ONE of the greatest moments in 2019 was when the Kieran Lynch-trained Rockybay Foley won the Irish Greyhound Laurels for the second consecutive year at Curraheen Park Greyhound Stadium.
Rockybay Foley defeated Native Chimes to win the 2018 competition and there were glorious celebrations that night as Foley delivered a first Irish Laurels victory for local Cork trainer, Kieran Lynch.
Lynch became the first Cork trainer to win the Laurels since Christy and Liam O’Callaghan captured the classic with Standard Image back in 1995. It was another magical night at the Cork venue in front of a packed house.
Obviously, before the 2019 event, all the talk was about the defending champion, Rockybay Foley.
Although Foley had won his opening two rounds in his bid for history, many thought Rockybay Foley would find it difficult to make it back to back Laurels titles. In the semi-final, he was turned over by Ballyanne Sim, beaten three and a half lengths by the 2018 Derby winner, in 28.27.
Rockybay Foley was sent to the traps as the 7-4 market leader for the 2019 showpiece, carrying plenty of local market support.
Owned by Chrissie Slyne, Rockybay Flyer took an absolute flyer of a start. The stand was in full voice when Rockybay Foley went around the opening turns in front.
Grangeview Ten turned second but Foley soon raced a length and a half clear.
It all changed at the third corner when Grangeview Ten got a dream run along the inside to take up the running.
However, last year’s champion wasn’t giving up, battling back on the home straight, the brilliant Rockybay Foley pulled out all the stops in the final yards.
Outsider Donna Buck came with a strong late finish and they crossed the winning line together.
It took a while for the result to filter true but once people had realised Rockybay Foley had won, the place went mad.
When headed, it looked like his chance had gone but Rockybay Foley once again showed what a champion he is.
In a photo finish, Foley finished a short head in front of Gerry Holian’s Doona Buck, who was a further neck in front of Patrick Guilfoyle’s Grangeview Ten. The winning time was 28.57.
After the race, A delighted Kieran Lynch said: “Foley won this last year and has a real soft spot in my heart. This final was probably one of the best Laurels finals ever.
“To come out the right side of it is just incredible.
“He’s a phenomenal early pacer. He did everything right tonight. This year has been phenomenal.”
As a four-year-old, Foley is the first ‘veteran’ winner of a Classic in a long number of years.
Kieran Lynch added: “Myself and Pat Guilfoyle were walking back across the track and looking at the board and it was flashing, and next thing ‘1’ came up and I heard the shouting. Pat turned to me and said ‘you’re up’.
“I never shout — I would on the pitch but not on the track as I have too much respect for other owners, but I gave a bit of a roar tonight. I’m delighted. Absolutely thrilled.
“I know he didn’t run that well in the Derby last year, but he had his problems.
“He’s a phenomenal early pacer, but he had his box tonight — trap 1 is worth a fortune at any track, but especially here — but he still had to do it. You have to do things right out of one, and he did, in fairness.
“This year has been phenomenal. We started this year with my dad getting sick, we had some hard-luck stories, but it was brilliant to see him here tonight. He was even galloping with me during the week. And it was just brilliant to see all the brothers and sisters here, and my smallies as well, it’s an incredible family feeling.
“This year has just been incredible,” he added.
Speaking on the final night, Cork hurling legend, Jimmy Barry Murphy said: “It’s a dream success story, with Rockybay Foley making it two in a row, local trainer Kieran Lynch who has done a fantastic job with the dog, kept him fresh all year with this in mind.
“From our committee’s point of view, it was a dream result.
“Looking forward for the greyhound game as a whole, it’s something we need to build on it nationally. The public need to get behind the game, and the Board give leadership and take back ownership of the game ourselves. Sponsors are hard to come by, but the public showed, by backing us in Cork, that it’s possible to do it, and you saw that with the over that event.”
The 2019 Irish Greyhound Laurels will be remembered for years to come. Huge credit must go to the committee which included Jimmy Barry Barry, Tony Winters, Damien Holland, JJ Fennelly, Michael O’Driscoll and Vicent O’Donovan.
With all of that hard work, they could have hardly dreamed of how this event would have turned out. There was a brilliant line-up for the Laurels final, a top-class card of racing and most importantly, a huge and passionate crowd at Curraheen Park. There’s no doubt that the future is bright for greyhound racing in Cork.
Rockybay Foley will be remembered for years to come. A glittering racing career, he won 25 of his 35 career outings, bringing his career earnings to over €79,000.