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Cork area news - 01-03-21

Cork area news

With not much to do during lockdown it has been great to look back at some classic performances from days gone by.

On many occasions my father shared classic stories of both fantastic performances by pigeons and fanciers over an age where pigeons were an important part of people's lives. The rivalry between northside and southside fanciers was serious business and to step into the unknown was like Armstrong's first step on the moon!!!... One such fancier to step into the unknown was Danny Keneally who raced in the Cork Southern RPC. Danny had decided to take his chances at flying Lerwick into Cork being a successful flyer from Thurso 502 Miles the temptation of Lerwick 640 miles got the better of him and the decision was made to prepare 4 entries for the race.

Danny Kenneally
Danny Keneally

My father Michael Crean often clocked for Dan as sometimes Dan’s job, which was a tobacco maker, would see him otherwise tied up. His loft was situated near his job in Victoria Cross, Cork which is now part of the University College, Cork Campus. 

Station master at Cork Railway loading up the pigeons
Station master at Cork Railway loading up the pigeons

While Danny began to prepare his entries disaster struck when his cocker spaniel dog gained entry into the loft and did the unquestionable. At this stage Danny was upset but not beaten yet by any means, he decided to refocus and get another team ready for the task.

Dannys loft
Danny's loft

The forecast was good with northeast winds predicted so hopefully lady luck would appear to do the rest. 

The Eire National released the birds and a long journey to Ireland had begun with Cork being the longest fly and a new record to be set. Some said it couldn’t be done, some said it was cruelty to send that far but on the 3rd morning of the race Danny was on his way to church and my father and grandfather were passing on their way to work when they were flagged down.’ I did it’ he said, the hen arrived early this morning ‘call tonight to see the record breaker’. On calling that night Danny gifted my father the eggs she had gone to the race on. 

Danny's achievement was noted all over Ireland and many travelled to see and purchase this great bird but to no avail. 

In 1967 Ireland's national broadcaster RTE sent a very young Bill O’Herlihy to interview Danny. Bill O’Herlihy later became one of the best sports broadcasters Ireland ever produced so it was two legends of sport in an interview. This is what the article read: 

Bill O’Herlihy investigates the breeding, training and racing of pigeons. 

Bill O Herlihy RTE sports reporter
Bill O'Herlihy RTE sports reporter

Dan Kenneally from Cork, one of the best known breeders and racers in the south of Ireland explains how a pigeon is trained. A good bird is one capable of flying long distances and repeating that performance. 

Dan explains the training process for a pigeon and while he may start off training 20 pigeons, if he is lucky he will finish with half that amount as a number of the birds will fall prey to hawks, power wires, or be shot. 

Irish homing unions in Belfast and Dublin control the sport and from April to September birds are sent by rail for weekend races in Ireland, Britain and France. 

There are cash prizes for each race and the pigeon classics are very profitable. Irish races are not as lucrative as those in Scotland or England although the Grand National into Belfast offers £5000, with the winner collecting £500.

Dan explains how the betting pool works. While betting is a big draw, he is adamant pigeon racing is a credible sport as everyone is waiting to see their bird come home. 

A ‘Newsbeat’ report from 11 May 1967. The reporter is Bill O’Herlihy.

Photo 1 Danny Kenneally

Photo 2  Danny’s loft

Photo 3 Station master at Cork Railway loading up the pigeons

Photo 4 Bill O Herlihy RTE sports reporter