Over 1,000 attend GAA Race Day

Longford GAA Race Day organiser Martin Skelly, Mickey Joe Keogh from Killoe (sponsor of the Best Dressed Lady competition), Melissa Lyons from Kildare (winner of the Best Dressed Lady), RT�s Sinead Hussey, Colette Reynolds (Hair Square) and Longford GAA PRO Gerry Hagan at Punchestown on  Wednesday last. Photo: Declan Gilmore
From pounding hailstorms and long shot winners to snazzy outfits, you name it last week’s Longford GAA Race Day had it all.

From pounding hailstorms and long shot winners to snazzy outfits, you name it last week’s Longford GAA Race Day had it all.

More than 1,000 supporters and eager racegoers crammed inside a specially erected pavillion last Wednesday at Punchestown Racecourse, the home of Irish National Hunt Racing.

Their aim? To support arguably the biggest social occasion on the GAA calendar while picking up a winner or two along the way.

While the latter of those two aspirations proved more onerous than at first appeared, the occasion itself more than made up for any disappointments punters may or may not have been harbouring.

Certainly, they were sentiments Race Day Chairman Martin Skelly seemed keen to exude once the celebrations had died down.

“Ah sure look, it was a serious occasion,” he confidently asserted.

“In truth, this year was probably one of the easiest sells. We could have sold another 30 tables and the people would have come.

“I think it’s the one day in the year that Longford people want to make a statement. It’s a day when they say ‘Okay, I’m from Longford and I’m proud to be from Longford.”

In heaping praise on his fellow committee members John Bannon and Gerry Farrell, Mr Skelly said there were many highlights to take from the day.

Among them was the customary crowning of the afternoon’s best dressed lady, an honour that went the way of Melissa Lyons from Kildare.

As she received her congratulations from a judging panel led by Killoe’s Mickey Joe Keogh and Hair Square’s Colette Reynolds, the focus was drawn to the day’s seven-strong racecard.

Tipping advice was given by leading jockey Bryan Cooper and Liam Glynn from Boylesports in Longford.

The bookies, however, would have been rubbing their hands with glee following the first two races as 33/1 shot Shamiran and then 50/1 outsider Walk to Freedom emerged victorious.

Salvation for some, came in the day’s feature event, the Punchestown Gold Cup courtesy of the Gordon Elliott trained Don Cossack.

A couple of unfancied runners took the next two races before David Pipe’s 9/4 favourite Champers on Ice helped raise spirits just as ‘Busy Fingers’ prepared to take to the stage.

“To put it in a nutshell, the Gods did not side on us (punters),” said a rueful sounding Mr Skelly.

“It was a tough day punting, but most people ended up with a smile on their face when the favourite came home in the last.

“It was the biggest cheer that went up in the pavillion, it put people in good humour and it got them talking about next year’s race day.”

From the evidence of last Wednesday, its 2015 equivalent will take some beating.