JOE talks to the voice of greyhound racing in Ireland, Michael Fortune
If it happens in Irish greyhound racing, Michael Fortune will know all about it. JOE sat down to pick his brains and find out about his lifelong love of the sport.
If you have ever been to Shelbourne Park on a Saturday night, or googled a dog’s name to find out the latest news, then you will be aware of the work of Michael Fortune.
The Wexford native is both the written and spoken voice of greyhound racing in Ireland, as he calls all the big races at the country’s top track and he is the go-to man for news with his Talking Dogs page on the IGB website.
Like so many of the people involved in greyhound racing Michael was born into a house that was greyhound mad and that bug never leaves you once you have it. His father was an owner and trainer and as Michael says of the sport at the time “it was a fun game more than anything else”.
Michael left Wexford to pursue a journalistic career in Dublin in the mid-sixties and by 1968 he had joined the sadly departed Irish Press. Michael worked his way up the ranks, covering every sport you can think of, before specialising in horse racing. Writing about greyhounds was more of a hobby but it soon became his life.
Showing as good a nose for how businesses are run as greyhounds, Michael left the paper in 1990 – it would close five years later - and turned his hobby into his new career.
And just like another great voice of Irish sport JOE has spoken to, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, it is the people involved that keeps Michael in love with the game.
“There are great people involved in greyhounds, that’s what I love most. In my working life I would have been 80 per cent horses and 20 per cent greyhounds and the difference between both sports is massive.
“The people you meet and the people you deal with [at the greyhounds] are so down to earth. I am a National Hunt man when it comes to racing and they are similar sort of people."
But Michael also appreciates the speed and skill of the dogs he watches.
“I get a great thrill out of watching a greyhound run. I love it if a greyhound of mine wins, even if it is in the smallest race in the country. I love following a fast pup too and watching its career and predicting its future.”
Unsurprisingly, Michael is a huge fan of the greyhound sensation of 2011, Milldean Panther, a dog we have profiled here on JOE.
“The first night he ran I got a phonecall alerting me about him and since then I have jumped on the bandwagon. It’s great to see." The unbeaten Milldean is one of Michael’s ones to watch for 2012, but we will have more of those for you in the New Year
But the ease and flexibility of the sport in Ireland these days makes it so appealing, according to Michael, for owners and spectators.
“You can race your dog twice a week,” he says. “You don’t have to take a day off to see him run and with the facilities now at greyhound tracks, you can have a big family night out and you can really make an occasion of it.”
And it’s not just the facilities, its top-class sport too.
“Saturday night in Shelbourne Park is the greatest sports night of the year and it happens every Saturday night. Every Saturday night in Shelbourne Park you have world-class animals competing. You don’t get it anywhere else,” says Michael.
With an endorsement like that, you know where you have to go next time you have a free Saturday night.