 years later the sport is alive and well and has produced many legendary trainers, none more so than Christy Keating — arguably the greatest trainer of all time.

Christy was born in 1949 and was introduced to the sport by the late Kerry Pike stalwart Tim ‘Thada’ O’Connor.

For the last 61 years, his dedication has seen him train winners in every major event on the draghunting calendar.

In 1964 Keating trained his first hound called ‘Rambler’ and within two years he was producing winners.

Kerry Pike purchased the second ever hound from Cumbria and the aptly named ‘Thornlea’ soon made his mark when winning the 1966 championship.

A career-ending injury stopped the march of this hound in 1967 and despite getting advice from top veterinary surgeons this hound was forced to retire. After a few tough years the good times came back to Kerry Pike and Christy in 1974 when they acquired the incredible ‘Cartgate Laddie’. This partnership proved unbeatable as he won a hat trick of senior championships from 1976-78.

Incredibly, the only draghunt to elude him was the Senior All-Ireland as he finished runner-up on three separate occasions.

Cartgate also became the first hound to win the inaugural International match between Ireland and England in 1975. To the majority of observers in the sport ‘Cartgate Laddie’ was the greatest hound to ever to grace the sport in this country.

To this present day when the name and achievements of Cartgate are mentioned, Christy has been known to fill up with emotion and such was his love for the legendary hound his present house is called after him.

In 1983 Keating trained another Senior International winner when Montego Bay romped to a facile success. Christy holds the record for training International winners as his tally of eight includes two Puppy, one Puppy Maiden, four Senior and one Senior Maiden which no trainer has achieved.

In 1997 Christy struck Gold again when his club purchased a puppy from England and duly named him Mason.

In his Puppy season Mason notched up 22 wins but when he stepped up to the senior ranks in 1998 he broke all records.

In one season Mason was a Grand Slam winner of the Hound Championship, Munster Championship and All Ireland Championship.

In the same season Mason also won the Senior International but as the adage says, ‘behind every great man is a great woman’.

Enter wife Marie whose work for the sport has made her the most unsung member in the Cork association as Christy paid tribute to his wonderful partner.

“Marie deserves many plaudits over the years as her contribution was crucial to the success of kennel.

“I am a firm believer no matter how good a trainer you are you must have the animal as the saying goes that you cannot train a donkey to win a derby that’s basically how it is in draghunting,” said Christy.

This season Kerry Pike have come together with Fair Hill as lack of members in both clubs forced the issue.

“It was a case of folding if it didn’t happen, but look we both kept our identity as there was almost 400 years of history between the two clubs,” added Keating.

The records set by the Keating family in the sport of draghunting may never be equalled, never mind beaten in the years to come.

Christy Keating has set the standard.

His contribution to the sport will never be forgotten as he remains the greatest trainer this country has ever produced.

Christy Keating with Cartgate Laddie champion hound 1976-'78 and winner of 106 draghunts in an illustrious career.
Christy Keating with Cartgate Laddie champion hound 1976-'78 and winner of 106 draghunts in an illustrious career.


  • Christy Keating is the most successful trainer in the history of draghunting.
  • Keating has been training hounds for 56 years for his club, Kerry Pike.
  • Christy trained Cartgate Laddie who won the Senior championship in 1975, 1976 and 1977.
  • Keating’s record with Mason saw him win the Senior Championship, Munster Championship and the All Ireland championship — the first hound to complete the Grand Slam in the sport.
  • Cartgate Laddie under the training of Keating won draghunts in Cork, Kerry, Waterford and Clare during the 1975 season — the only hound ever to achieve that feat.
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