Draghunting season in review: Sport retains its popularity in Cork

John Coughlan reflects on the highs and lows of the 2022 campaign
Draghunting season in review: Sport retains its popularity in Cork

Dogs on the startline for the Maiden Race at the Donal O'Mahony Memorial Draghunt at Blarney on Sunday. Picture: Larry Cummins

THE 2022 draghunting season proved to be a major success with the Senior championship tied on the final meet of the seventh-month campaign that incidentally was the Senior All-Ireland meeting at Watergrasshill.

Indeed, let's salute the feat of the John O’Callaghan trained Authority who trailed leader Slievemish Spring by a monstrous 32 points which in turn meant he would have to win the final four draghunts of the season to tie for the title.

Authority of Northern Hunt crossing the tape to win the All Ireland Senior draghunt at Watergrasshil.
Authority of Northern Hunt crossing the tape to win the All Ireland Senior draghunt at Watergrasshil.

In the style of a magnificent hound the feat was completed when he was crowned Senior All-Ireland champion that concluded the astonishing comeback of a quality animal.

Let’s also salute the Shanakiel Harriers trainer Kieran Kearney who completed championship doubles with Kilbrittain Girl (Puppy) and Maxine Silver (Senior Maiden).

It was a cold day on the first Sunday in March when all roads led to Ballinadee where the west Cork IHT club hosted the first Senior meet of the season.

Captain James has given trainer Barry O’Keeffe plenty of fun over the years and he once again showed a good turn of foot to cross to land the Senior draghunt.

In the Senior Maiden draghunt there was joy for the William Freyne and Ryan Duffy Clogheen-trained Viper Whizz.

The family of the late Garry O’Sullivan put in a huge effort every season to remember the tremendous work he gave to the sport with his annual Senior and Puppy meeting.

On this occasion, Timoleague hosted it in May and the Senior honours went to the Damien Wade trained Slievemish Spring with The Butcher Boy of Griffin United landing the Senior Maiden draghunt.

The Sheila Cummins trained Naoi was a good winner of the Puppy draghunt.

Carraig na bhFear hosted the Munster championships in July and a good crowd witnessed three top-class draghunts.

Captain James once again showed all his class to take the Senior honours with Aaron Freyne happy to be back on the winner’s rostrum with Jamie’s Gem.

It took the John and Sean O’Sullivan Griffin United trained Sean T a few months to show his class in the Puppy grade and on this occasion, he showed a tremendous turn of foot to land the spoils.

International day is always a special one and the west Cork venue of Grange hosted it with another good day’s sport.

Michael O'Connell of the Gurranabraher Credit Union presenting the All Senior Draghunt cup to John O'Callaghan trainer of Authority also included Darren Clarke, Brion O'Callaghan and Adam O'Sullivan chairman of CCHA
Michael O'Connell of the Gurranabraher Credit Union presenting the All Senior Draghunt cup to John O'Callaghan trainer of Authority also included Darren Clarke, Brion O'Callaghan and Adam O'Sullivan chairman of CCHA

Slievemish Spring of Clogheen continued his good run with a classy finish to win the Senior draghunt with Gerry Murphy’s Northern Daisy winning the Senior Maiden draghunt.

It was a good day for the IHT when the Sheila Cummins trained Penny’s Girl won the Puppy draghunt.

Singleton’s Supervalu Hollyhill continued their sponsorship of the Donal O’Mahony meeting at Blarney where Authority finished like a scalded cat to win the Senior race from Little Miss of Griffin United and Southern/Carrigaline Harriers Blue Lad.

In the Senior Maiden draghunt the Joe and Gary Freyne of Clogheen Harriers were jumping for joy when their charge Zola ran out an impressive winner from the unlucky Maxine Silver of Shanakiel Harriers and Prince Reece of the IHT.

The Quilligan family of Northern Hunt were also in jubilant mood when their young hound Sally’s Girl won the Puppy draghunt from Wolfe Tone Lass and Kilbrittain Girl.

The month of September is always special and Ballinspittle hosted the Puppy Ireland at the picturesque venue.

In good open country the title went to Griffin United as the father and son training partnership of John and Sean O’Sullivan celebrated in style after witnessing their young hound Sean T give an exhibition of running. The Gerry Murphy IHT-trained Diamond finished runner-up ahead of Sally’s Girl of Northern Hunt.

 Sally's Girl was the winning puppy at the Donal O'Mahony Memorial Draghunt at Blarney on Sunday. Samantha and Stephen Quilligan and boys Kayden and Kyle from the Northern Hunt with the Puppy Race winner. Pic: Larry Cummins
Sally's Girl was the winning puppy at the Donal O'Mahony Memorial Draghunt at Blarney on Sunday. Samantha and Stephen Quilligan and boys Kayden and Kyle from the Northern Hunt with the Puppy Race winner. Pic: Larry Cummins

At the end of the season, there was pressure on the Cork City and County Harriers association to find a suitable venue for the Senior All-Ireland which is the Blue Riband draghunt of the season.

Credit to Denis O’Callaghan and Tristan Herlihy of Fair Hill Harriers with little time they put together a wonderful open running course at Watergrasshill/Bartlemy.

In the end after a terrific race it was fitting that the John O’Callaghan-trained Authority of Northern Hunt would land the title that ensured him sharing the Senior championship with Slievemish Spring.

Jamie’s Lady of Clogheen and Jake of the Kerry association snatched the second and third tickets.

In a season of love and happiness let’s not forget the families of the late Billy and Margaret Busteed (Mayfield), Ritchie O’Donovan (Mayfield), Timmy Herlihy (Griffin United), Christy Conway (Fair Hill Harriers), John Crowley (Kerry Pike) and Michael Freyne (Clogheen) who all passed away this year.

May I take this opportunity to wish all draghunting followers and their families a very Peaceful and Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2023.

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