Marie Keating has never lost her passion for the sport of draghunting

Kerry Pike native remains to the fore of Cork draghunting
Marie Keating has never lost her passion for the sport of draghunting

Denise Rall, Marie Keating, with Catherine O'Hare and Kayleigh Buckley of Northern Hunt and then five-year-old Leah Kelly at the Puppy All-Ireland Draghunt at Watergrasshill in 2007. Picture: Larry Cummins 

MARIE Keating, the Kerry Pike based wife of the legendary draghunting trainer Christy, continues to work hard for the betterment of the sport.

It all began for Marie when she met Christy in 1974 and two years later, they were married and blessed with four children Louise, Karen, Christopher and Daniel.

In the early years, Marie hadn’t time to get involved with her husband’s love for draghunting as she had a young family but the sport was the number one topic in their household.

“We had Cartgate Laddie in the early years of our marriage and without going into his record Christy was besotted with this great hound and we all rowed in behind him,” said Marie.

Indeed, the Keating kennel had some wonderful hounds in the 1970s, '80s and '90s and won every major title on the draghunting calendar.

Marie Keating with Dark Destroyer, Kerrypike Harriers,  after winning the open puppy drag at the Donal O'Mahony Memorial in Blarney. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Marie Keating with Dark Destroyer, Kerrypike Harriers,  after winning the open puppy drag at the Donal O'Mahony Memorial in Blarney. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

When you mention hounds like Montego Bay and Mason quality shines through and all were trained by Christy and Marie Keating.

In 1988 Marie got involved fully in the sport when they acquired a useful pup called Shamrock and from there the bug of draghunting was totally in her veins.

The noughties have been tough for Marie and Christy but with a smile, she reflected on their colorful career in the sport.

“It’s very simple we experienced all the glory years and when you are long as we are involved there is always a chance you will get a slump and that’s the fun of our sport.

“On my side, it’s all about training your hounds and if they can get a place on Sunday it's great and when a win comes your way it’s a huge bonus but I think that’s the attitude of the majority of people in the sport.” 

For the draghunting fraternity, the work that Marie has done on the administration side has been commended by both her own association and by the HTA in England in the manner she conducted her business.

Although stepping down in 2020 she still has the dealings of registrations, licensing, insurance and points system and she gladly helps the current association secretary Troy O’Mahony from Mayfield Harriers.

“I loved doing the job because there is no way you would stick it if there wasn’t a buzz doing it but 16 years is more than enough to serve on any committee.

“The one plus for me is that I had the time to do it as working on a full-time basis and trying to do the role of secretary would be very difficult.

“I am more than happy to help Troy and the association are lucky as he seems to be very good in the role.” 

Marie Keating, Esther O'Keeffe and Caroline O'Keeffe checking the dogs. Picture: Richard Mills
Marie Keating, Esther O'Keeffe and Caroline O'Keeffe checking the dogs. Picture: Richard Mills

For the past 18 years granddaughter Leah has been involved with Marie and Christy but in the words of Marie getting young people involved in the sport is one worrying aspect for all clubs.

“Leah has been with us and is a great help but there will come a day when she will lose interest and that happens with young people in general.” 

Kerry Pike were founded in 1823 but last season they were forced to amalgamate with another famous Cork club in Fair Hill Harriers as Marie explained.

“The bottom line is that we were struggling for numbers and we couldn’t continue as many of our members were too old and it was either fold or join ranks with Fair Hill and we chose the best of the two options.” 

The amalgamation has worked well, and Marie is delighted that her club who had 197 years of history behind them is still competing at the top level.

“Fair Hill have a few younger members and that takes lots pressure off and as a joint venture we seem to have gelled well.” 

The present pandemic could disrupt the coming season that is due to start on Sunday, March 7.

“Last season we were off from mid-Match until late June so who knows what we are facing in the coming months so it’s a waiting game for all trainers.” 

There is a large number of pups for next season and the Keating family have three youngsters presently being prepared for the campaign.

“We love rearing pups as you get the thrill of setting them off and from there they learn to hunt the aniseed and paraffin mixture.” 

There is little doubt the love that Marie Keating has for the sport of draghunting is incredible, but she believes for survival attitudes must change.

“I think some people tend to worry too much about petty issues and for me, I am appealing to all members from the various clubs to bring positivity into the new season and hopefully it will be an enjoyable one for all concerned.” 

It has been some journey for Marie Keating and her contribution to the sport of draghunting makes her a very Special Lady.

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