herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Race fans Martin and Michael lead the masses at Ballybrit

HE'S known for his career in football but Ireland manager Martin O'Neill could have ventured into the horse racing industry full-time.

The 62-year-old even co-owned a horse that bagged a win at the famous Ballybrit racetrack.

And years later the soccer chief has finally made his debut at the Galway Races.

"I used to go (racing) years and years ago but with the job you get less time to come, but it's a beautiful time," he told the Herald.

"This is my first day at Galway racing, but believe it or not a way back years and years ago I was in a syndicate with some of my old school friends and we had a horse.

"It actually won here in Galway although I wasn't here to see it," he said, adding that he "wouldn't rule out" owning another horse in the future.

Joined by his wife Geraldine, Martin was one of the special guests at day three of the festival yesterday.

18,766 people passed through the turnstiles to participate in the action. Champion jockey AP McCoy came with his wife Chanelle, who wore a stunning orange and pink ensemble, and their children Archie and Eve.

Jockey Barry Geraghty was supported by his other half Paula, who opted for a black and cream dress and hat.

As well as stars of the sporting world, several dignitaries were in attendance. Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald was spotted in a dusty pink matching frock and jacket by Sean Byrne of the Powerscourt Design Centre, while former Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton was seen in the parade ring dressed in a black number.

President Michael D Higgins left wife Sabina at home to take in the festivities. He commended the race committee for their continued efforts to ensure the event is a success.

"In 1960 I came to the Galway Races for the first time and there's a great sense of tradition of Galway people abroad coming back for the races, but now it's a very significant international event," he added.

The feature race of the meeting was the Galway Plate Handicap Chase, worth €200,000 and claimed by Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary's Road to Riches.

After picking up their winnings, punters painted the town red last night. And they made the most of the city's hotspots, after local pubs shut early on Tuesday night due to a licensing hiccup.

Bars around Galway were forced to close at midnight instead of the usual 2am.

"There was a clerical error between the solicitors and ourselves," said Terry Tyson of Galway City Vintners' Association.

"When we looked into it we discovered where the error had occurred which meant pubs had to stop serving at midnight instead of 2am."

hnews@herald.ie

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