It was an almost surreal atmosphere at the Longford GAA race day in Punchestown last Wednesday as the inclement weather did its best to dampen the mood at the annual fundraising event.
Over 1,200 supporters of Longford GAA braved the lashing rain and the biting wind to make the journey to the racecourse just outside Naas last week. Arriving at the course, it resembled a ghost town, sparsely populated with a few miserable looking stewards and a collection of cars outnumbered by puddles.
But despite this, when you eventually made it through the blustering gales, passing the shrieks of “my hair”, “my tan”, “me bloody shoes” you were immediately taken aback by the full house in the Longford tent.
There were chances the event would be cancelled, as organisers at Punchestown kept the gates closed until 1.30pm when a final course inspection took place. Organiser Martin Skelly was beyond himself with relief when Ruby Walsh gave him the nod and said “ah, it’s grand” and things should go ahead.
Dick O’Sullivan, general manager at Punchestown, wiping rain from his brow, told the crowd he was shocked by the turn-out in the Longford tent.
“If Longford won a National League or an All Ireland, we wouldn’t be able to hold ye. Put simply, ye’re the reason that we’re running the races today,” the Kerry native said. “I thought I’d never say this but if ye met the Kingdom in an All Ireland final, I hope ye’d nearly beat us,” he said.