The voice: Micheál O Muircheartaigh on that Laurels success
While he is best known for his love of GAA, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh has also had a lifelong passion for greyhound racing - and last weekend saw him land a major success at Curraheen Park in Cork.
By Sean Nolan
When the soft tones of Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh seep out of your phone you are instantly transported back to warm Sundays in the car, listening to him bring to life the events at Croke Park or Semple Stadium like no one else. The great man speaks in exactly the same way as he used to commentate, and he speaks as fluidly and passionately about greyhounds as he once did about the exploits of Henry Shefflin or Colm Cooper.
After a lifetime’s involvement in greyhound racing, Micheál achieved his greatest greyhound triumph last weekend, when his dog Razldazl Rioga, a gift from the Irish Greyhound Board on his retirement from RTE last year, won the Pat Hennerty Sales Irish Laurels race in Cork, one of the Classics of the Irish greyhound calendar.
Modest as always, Micheál attributes the dog’s success to the trainer, Dolores Ruth, but he did admit to some delight at taking home a race he had so often worked on for RTE.
“The first night I saw him run was the final [of the Laurels]. There was always something on all the other times. I was right on the line, up in the stands, in amongst the crowds but I kept quiet until he was approaching the line!
“It was a great feeling as I had broadcast many Laurels finals on RTE so it was great to see one of your own race around ahead. He was ahead before the bend and cut in beautifully to the rails and finished strongly. It was wonderful, and 100 per cent of the credit must go to Dolores.”
Here's all the action from the Pat Hennerty Sales Irish Laurels Final last weekend:
Rioga may be the highpoint of Micheál's greyhound career but he has fond memories of owning dogs back in the 1950’s and 60s, a testimony to his commitment to the sport.
“There were lots of greyhounds around when I was growing up in Dingle. Reen A’Doon was my first, back in the ‘50s and he won once in Newbridge before we sold him. Since then I have been on and off, but more on than off."
Mícheál may have retired from regular match day duties but his upcoming diary still sounds fantastically busy to us – with trips to Galway, Enniskillen and Tralee in the next few days for various engagements – but he squeezes in as much greyhound racing as he can.
His love of the sport is multi-faceted. “I love being outdoors,” he says. “Greyhound racing is the ideal sport for it. You have cover if it is cold but you can get out in the fresh air too. There is plenty of action and you meet wonderful people. People with a great interest, not just in the greyhounds, but in all sports.
“The people behind the sport deserve great credit for updating the facilities for spectators and it is a great night out now. More and more people who don’t know the sport come now for the night out. They enjoy it because the surroundings are nice and there are plenty of chances to bet without losing your proverbial shirt."
Micheál knows the passion of fans, speaking of owners he knows who travelled from Tyrone down to Cork to watch the Laurels and they have already told him they will be in Waterford when Rioga runs again. That level of commitment shows how much the sport is loved but as Micheál explains in one of his favourite stories, the hope of having a champion is what keeps people going.
“Everything is geared up until the first time you put them into a box. Until then you have great hopes that this one is going to be this one. A long, long time ago I was in Mullingar and Gerry L'Estrange, then a TD, was there and we were both there with dogs having their first trial run so we decided to let them run with each other.
“Instead of putting them in a box we just decided to let them go when the hare went whizzing past. We released them and my one stayed where he was while Gerry’s one went 20 yards, stopped and came back to us.
“I said nothing, I was so disappointed. Gerry then says philosophically that his one is worse than mine. I said I don’t see the logic there. He told me that mine took one decision and stuck with it while his decided to run and then changed his mind.”
It is that quest for a winner that kept Micheál interested for all his adult life. At 81 he may finally have a real star. It’s no more than the great man deserves.
[Pictured top: from left, Phil Meaney, chairman of Irish Greyhound Board, Pat Hennerty, sponsor of Pat Hennerty Sales Irish Laurels 2011, Razldazl Rioga's winning owner Micheál O Muircheartaigh and Dolores Ruth, winning trainer. Credit: Imelda Grauer]