The greyhound ranks were further reduced last month with the deaths of two mid-Louth stalwarts. Oweny Duffy, from Reaghstown, and Shay Rooney, a member of an Ardee family steeped in the game and also ardent GAA followers, passed away, causing widespread sorrow among those who knew them.
The esteem with which both were held, in GAA circles as well as in greyhound racing and coursing, was reflected in these restrictive times by the number of messages posted on the RIP pages, and in the attendances at the burials.
Westerns were Oweny and his son, Eugene’s club, while the famed Ardee St Mary’s provided Shay and his brothers with a Sunday outlet.
Oweny formed a fine partnership with Eugene in the greyhound game. They bred them, owned them and trained them, and there was no-one who enjoyed their winners more. They had the distinction of sending out a winner on the opening night of the new Dundalk Stadium, on Saturday 29, 2003.
Lunar Boy was their runner in the last race on the card, a 620, and justifying good support gave a fine account of himself to win comfortably.
Fast forward to this year and the lads had, as they say, a right good ‘un in Hattaway. Bred by David Dunne in Dromiskin, the son of Ballymac Vic and Glow Dubh was put in the professional hands of David Murray in Co Westmeath, and ran a succession of fine races.
Among them a four in-a-row, to reach the final of the prestigious Fair Warrior Sprint at Mullingar. It didn’t work out too well for Hattaway in the decider; he finished fourth, but with nine victories to his credit, is a prospect for 2022.
Aside from sharing an interest in the longtails, Oweny and Eugene wore the Westerns GFC colours, both staying loyal to the Reaghstown club in the absence of major honours.
On the night Lunar Boy skated in for the father and son combination, Shay Rooney was making a book at the newly-opened track. He was in the company of 15 other layers, among them one of his five brothers, Mickey. Both were maintaining a family tradition.
Their father, Frank, had for many years laid the odds at the dogs, point-to-points and pony racing, and it was perhaps inevitable the youngsters would follow suit, especially as they had clerked for him at courses throughout the country.
Gerry, another of Frank’s sons, is currently a leading layer on the coursing circuit, while Ken is also known to have shouted the odds.
Alan, Mickey’s twin brother – both Louth senior championship winners with St Mary’s in 1985, along with Gerry and Ken – is usually assigned to ‘putting them in’, which is another way of saying, he clerks. Noel is an entertainer, well known for his double act around Ardee with that great St Mary’s clubman, Barney Carrie.
Bookies have slogans, hoping to attract punters. Shay would call out, “Money back if your runner runs bad.” He didn’t mean it, of course, but he was very serious when he bet each-way at the new facility, something that was foreign to the dog track.
Your writer once said on this page that “you never see a bookie on a bike”. Ever since, encounters with Shay would open with him asking, “have you the loan of a pump”.
Dowdallshill will be poorer for the lads’ absence, the former for his friendly demeanour, Shay for his good humour and banter. Inside Track sympathy is extended to both families.
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