The advent of every new National Coursing Meeting brings thoughts of many ‘firsts. One’s first ‘Clonmel’, one’s first Derby or Oaks qualifier, one’s first flag up the field of dreams and for a lucky few, one’s first visit to the winner’s podium at Powerstown Park. Every year sadly for some it is a first National Meeting without a loved one or a travelling companion. On a lighter side, for many coursing couples they remember it was where their eyes first met across a crowded bar in the town during the post-coursing festivities.
We already know that the 2024 National Meeting will have its own firsts. It will be the first time that Finals Day was held on a Bank Holiday, we will have our first auction of coursing saplings after coursing on Sunday, we have first time sponsors in Callaway Kennels (Kevin Smith Champion Stakes) and Grace Vallely from Newry, Co Down will officiate at her first Clonmel when she judges the opening round of the Kitty Butler on Day 1 and TA Morris on Day 2.
If the Bookmakers are correct Liam Dowling will win his first Coursing Derby and Ballymac Zena will become the first bitch to accomplish the Oaks / Champion Bitch Stake double but there is quite a bit of running to be done before we can add those ones to the list.
For genuine coursing people though and in particular those in charge of hare husbandry there is only one first and that is the hares. The team at Powerstown Park are no different to all the clubs around the country who put huge voluntary effort into the care, feeding and training of their hares in the hope of running a meeting of the highest possible standard. We wish them well and if it is allowed we will ask for some help from above from those whom we are spending our first National Meeting without.
So at approximately 10.55am tomorrow morning we will watch as Michael Cooney from Lisboney, Nenagh with Get Lucky and Patrick O’Connor from Saleen, Tarbert with Morfontaine enter the Slippers Hut with nervous anticipation for the first course of the day and the first course of the 98th National Coursing Meeting. From the stands to the slippers hut to the boxing shed there will be a plethora of different emotions for the next few minutes but then someone will shout ‘the hare is out’. And that is coursing.