After Coolavanny Bingo won the National Coursing Derby in Powerstown Park in Clonmel last February, newspapers compared its significance to the best Kerry football had ever achieved in its long association with Croke Park glory.
‘Bingo’ showed all the attributes of a true champion most notably speed, stamina and a willingness to win – according to a stand-out line in another report.
The visible fall-out from this famous win is still dropping slowly on the shoulders of those closest to the action and to the dog. And there is always the business which success on this scale attracts. Moths to the lamp and so on.
On Wednesday at the River Island Hotel, Mayor of Killarney Municipal District Council, Cllr. Bobby O’Connell proudly presided over a special sitting of the council in his home town.
After the business of the morning was over and the clock moved to the appointed time, Noel Browne and his family and friends began drifting in for the civic reception being hosted in his honour by the council.
The special honour was proposed by Cllr. Maura Healy Rae and it fell to Mayor O’Connell on his final day as chain bearer to bestow it on the genuinely taken-aback Mr. Browne.
There were short speeches from Liam Quinlan, Kerry County Council Senior Executive Officer, Corporate Services, by way of introduction to the formalities of this part of the day.
He was followed Cllr. Healy Rae who outlined Noel Browne’s involvement in business and sport in Castleisland down through the years. In revealing how pleased she was to have nominated him for the honour of the day, she also told the gathering that Coolavanny Bingo and his handlers were up against the professionals of the world of greyhound racing in Clonmel and they came out on top.
Then Mayor O’Connell, a doggy man himself, put the honour he was about to bestow on Noel Browne in context. In a speech only a true doggy-man could deliver, he outlined all of Noel Browne’s achievements in the greyhound world down through the years.
Hitting the Crossbar
All the wins at various meetings and the near misses or ‘hitting the crossbar’ on the big occasions – as he put it – were all given their context alongside this ‘holy grail’ of an achievement last February.
“Noel Browne gave the whole town a lift after this win last February. There was a few great nights in town after it. I saw men in Clonmel that I hadn’t seen there in years.
They were there to support Noel Browne and the boys and they were there to share in the celebrations.
“I’m delighted for you Noel, it means an awful lot to your friends and neighbours and it means an awful lot to the town and I’m delighted to be here to make this presentation to you,” said Mayor O’Connell.
Angela McAllen, head of Finance, Kerry County Council then welcomed everybody to the reception. She reminded the gathering that the ceremony to follow represents the highest honour any local authority can bestow on a citizen of its area for outstanding achievement or service.
“This honour is also a tribute to the greyhound industry in Kerry and the contribution it makes to the local economy.
Noel Browne’s own speech was bookended by loud and warm applause and he was left in no doubt about the enormity of the achievement and what it means to the locality.
He began by dispersing the glory and the praise which had come his way from those who spoke before him.
He pointed to his wife Cáit – with whom he had celebrated 53 years of marriage only a few day previously – as his strength and inspiration.
“This is a lot harder that training a dog – and I’m not codding you. I’m truly humbled and overwhelmed with all the nice things the previous speakers said about me.
“I’m very grateful to Maura Healy Rae for the nomination and to Bobby and all the officials for the great honour.
“I have three great men with me and they’re sitting down there in the crowd, Eddie Mahony, Michael Broderick and David Begley. I really appreciate them and they know that.
“Anything that we’ve achieved here, we’ve done it as a team and I couldn’t have done it without the boys here,” said Noel as he invited them to stand up and take the applause and the praise while it was going.
Mr. Quinlan then invited Mayor O’Connell to present the certification to Noel Browne. It was time for photographs after what, in the heel of the hunt, was a great community occasion.
It was a day on which Castleisland and its people were left with a feeling that we were at the centre of the universe.
And all because of a fiercely dedicated, determined little team of men and a remarkable dog with notable speed, stamina and a willingness to win.