Greyhound focus: Kerry footballer Anthony Maher on his first love 8 years ago

Greyhound focus: Kerry footballer Anthony Maher on his first love

Kerry footballer Anthony Maher may be more familiar with Croke Park or Fitzgerald Stadium, but as he tells JOE, he's equally at home at the track.

By Conor Heneghan

When you’re an inter-county footballer these days, time can be something of a precious commodity. Even now, in the so-called ‘off-season’, players are slavishly dedicating themselves to strength and conditioning programmes, are watching their diet and are already thinking about next year even though the season just passed has barely come to an end.

As a result, other concerns such as work, hobbies and even wives and girlfriends are put on the back burner in order to get that one step ahead in the pursuit of silverware. After all, the career of the average inter-county player is all too brief and the majority of them are determined to make the maximum impact while they still can.

The race itself, there’s a great buzz and a great thrill about it, I know they only last for just under 30 seconds, but there’s a great buzz being involved.

Thankfully, for Anthony Maher, silverware hasn’t been in short supply in recent years. He may have been on the losing side in an epic All-Ireland Final a couple of months back, but when you’re from Kerry, two years without an All-Ireland title represents a mini-famine and there would be crisis talks in the Kingdom if the mantelpieces are left bare of Celtic Crosses for the third year in succession next September.

Unfortunately for Maher, however, his involvement with the Kerry team has influenced the amount of time he can dedicate to one of his first loves, greyhound racing. Maher has been involved in greyhound racing for as long as he can remember, but football has taken over in recent years and he hasn’t been involved at home or at the track nearly as much as he would like.

“I suppose I wouldn’t really be involved that much at all now,” he told JOE recently.

“Any time I’m at home and the dogs are racing I’d go to the track with my father but between college and going training and playing matches I wouldn’t be at home as much as I’d like to be.

“When I was younger, when I was at home and in school, I would have been helping out training the dogs, walking them in the morning and in the evening. Back then, I had a more active role in training them but since I moved away to college I’m not at home as much as I used to be and I’m not as involved as I was in the past.”

Maher inherited the love of greyhound racing from his father, who always had a dog or two on the go and another pup coming up ready to replace him. He’s enjoyed a sniff of success over the years, but as anyone involved the sport would probably admit (and especially a medal-laden Kerry footballer), not as much as he’d like.

Anthony in the more familiar surroundings of Croke Park

“I haven’t had as much (success) as you’d hope for,” he laughs, “but we had one dog there, Minarue, he won a good few races in Tralee and in Limerick and we got good old enjoyment out of him, but like any fella would say, they haven’t done as good as you’d want them to do!

“We’ve had two dogs racing in the last six months but we didn’t have much luck with them. We’ve two Cashen Legend pups we bought off (trainer) Chris Houlihan; they’re six months old so they’ll be the next thing we’ll be hoping for now.”

Greyhound racing is not something that is often talked about in the Kerry dressing room. According to Maher, only David Moran shares his passion for the dogs, but like Maher, his interest has relinquished somewhat because of his football commitments.

Still there are plenty of Maher’s neighbours in Duagh that share his passion and while the social aspect outside of the sport is something he enjoys, he says you just can’t beat the buzz of the track.

“The race itself, there’s a great buzz and a great thrill about it, I know they only last for just under 30 seconds, but there’s a great buzz being involved,” he says.

“Even when you’re parading the dog, you put the dog into the trap, then you’re out in the field waiting for the break seeing where he is and it gives you a great thrill looking at it going round and hoping it will win.”

With the National League not underway again until January, Maher has a little bit of time on his hands and reckons he might make it to tracks in Tralee or Limerick around the Christmas time. While he isn’t intimately involved in owning and training dogs at the moment, it is certainly an interest he is keen to rekindle in the future.

“Yeah provided the circumstances allowed, I’d like to be involved with dogs in the future, not even on a large scale but even to have one or two dogs on the go just to have the buzz of going to the track and seeing a dog racing and hoping that you’ll get a good one.”

Still, at 24, you’d imagine that he has a few years of medal-collecting to do with Kerry first.