WET and windy weather conditions could not dampen festive spirits as more than 14,000 people turned out for the first day of the Leopardstown Christmas festival.
A star-studded guest list flocked to the annual four-day race meeting with Bono's actress daughter Eve Hewson, Irish soccer legend Niall Quinn, former Health Minister Mary Harney and designer John Rocha among the crowd. Despite the blustery weather conditions, attendance was only slightly down on last year with 14,100 people arriving at the rain swept racecourse, compared with last year's 14,250.
Soccer hero Niall was not letting the weather get him down: "The weather is poor, but everyone is in good spirits," he told the Herald. "This was my first St Stephen's Day at home so I really enjoyed spending time with my family and friends," added the former Sunderland and Manchester City star.
Also enjoying the day out were actor Stephen Rea, celebrity chef Derry Clarke, golfer Christy O'Connor junior and Dublin footballers Paul Flynn and Michael Daragh Macauley.
Former All-Ireland winner Paul was enjoying a day out with girlfriend Fiona Hudson before training with DCU tomorrow.
"It's a great day out and we are enjoying a nice, relaxing Christmas with our families so this is always great fun," Paul told the Herald.
Chef Derry Clarke added: "Of course the social side to it is great but I'm a big racing fanatic. It's not about winning or losing, it's about enjoying it."
Thousands of socialites and race lovers began filling the popular racecourse from 11am yesterday morning despite heavy rain.
U2 frontman Bono was a no show despite booking a table in the Punchestown restaurant -- choosing instead to spend some quality time with his wife Ali and her family. However the Hewson family were represented by the couple's daughters Eve (21) and Jordan (24).
The wet conditions made wet-look leggings the order of the day and the Herald spoke to a number of trendy fashionistas who were enjoying their day out at the races.
Leopardstown locals Rachel Cunningham and Siobhan Keogh were enjoying the day as they celebrated Rachel's 19th birthday.
"We had a great time and we come here every year," said birthday girl Rachel, who looked the part in black wet-look leggings with a brown fur jacket and nude heels.
Wrapping up against the cold were Dubliners Kate Bennett, Jessie Mitchell and Lauren Dent from Dalkey. "This is our first time at the races so we're really enjoying it and excited about it," they told the Herald.
Bets were down for the first day of this year's festival with bookmaker's taking €775,091, compared with €900,000 last year.