I drove to Kilkenny town in under an hour from my B&B. It is a very beautiful small city. The castle was taken over by the town after the war and is really the outstanding feature. Its grounds are large and basically a public park which was packed with people the day I was there. I learnt the derivation of the term “to sally forth” on my visit.
Racing is very popular in Ireland. There are bookmaker betting shops in every town and Royal Ascot was covered extensively in the press and on TV. I had been told in the Horse and Jockey pub during the week that the weekend races were at Gowran Park outside Kilkenny town. After I had been to the castle and had a good wander around and had some lunch I drove out to the racecourse. Everyone was telling me what a “grand day” it was –about 21 degrees! It was tremendously scenic course, uphill and down dale, surrounded by farmland. There were no starting barriers and all the races bar one were over the jumps. Dad used to say that you should get odds on them just getting around in jumping races but I
backed a horse called Sharjah anyway. I thought it was the omen bet of the day but it didn’t give a yelp! There were a lot of obviously country people there and a lovely atmosphere.
That evening I went back into Kilkenny and had a few drinks and a meal in a pub. There was a class trio of local musicians playing stuff which I love. There were many such places in Kilkenny and the place was buzzing.
Just to round out my sporting weekend I went to the hurling in Limerick town on Sunday. During the week lots of people told me I would love the hurling so I bought a ticket in Thurles. I did love it. I reckon if I had been born in Ireland I would have played this game. There was great passion both on and off the field. It is played on a ground about 150 metres long and the ball is moved mostly by hitting it with the stick/bat. The skill level was impressive and while they do not tackle they block and harass and blood was drawn. The ball moves very quickly from end to end and there is always
someone in the forward line to aim at! On one occasion right in front of me our key forward Seamus Callahan, under pressure, turned on a coin and backhanded the ball 50 metres between the uprights—I stood and applauded! Of course I was barracking for Tipp and we beat Limerick comfortably. One of the Tipp players was from the Devane’s parish of Loughmore/Castleiney (the feeder comp is still based on the old RC parishes) but he was injured.
That night I went on to Killalloe at the southern end of Lough Derg. I relaized I had been there before in 1982. Gorgeous place. I had dinner in Ballina across the bridge in Tipp where celebrations were big. I wandered back over the bridge and found a quiet little pub where I had some good conversations and got introduced to the locals. It was Sunday night and when it got to midnight I said I was going to bed. One of the locals called out “you must not have any Irish blood in you” to which I protested that I did so. Quick as a flash someone called out “well your ancestors must be from Tipperary”. Killalloe is
in Clare. I laughed all the way down the hill.
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