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Yearling National 2011



Brendan McLoughlin

Yearling National 2011


The Irish National Flying Club held their annual Yearling National from Sennen Cove on Thursday 09 June after a one-day holdover. 853 members sent 4,883 pigeons and were competing for £35,942 in pools and prizemoney.

The race was due to be flown on the Wednesday but due to the adverse weather conditions the birds were held until Thursday, when they were liberated at 7.30am in a light and variable west-northwesterly wind which was to turn westerly en route. With 450 birds recorded on the day, this was another tough yearling race.

Last year the winner of the Yearling National was Alan Darragh, Cullybackey who has a very distinguished and successful career at National racing. This year’s winner comes from the other end of the spectrum with the winner John Prenter, from the Sallynoggin club in Dublin winning his first ever race. What a way to break your novice status.


1st South section, 1st Open J Prenter Sallynoggin, Vel 1270, flying 221 miles, winning £1566 and the Nelson Corry Trophy

There is a wonderful story behind the winner of this year's Yearling National race with the winner John Prenter winning his first ever race. John just started to keep pigeons last year so this would have been his first attempt at the Yearling National. He readily admits that he is much more of a dog man than a pigeon man but goes on to add that when he tries his hand at something he is very committed to it.

Last year John brought pigeons home from England for his good friend Johnny Gallagher in the Brittania club in Belfast (John says this win was for you Johnny). Unfortunately at the time Johnny was ill and couldn’t take the pigeons. So John took the pigeons to Dublin, giving some away and keeping the rest. He didn’t have a loft so he converted an 8’ x 6’dog kennel. He bred a few youngsters and that was him started. This year he converted another dog kennel about three months ago to give the birds a bit more space.

John has always had a lot of friends who were pigeon fanciers and has always been around ‘stock men’ of one kind or another. He is very much self-taught with the pigeons and does things his “own way”, as even when he was with pigeon men he would have talked more about the dogs.

John started off the old bird season with 24 birds and still had 18 left going on the channel. He picked up 4 or 5 minor cards down Ireland and was 4th club Pilmore Beach in what was a very difficult race.

The birds are trained twice a day four days a week, once from 40 miles and then from 25 miles, and occasionally they get a third toss at lunch time when they are tossed in twos.

John feeds well and they are given good clean basic food and water. He picks up bits and pieces of medicines and these are given as and when he thinks they are required, followed by a multivitamin. John applies a lot of his knowledge about dogs to the pigeons.

The pigeon timed here is a Catrysse x Jos Thone cock with the sire coming from good friend Russell Alcock, Barton on Trent, Birmingham. The pigeon was sent on chipping eggs having been raced on a mixture of natural and widowhood earlier in the year. John hasn’t got enough space to race full widowhood so he improvised for a few weeks. John has named his National winner ‘Bootsie’ after one of his sons.

John asked that I thank Alan Nulty for his help with the training, Stephen Cunningham for his help with the clock and Ray Matthews for his help on the evening of the race.

Thanks to Brendan McGrane for the photo.

John Prenter with his kids Sean and Rebecca and his pigeon Bootsie


2nd South section, 2nd Open J Doody Son and Dtr Stuart Cant, Vel 1257, flying 227 miles winning £1193


This partnership is made up of John Doody, his son Jonathon and daughter Nicole. They race in the Stuart Cant club in Dublin of which John is the chairman. This club was set up to help the kids in the area. The club has no radius as such and is thriving. There are no fees for children and they are supplied with T3s. The club has 3 sections – seniors, novices and juniors. The popularity of the club is borne out by the fact that they have 14 novices starting in the young birds this year. When I was speaking to John it was obvious that he was very passionate about the club and giving kids a start in the sport.

John himself started racing in 1977 and won Opens from Fortwilliam in 1980 and Skibbereen in 1984 plus numerous other positions from Penzance including 2nd Open 1996 and from Dinard where he was 6th, 10th and 49th Open three years in a row. They were 3rd, 23rd, 36th, 89th, 91st and 99th Open from Sennen Cove with the South Road Fed in 2003 with 2,257 birds competing so they have a good record from this race point The Doodys were 179th Open in this race last year.

John raced a family of Busschaert and Dordin pigeons and it was to these pigeons that he returned when he started back again three years ago.

The pigeon timed here is another cock sent on chipping eggs and was timed at 12.48pm. This bird had only 3 races as a young bird as John prefers to go easy on the youngsters.

John asked me to thank Joe Doheny for all his with the Stuart Cant club and all those who help in any way behind the scenes with the club.

John Doody from the Stuart Cant club with his 2nd Open Yearling National


3rd South section, 3rd Open E O’Brien Wicklow South Road Club, Vel 1241, flying 200 miles winning £920


In 3rd Open is Eamonn O’Brien of the Wicklow club with a blue cock now known as ‘Blue Billy’. Eamonn races with the South Leinster Federation of which he is the chairman and has now taken on the job of race controller as well. In addition to which he has been club secretary/treasurer of his own club for some 10 years, so you can see he is a great worker for the sport. A painter and decorator by trade his work takes him mainly to Dublin and so he is able to give his birds a 35 to 40 mile toss from there, which he does 3 times a week. Although this makes the birds fly from north to south Eamonn feels that by liberating in the city early in the morning it helps the birds avoid attacks by predators and also helps them orientate better.

Now to ‘Blue Billy’ who is named after Billy Cullimore of Wexford who gifted the parents of ‘Blue Billy’ to Eamonn. This blue yearling cock described by Eamonn as a Cullimore Staf Van Reet went to the Yearling National on chipping eggs and this was his first time across the water. He flew well as a young bird picking up some prizes and both his parents are prizewinners at club level.

Eamonn as well as his own work for the sport races consistently well. Last year in the club he won the Old Bird and Combined Averages and this against some stiff opposition. He says it is the competition in the club that keeps him on his toes. In fact a few days after the Yearling National, he won the club from Bude and should finish well up in the South Leinster Fed.

Eamonn when talking to me took the opportunity to express his thanks to a number of people; his wife Jackie for all her help with the birds, especially the darkened youngsters, Billy Cullimore for all his help and advice and for the gift of the parents of ‘Blue Billy’, his brother in law Tommy Smyth and  Reg Gaffney for all their help and advice and to the many people who help in his role as race controller especially Anthony Wall and Mick O’Driscoll and then to all those who have contacted him to congratulate him on his success.

Eamonn O'Brien of Wicklow, 3rd South section 3rd Open Yearling National


4th South section, 4th Open D Larkin ISRF Finglas, Vel 1237, flying 232 miles winning £994


Derek Larkin from the Finglas club in Dublin is 4th South section, 4th Open and had a great race with 5 birds home, and winning the Sam Buckley Memorial Trophy for the best two bird average. His second pigeon was 12th South section, 15th Open.

Derek started to race pigeons in 1987 and has had a very successful career so far, being the top flyer in the strong Finglas club for the past 4 years and helping the Finglas club to the top club award in the South Road Fed.  In the IHU National Flying Club this year Derek won the section in both races from Barley Cove. Then from the Irish National Flying Club Old Bird Inland National from Skibbereen he had another wonderful race with 9 birds in the Open result at 29th, 51st, 52nd, 53rd, 67th, 78th, 93rd, 130th and 172nd, competing against 4442 birds. In the very difficult race from Sennen Cove with the South Road Fed Derek had the first 4 birds in the Finglas club and had 6 out of the 7 birds timed on the day.

The pigeon timed here at 4th Open is a Soontjens x Janssen cock racing on the roundabout system. Derek likes to race them on the roundabout for the whole year. The Soontjens lines are coming down from ‘Junior’, John Patterson of Ballylesson’s Champion Old Bird. The Janssen lines come down from Gerry McCourt’s ‘Rocket’, a Champion pigeon in the South Road Fed, so this yearling cock is full of Champion bloodlines. The dam also bred an Open winner in the South Road Fed from Barley Cove.


5th South section, 5th Open J McLoughlin Individual South, Vel 1235, flying 231 miles winning £367


Joe McLoughlin from Blanchardstown in Dublin is 5th South section, 5th Open with the first hen in the result. Joe was another fancier who had a great race from the Yearling National with three birds timed. His second pigeon was 65th South section, 172nd Open with his third pigeon just outside the result. The Blanchardstown club is the furthest west in Dublin but Joe has had some great results this year. The Saturday before the Yearling National he was 1st club Pilmore Beach, and was 1st club the week before that from Skibbereen and two weeks before that he was 1st club Waterville – obviously a loft with a lot of form.

Joe was one of the first winners of the Irish National Flying Club’s Triple Crown award in 2009 when his pigeon ‘Daisy Rocket’ won the award having been 49th Open Young Bird National Penzance 2007, 223rd Open Yearling National 2008 and 55th Open King’s Cup in 2009. Joe has previously been 4th and 5th Open in The Irish National Flying Club and has a terrific record in the club.

The pigeon timed here is a Bright blue hen sitting on a two-day-old youngster. The sire is a Janssen x Soontjens down from Derwin Lofts in Baldoyle, while the dam is a Busschaert x Soontjens from pigeons obtained from Tom and Colin Kilpatrick, Killyleagh. Joe races on the roundabout up to Waterville and then the pigeons are put on the Natural system.

Joe McLoughlin - 5th South section, 5th Open with his hen 'Silver Lady'


1st North section, 6th Open B Creaney Drumcree, Vel 1231.8, flying 302 miles, winning £758 and the James McGrugan Memorial Cup


At the time of going to press I have no details on the pigeon timed here but I can say that this loft had a wonderful race winning the James McGrugan Memorial Cup for the winner of the section not winning the Open. With two more birds in the result at 56th North section, 92nd Open and 66th North section 105th Open it was a memorable day for the Drumcree lofts. I hope to have details of the 1st North section pigeon for next week’s edition.


2nd North section, 7th Open Buckley, Buckley and Craig Edgarstown, Vel 1231.07, flying 302 miles, winning £497


This partnership is made up of Eric Buckley, his son Simon and his cousin Sam Craig and they are known locally as BBC. They race in the Edgarstown club just outside Portadown. Eric is a cousin of Glen Buckley and both their fathers were pigeon men so this is a family steeped in the pigeon tradition.  They had 11 pigeons in the race and clocked three of them. They race into an 18ft loft and had 45 birds at the beginning of the old bird season which is a modest team by today’s standards but to ensure that only the best birds are retained all old birds must all fly Penzance to earn their perch.

The pigeon at 7th Open here is a Janssen x Soontjens cock sent sitting on chipping eggs. Interestingly their second pigeon was his sister that was actually paired to him. The Janssen lines are from their own bloodlines with the Soontjens coming from Capper Bros of Bondhill. The dam has bred pigeons to be 4th and 6th in the Yearling National and the dam herself topped the Centre twice from Skibbereen.

7th open

The birds are raced widowhood and then paired up after the NIPA Skibbereen race with the partnership setting their stall out for this race here. The pigeon timed here had that Skibbereen as its last race prior to the Yearling National and was then trained from Clougherhead (40 miles) on the Friday and Balbriggan (50miles) on the Saturday and was then closed up after that. It had every race prior to the Skibbereen race. The Saturday following the Yearling National Buckley, Buckley and Craig were 1st club Bude with a half sister of this cock.

The partnership have asked me to take this opportunity to thank Joe Smyth & Sons Drumnavaddy for all their help over the past couple of years.

Eric Buckley, Simon Buckley and Sam Craig


6th South section, 8th Open, L Rafferty St Pauls RPC, Vel 1223.62, flying 224 miles, winning £150


Liam Rafferty from St Paul’s club in Dublin is 6th South section, 8th Open. Liam also races in the Stuart Cant club, where he won the Channel averages last year. Liam has been a top flyer in all the clubs he has raced in over the past 30 years. Liam started the season with 52 old birds with 48 of these on the roundabout with a few spares kept for replacements.

The pigeon timed was a gift bird from David Turner of the Finglas club and was one of ten Liam received from David. The breeding is De Klak x Soontjens and is a cock that was sent sitting 7 days on eggs. The birds started the season on the roundabout and were then put back natural for the channel.

This yearling cock had only three races as a young bird and was 1st club in the Stuart Cant club from Pilmore Beach, and has had a few club positions down Ireland this year.

Liam Rafferty of St Pauls RPC, 6th South section 8th Open Yearling National


3rd North section, 9th Open P Brown & Son Annsborough, Vel 1223.31, flying 289 miles, winning £190


This partnership consists of brothers Colin and Willie Brown. This is another family steeped in the pigeon tradition with their brother Patrick racing in partnership with his wife Geraldine in the picturesque village of Annsborough just outside Castlewellan. Patrick was 1st North section Young Bird Skibbereen National last year and has just been 1st and 2nd Open two weeks in a row with the East Down Combine so the pressure was on Collie and Willie to respond with a big result and that is just what they did.

This pigeon was a gift bird from Telford Bros Downpatrick and Tyrella. The Browns were presented with a basket of birds and told to take their pick and this is the one they selected. It is out of pigeons bought at Colin Gibson’s clearance sale. The sire is a half brother to Prunty & Larkin’s National winner. It is a son of ‘Gerard’ Colin Gibson’s No 1 Soontjens stock cock who is responsible for at least ten NIPA section winners and dozens of winners up to National and Derby level. The dam is a wee bit special in her breeding being a daughter of ‘Mr. Perfect’ and ‘Melinda’. She was raced lightly as a young bird and then selected for stock. She is a half sister to ‘Rabbi’ and is off Colin Gibbon’s No 1 Soontjens hen responsible for 30 plus 1st prizes. She is a sister and a half sister to 5 section winners in the NIPA.

The pigeon timed here is a cock who had been sitting on eggs and then given chipping eggs on the Sunday. He had all races up to and including the Skibbereen National and was 6th South Down Fed in their annual May Day race from Mullingar.

Colin and Willie Brown with Alan Telford, who bred their pigeon that was 3rd North section, 9th Open Yearling National


7th South section, 10th Open K Hodginson Wicklow South Road Club, Vel 122, flying 200 miles, winning £219 and the Charles Ingle Memorial Cup


In 10th Open is another Wicklow club member Ken Hodginson, a near neighbour of Eamonn O’Brien. Ken timed a blue cheq cock of Geoff Kirkland bloodlines sent to the Yearling National feeding a one-week old youngster. This cock had been flying well all season and was Ken’s pool bird in most of the early races. As a young bird he was a darkened youngster and flew with consistency, but it was this year as a yearling that he was to become a star.

Ken is by today’s standards a fairly small team man with a young bird team of around 35 and a similar number in his old bird team. Training for the Yearling National saw the birds getting a ten mile toss twice a day from Arklow and again racing against the competition in the Wicklow club sees members work hard for their success. 

Ken Hodginson of Wicklow. 7th South section 10th Open Yearling National

Sponsorship is very important in any organisation and the Committee and members of the INFC are very grateful to Samuel McCausland Ltd for their sponsorship of this race.

I would like to thank all those who helped with this race report especially those who supplied photos.


Brendan McLoughlin

INFC Press Officer