LAST YEAR was an incredible time for Killmacdonagh.
Trained in Cork by Kieran Lynch for east Cork owners, Tomas Leahy and William Hennessy, Killmacdonagh took on the very best and she recorded some amazing victories along the way.
I remember her second-ever career outing, it was back on September 1, 2018, when she flew around the Youghal circuit, in 29.17. As I said in commentary that night, ‘She looks to have a bright future ahead, one for the notebook’.
Soon after that brilliant run, she joined the kennel of Cork trainer Johnny Linehan. Several high-class performances followed which included a run to the semi-final of the 2018 Irish Laurels, only beaten half a length for that all-important third-placed spot. During that time, she was owned by Jack (Farmer) Hennessy and William Hennessy. Unfortunately, a few weeks after that semi-final, Jack passed away.
Killmacdonagh came in season shortly after the Laurels final and that’s when Tomas (Leahy) bought half a share. Tomas has built up a great friendship with Kieran (Lynch) over the last number of years and she then joined the Tracton handler.
2019 got off to the perfect start with Killmacdonagh winning around in the middle of January. That victory came in an A0/A1 Open Bitch Stake, she later reached the final but could only manage fourth in the final, from a desperate draw, out in five.
Soon after, she contested the Two-Wheel Training Cork Oaks at Curraheen Park. Quickest on the clock in the semi-final stage, she impressed with a stunning 28.24 winning display. Unfortunately, for connections, she was drawn in five for the final. Not beaten far behind Boylesports Joy, she ran a fine race to finish fifth, despite the poor draw.
Limerick was the next port of call and Killmacdonagh really took to the Limerick venue. A 28.53 winner in the opening round, she backed that effort up when second behind kennel-mate Bartlemy Mags in the semi-final. What came next was sensational, in the €3,500 to the winner final, Killmacdonagh came out under the bars, posting a flying 1.11 sectional, she went on to win by a wide margin, in a top-class, 28.10.
That performance was a sign of what was to come. A few really good performances brought her to the final of the Sporting Press Irish Oaks. The Kieran Lynch kennel were delighted when Killmacdonagh was handed the trap one draw for the €25,000 to the winner final.
She had four lengths to make-up on Ballymac Arminta on their semi-final running hence the 4-1 starting price. As always, a huge crowd from Ballymacoda, in east Cork, made the journey to Shelbourne Park. Delivering a foot perfect winning run, she came home to win by five lengths to spare, in 28.17.
On that same night, Rockybay Foley was below in Curraheen Park winning the €10,000 final of the Drive On Tipp Open. Speaking about that very special night, Lynch said: “Unreal, it’s just unbelievable. These things don’t come around too often. We have hardly ever had a runner in the Oaks so to win it with Kilmacdonagh was amazing.”
Wild scenes followed as owner William Hennessy collected the trophy for this classic event. Her supporters celebrated in terrific style. Killmacdonagh goes into the history books after winning this brilliant event in superb style.
The victory comes just a few years after another Cork greyhound won the major event, that, of course, was Witches Belle, who won in 2016 for the Twomey kennel, in Lisgoold. Both greyhounds started their racing careers around Youghal track. The local track has a habit of producing major big race winners. There must be something in that sea air.
Killmacdonagh then went unbeaten in the Shelley Fennelly Memorial at Curraheen Park. In the process, breaking the track record twice and producing a new National 550-yard record in the final, setting it at an unbelievable, 29.07.
Killmacdonagh’s winning run continued in the €20,000 to the winner Dundalk International where the daughter of Zero Ten-Deercrest Lady put on another sparkling performance to beat English Derby winner Priceless Blake. A four and three quarter length winner, in a quick 29.42.
Her winning time was only three spots of the track record which was set by Droopys Verve in the same race 12 months ago. Killmacdonagh became the first bitch to win the International since Skywalker Queen in 2009, but of greater significance, she was the sixth to record an Oaks-International double after Skywalker Queen. She was also completing a glorious five-timer which began with her Irish Oaks final victory.
She lit up the opening rounds of the Irish Derby, with wins in 29.39, 29.45 and 29.61. Things didn’t go to plan in the quarters or semi-finals but she showed great heart and courage to make that all-important final. There’s no doubt she was gone over the top for the final but she still managed to finish fourth behind Lenson Bocko, bringing her career earnings to just over €68,000.
Speaking on the success of Killmacdonagh, Kieran Lynch commented: “She’s one in a million. She brings huge support where ever she goes. We have been very lucky with her.”
Killmacdonagh will be remembered for years and years to come as one of the true greats.