Draghunting season in review: Authority delivered for Northern Hunt in 2022

John Coughlan reflects on a memorable season with John O'Callaghan
Draghunting season in review: Authority delivered for Northern Hunt in 2022

John O'Callaghan and family with Authority, the joint Senior champion hound and All-Ireland Senior Draghunt champion.

THERE have been many great draghunting trainers in the history of the sport but for the Northern Hunt ace John O’Callaghan it was a 2022 season to remember.

Born in Douglas John was introduced to the sport by his late father John senior when he bred Whinns Trooper with the Owenabue bitch Belle and that was the start of the O’Callaghan empire in the sport.

“We got two pups Lofty and McArthur and they had good careers but when you get the draghunting bug in the blood it’s very hard to shift and I have basically done nothing else throughout my life.” 

Looking back when John first got involved in draghunting he feels the sport is a lot different to what he experienced back in the nineties.

"Yeah it’s a little different alright but for me it’s all about training hounds to the best of your ability and hope they win a few draghunts for you.” 

Although many feel there was a better class hound in the 1970s, '80s and '90s O’Callaghan believes the present-day hounds have a lot more to contend with.

“I think the present-day hounds have a lot more to contend with in fields that is full of electric wire in paddocks sometimes up to six strands but getting electric fencing switched off is crucial for the future of our sport.” 

The first notable hound for John at senior level was Lofty who won three Internationals Puppy and two Maidens, and he was a genuine dog that served the O’Callaghan kennel well in his career.

TALENT

The hounds that were produced and trained by John were certainly an impressive array of talent.

Bellman won the Maiden International in 1992 and then went to win the Senior All-Ireland draghunt the following year.

After a few sparse years, the O’Callaghan kennel bounced back with Milligan who won the Puppy International in 2000, Senior International in 2002 and was also crowned the Donal O’Mahony Senior winner the same year.

Milligan also won a Senior International in 2003 at Stuaic. Maxwell won the Senior Maiden International in 2005 followed by Shadow Fax coming up trumps in 2006.

Another class hound was Is it It who won the Senior championship in 2007 and was runner-up in 2008 with Justice winning the Puppy championship in 2010 with Blackholm Puppy Maiden champion in 2012.

Another recruit from Cumbria in the shape of Ash Tree won Senior Internationals in 2016 and 2017 as well the Donal O’Mahony in the same year and finishing runner-up in the Senior championship.

One of his favourite hounds the aptly named Awol finished runner-up in the Senior All-Ireland draghunt on three occasions in 2017 and 2019.

Audacity won Donal O’Mahony in 2021 but it’s the current champion Authority that has really gave John a huge lift having won the Senior championship in 2021 and dead heating for the title this year.

Trailing by 32 points with four draghunts remaining Authority had to win all four races to tie for the title with Clogheen hound Slievemish Spring who looked to have an unassailable lead.

Looking back on the history of the sport this was probably the greatest achievement ever by a hound and trainer and what put the icing on the cake was the last draghunt he won happened to be the Senior All Ireland draghunt at Watergrasshill.

I have to say that over the years I have trained many genuine hounds but nothing compares to Authority as he’s a proper hound without a flaw.

“The manner in which he finishes his draghunts would take your breath away and I am very lucky he came into my life with joint owner Darren Clarke a very happy man in the UK that witnessed his All-Ireland win.” 

Behind every good man is a stronger woman and that’s certainly the case for John who married the love of his life Christine in 2003 and they have three children Brion, Johnny and Orla.

“I am very lucky Christine backs my obsession for the sport and I couldn’t have married a more understanding lady and a fantastic mother.” In recent years John has been accompanied to draghunts by his brother-in-law Dave McSweeney and his daughter Ciara.

Next season Authority will be competing as a five-year-old, but John will also have three Pups in competition as his love for the sport continues in his quest to produce another champion.

“It’s nice that Dave and Ciara are there at weekends to help me and hopefully 2023 will bring us another enjoyable season."

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