New point-to-point season upon us
The first flag falls on the new 2015-2016 point-to-point season next weekend with the meetings hosted by the Mid Antrim Harriers at Toomebridge and the Limerick Foxhounds at Bruff, and the very large and active Wexford contingent will be hoping to maintain the major impact and momentum of last season.
Twenty-eight meetings spread across the country will be staged in the pre-Christmas half of the season, and action will resume in January and continue right up to the end of June next year. It is a gruelling schedule for all involved, especially those at the top end of the sport.
Colin Bowe from Kiltealy and his neighbour and friend from Ballindaggin, Donnchadh Doyle, shared the national trainers' title last season after an epic battle and they are sure to be major contenders once again.
The likes of Denis Murphy of The Ballagh, Liam Kenny from Camolin and a host of others are also sure to figure prominently.
On the riding front, Jamie Codd relinquished his title last year to perennial rival, Derek O'Connor, but he decorated his season with winning doubles at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals and he passed the 700-winner mark in points.
Given a trouble-free run, Codd will surely make a bold bid again.
Barry O'Neill from Ballindaggin finished in third place in the riders' table behind the two big guns and came close to capturing the Northern riders' title; he will be hoping for a bit more luck this year in avoiding injury and in converting a few more of his seconds into winners. O'Neill and Codd were on the four-man Irish team which took on Britain in the international challenge.
Robbie James from Ballindaggin was seventh in the riders' championship last season and he will be hoping to climb even higher, while lads like J.J. Slevin, Enniscorthy; Seán O'Rourke from Foulksmills, Jimmy O'Rourke from Silversprings, Ballycogley, Mark Scallan from Cleariestown, Harley Dunne from Ballindaggin, Eddie Keating from Gusserane, and a few others will be eager to maintain an upward curve.
There are scores of other small-time trainers, owners, breeders and riders dotted all over county Wexford and they will be working hard to grab a slice of the glory; quite a few 'first-timers' made it to the winners' enclosure last season, and many more will be striving to join them there in the coming months.
Here's wishing the best of luck to them all.
Dates for the local South East fixtures in the Autumn schedule are: Sunday, October 11, Shillelagh and District Foxhounds, at Fairwood Park, Tinahely; Sunday, November 1, Kilkenny Foxhounds, at Thomastown; Sunday, November 8, Wexford Foxhounds, at Moorfields, Ballinaboola; Sunday, November 22, Killinick Harriers, at Lingstown; Sunday, December 13, Carlow Farmers Foxhounds, at Borris House.