Wednesday, February 9, 2011

DONEGAL POST

I thought you would all like to see this fantastic article from the Donegal Post....

Its written by Sports Editor Scott Harvey.....its a great view from someone with a open mind who wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

I must say ....Ive stood on two coursing stands this year.....one at Punchestown and one at the Ploughing Match.  This is exactly the reaction you get from the Public if they get to see coursing for themselves.
They are so used to being fed lies by Antis .....the truth often surprises them!

 Thankyou Donegal Post for telling the Truth










FAMILY AFFAIR at ONE of IRELANDS BEST SPORTING EVENTS


ONLY two weeks ago I received an email from John Fitzgerald of the Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel


Sports, urging the press to highlight his groups crusade against hare coursing in Ireland at its biggest event, the National Meeting in Clonmel.

Coursing takes place at two meetings in Donegal which is always well supported, and with intrigue getting

the better of me, I set off for Co Tipperary to gain a balanced viewpoint of the sport.



Breakfast in Millers pub



It was an early start, leaving at 6.30am and stopping just for breakfast in the village of Oola, which is

just inside the Limerick border.

I pulled in at Millers, a popular sporting pub steeped in tradition, which was advertising a Full Irish breakfast

for just 6 euros, and on entering found it full with diners carefully studying the previous dayys coursing on a widescreen TV.

The walls were adorned with photographs of greyhounds, many belonging to proprietor Joe Cribben.

Full to the brim and buoyed by the pubs hearty welcome and atmosphere,

I hopped back into my car for the last leg of my journey and soon arrived outside Powerstown Park,

the home of Clonmel racecourse, to what was an almost full car park.



Sporting enthusiasm



I asked a garda on duty where the protestors were making their stand. He pointed to a spot across the road

from the main entrance and told me that it would be later on in the day before they would be there as they

are not known for getting out of bed too early.

Entry to the National Meeting was 25, which included a complimentary card. The event itself did not

start until 11.30am, and already both stands were jam packed with enthusiastsand spectators alike, the

crowd on the rails stretching from the first bend past the stand, all the way down to the last fence on the

steeplechase course.

I decided to have a hot whiskey, my one and only of the day, and went into the bar area under the stand

which was buzzing with voices from a myriad of nations.

Access was made easier by a man called Barry Lynch, who was in the company of some friends who had

come over from Scotland and England to enjoy the coursing. The two English lads had made the journey

over from Manchester were full of enthusiasm for the Sport which is banned back home. One of them called Steve said that apart from following their beloved United, their

only other passion was coming over for the coursing, which he said brings them to Ireland eight times a year on average.



Electric atmosphere



Graeme, their friend from Scotland,informed me if you really want to experience an electric atmosphere then there are only two places to go. Clonmel for the coursing, and Celtic versus Rangers.

I explained who I was, and why I was in Clommel, and Barry kindly agreed to stay with me, explain the sports rules and answer any questions I had.

At 11 15am we proceeded to the rails area passing out through the bookmakers enclosure. I was surprised to count nearly 30 bookmakers all doing great business as wads of euros and sterling exchanged hands by the minute.



Cheltenham of the greyhound world



Something about it all felt very familiar to me, and when Barry piped up: This is the Cheltenham of the greyhound world, that pretty much summed up the whole day. The atmosphere was electric and we acquired a coveted position on the rails in anticipation of when the slipper, the red-jacketed official who releases the two dogs in every course, would start the final day of the Festival.

I got speaking to a lady from Wexford who was there with her two daughters who had a runner in one of the Consolation stakes. She explained that she had taken her chance in the Oaks on Monday, but was not good enough, but now in the consolation stake for first round losers she had won her first round and was

in the quarter final. She briefed me on the basics of hare coursing as Barry chatted away with two men who had traveled over from Sydney n Australia, and would be staying until the coursing season ends with the Irish Cup meeting whch is held in Limerick racecourse at the end of February.



Test of speed and stamina



The Wexford mother-of-two said coursing is all about testing the speed and stamina of two greyhounds against their natural quarry the Irish hare in the wild is not at about killing the hare, she said, adding that some animal rights organisations would like to mislead the public into believing. She went on to explain that the Irish Coursing Club is comprised of about 80 clubs dotted all over the country in different counties. Each year these clubs go out and net hares in the wild and bring them to the field where their meeting takes place.

The hares on arrival are checked by a vet and vaccinated against various diseases which are commonplace

in hares, including foot rot and are wormed dosed to kill any parasites they may be carrying. They are then

put into an enclosed park for a few days where they have plenty of shelter

and food including oats, sallies and turnips before being trained to run from the bottom of the field to the top.

At the top of every field, at every club is an escape about a foot high off the ground which allows the hare

access back to the safety of the hare park, but which the dogs cannot access at the end of each course.

Dogs are muzzled On the day of coursing two dogs are put into the care of the slipper at the bottom of a field of about 320 yards on average. One wears a red collar, the other white. A hare is released in front of the muzzled dogs and given about 120 yards head start and then the dogs are released in unison. The object of the sport is to see which dog is the fastest, and that is determined by the dog who is closest to the hare when he makes his escape through the escape hatch, or who turns him before he heads home

All courses vary depending on the hare and the ideal course is for the two dogs to turn the hare once about

20 yards from where the escape hatch is so that he makes it home safely A judge on a horse sits at the top of the field ready to raise a red or white flag of whichever is the victor. Hares unique vision It is worth pointing out that hares have unique 180 degree vision that allows them to see behind and know when the dogs are closing in and thus are able to make a sharp turn to put the dogs the wrong way enabling them to make their escape. You will get the odd time, she admitted, when the slippers judgment is out and the dogs might get no turn, or even make five or six turns, but that is part to the uncertainty of the game which makes it so special to coursing devotees.

Sometimes the dogs do get close to the hare but the mortality rate of hares during the time they have been

netted until their subsequent release into the wild has been documented by the Wildlife Service at around two percent. Barry, who had now finished speaking with the two Aussies, added: You must remember that clubs usually net about 100 hares during the worst weeks of the year in weather terms when food is scarce and foxes are at their most dangerous. If these hares were out it the wild he said the mortality rate with cars and predators would be much higher.



Vital role in hares survival



The coursing clubs play a vital role in the hares survival he said and an independent survey compiled by Queens University in Belfast proves that hares are more plentiful in areas where coursing takes place than in other places When the Government banned hare coursing in Northern Ireland, a

study showed that far from the hare numbers increasing, the opposite was the result.

Poaching by gangs who set 9 or 10 dogs after one hare is the problem, adding that only for the vigilance of the coursing community who watch over their hare preserves, there wouldnt be a hare left in Ireland.

If we listened to what the animal rights crowd want us to do, you couldnt kill a rat or even a fly, not to mention eating fish or meat.

The Wexford lady agreed, adding: They would ban national hunt racing if they had their way and this track Clonmel would be closed in the morning. These selfish people are eaten up with their own egos and thank god their mouthpiece the Green Party is gone, and will stay gone if the Irish people remember what false promises and hardships they bestowed on us come election time.

After some hot debate, the hour of reckoning had arrived and the first two dogs were released from slips and

turned the hare twice. I watched it get away under a canvas escape hatch, which preceeds the wooden

one and was told it is put there in order to slow down the dogs, and give the hare extra protection..



Dog with the Donegal connection



What won that course? asked Barry. Going on the outline of the rules given to me that morning, I replied the white colar. Barry smiled. You are a fast learner, he said. The coursing action soon moved on to the Derby, and Barry told me that there was a dog left in it with a strong Donegal connection. Central City, a white and

black brute of a dog, had won a cup against much older dogs at the Lifford meeting before winning his Clonmel ticket in Tubbercurry only two weeks ago, and was running very well. The dog was reputed to have been bought by the Duffy family from Donegal, who I was told are stalwart coursing supporters, for in the region of £15,000. What would make it such an amazing feat if he were to win, said Barry is that he is an August pup and is bred purely for tracking. Age wise, its comparable to a 15-year-old lad playing in a minor all

Ireland, having played senior for his club. And in racing terms its like running a purely bred flat horse in the

champion hurdle in Cheltenham. Its almost impossible to do, but there is always the chance it could happen, enthused Barry.

Remember Istabraq, I said, sharing my knowledge of horse racing. Central City duly won his semi-final and an interval of an hour was called.



30 protestors, 15,000 spectators



I decided I had seen enough to make a balanced judgment and leaving my telephone number with Barry to call me if Donegal hopes, Central City, won. I headed for my car and the long journey back. Outside I

counted no more than 30 protestors shouting slogans against the estimated15,000 in attendance. I asked

one of their group for a comment, but was refused.

Getting into my car, an elderly lady asked me would there be any chance of a lift back to Clonmel as the taxis

firms were busy. We chatted on the short trip back. She informed me that the coursing festival is worth in

the region of 20 million to the local economy at a time of year when things are quiet. She told me she that although not a coursing person herself she went out to watch a local dog called Stephens Ray run, but that it had got beaten in the quarter

final of the Derby.

Asking her about the protestors she said: Years ago before the dogs were muzzled they usually brought school children in buses mostly from the school where the late Tony Gregory TD used to teach to protest outside.

The muzzling has stopped all that, and the coursing sport has been all the better for it, she said. What do

these protestors contribute to the town?

It was a rhetorical question and I smiled as she exited to meet her daughter. I was at a petrol filling station

at 4 pm when Barry called. Irelands safest sporting event

Central City won it, he said Its the best thing that ever happened for coursing as you will now have plenty

of track dogs willing to take on the coursing dogs where it matters. Safe journey home and maybe we might see you again next year, He certainly got that right as I plan to visit Clonmel again, this time with my family, getting them to experience what has to be one of the best, and safest, sporting events to take place in Ireland, and for this I have animal rights campaigner John Fitzgerald to thank

Greyhound and Kitten Play