It’s the Bank Holiday Monday, and I’m up with the lark (well maybe a slightly lazy lark), feeling fit as a fiddle (maybe a slightly rusty one), after a Sunday night spent at home (not a pint to be seen), watching the Sunday Game, and like the rest of the country, enjoying some extraordinary hurling drama, drama that I will get to a bit later on in the piece.
Anyway, on Monday the big question was “where would we go?” There was a festival on in Loughglynn, the big fair day and loads of other attractions in Athleague, the final day of the Bloom Festival was on in Dublin, all attractive places to spend a few relaxing hours, but in the end we didn’t go to any of them – instead we hit for Mullingar, where a big international showjumping competition was taking place.
Now I knew there had been qualifiers for several different classes taking place all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but nothing could, or would, have prepared us for the sheer size of the whole event.
The first thing we saw was literally hundreds of horse lorries, horseboxes pulled by jeeps, vans, cars and SUVs, and there were people (old and young) everywhere, and as for ponies and horses…there had to be thousands of them there.
Our girl, Tara, who had a very successful show, had arranged to meet us, but we didn’t realise there were four big outdoor sand arenas, all hosting different competitions, along with warm-up areas, bars, fast food outlets, ice cream sellers, horse clothing stalls and hurdy gurdy stalls all over the massive area. It took a few minutes and a few phone calls before we finally met up.
Anyway she was involved in a competition in which 176 horses had taken part over the three days, so as that was only one of several different competitions, it will give you an idea of how many horses and riders had come to Mullingar. So she headed off to do her stuff and we pottered round the place.
There was a major international show taking place on the Main Arena, with prize-money of €25,000, so the attendance there was huge, but we rambled from arena to arena and had great fun watching all the classes from ponies with children as young as four years old to fellas as long in the tooth as myself. I have to say it was a great day’s entertainment.
The Mullingar Equestrian Centre is just out of this world, and worth a visit if you get the chance. The organisation, from parking to looking after very busy toilets, to even picking up the rubbish, was first class, and before I finish I have to say that we had the nicest burgers we ever tasted from the Arena’s food area. In total, there was €100,000 on offer, and with the prize-money so big, needless to say the riders and horses came from all over the country and further afield too. In our short enough visit we met people from Tyrone, Waterford, Donegal and Tipperary.
Now I am the first to admit that I am not a horsey person, but I did enjoy the day out. If Mullingar was anything to go by, the horse industry seems to be in fairly good health, even to my uneducated eye.
Anyway, back to the hurling drama, and as we watched one of the jumping competitions we got talking to a young couple with three children, who were seated beside us. They were from Bernaderg, Padraig Joyce country, and it transpired that the man, Paul, was the son of Oliver King, a great Galway man who had been a guard in Creggs and who had introduced a lot of us to the game of hurling way back in the 1980s. It also happened that Oliver was the umpire at the Tipp/Waterford match, the one who didn’t flag (lucky for him) the controversial goal, so he’s blameless, but in this day and age, with so much riding on the result of these big games, it was one of the most outrageous umpiring and refereeing errors of all time.
The Waterford manager, Derek McGrath, was amazingly forgiving about it all, but surely goal-line technology has to be brought into most if not all of the major hurling grounds. Thankfully when Oliver lined out for Creggs in the junior hurling championship our backline was so watertight that no ball ever got near the goal, and as a result we never needed any major umpiring decisions. Come to think of it, we never had any umpires so controversy never arose.
Like Karius, I had concussion…
Talking of goals, and errors, way back in the 1980s I let in one of the softest goals of all time in the County Final against Ballinameen. What happened? I let a long-range kick bounce off the ground, and thinking it was going wide, I made no effort to stop it. Of course it ended up in the back of the net.
It was something similar to what the Liverpool goalie (Karius) did in the recent Champions League final (although he at least tried to save their third goal), but now it seems that, according to doctors in the U.S., he was suffering from concussion after a clash with Sergio Ramos (who else?).
For a long time the goal that I conceded has been heavy on my mind, but I finally know what happened, and I am now declaring that I too was concussed on that fateful day (as I certainly had a headache the following morning). Like Karius, I am not to blame for that unfortunate concession.
Finally for this week, don’t forget the Barrie Harris funds are being distributed this Saturday night in Mikeen’s in Creggs.
There will be music, refreshments and craic, and all are welcome. It will kick off about 9.30 pm, so we’ll see you there.
Till next week, Bye for now!