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Brendan McLoughlin



The Irish National Flying Club raced marked the pigeons on Monday 3rd SeptemberC 2012 for the Penzance Young Bird Grand National race on Wednesday 5th. However Wednesday morning dawned very cold with a strong northeasterly wind in Penzance.  The latest time to release the pigeons to allow the pigeons to reach the most northerly lofts before nightfall was deemed to be 8.30am. With this in mind race convoyer Jim McCrory and line of flight contact Olly Gittins in Bude both thought the low temperature and strong winds at 8.30am were very unsuitable for a race. This was also the opinion of the Met Office in Dublin. The birds were therefore held over until the Thursday. This was disappointing for many fanciers, as the weather at the home end was considerably better. Thursday morning turned out to be a better morning in Penzance and the birds were liberated at 8.15am in a light southerly wind. The resultant excellent race with all positions filled by early evening bore testament to the value of the experience of Jim and Olly and the expertise of the Met Office.


1st South section, 1st Open, Cullen & Burke Arklow, Vel 1548, Flying 186 miles, winning £636 and the J M K McGugan Perpetual Cup


The winners of the Young Bird National this year are the partnership of Cullen and Burke from Arklow. The partnership is made of Darren Cullen and Eleanor Burke who have been racing together since 2006. Eleanor had raced with her father the late Matt Burke who was a very successful racer on the North Road in the 1980’s, while Darren too had done a bit of racing when he was younger. Darren and Eleanor built their own house in 2005, - a new loft quickly followed the following year and they have raced as Cullen & Burke since then.

As Darren is self-employed and Eleanor commutes to Dublin to work the winning pigeon was timed by their good friend and ‘loft manager’ John Crooke. John timed the winner at 11:46:56 to set an early target for the more northerly based lofts, but it proved to be a time that none could better.

The sire of the winner now known as ‘The Gussett Boy’, was bred by Sheldon Leonard from his ‘860’ lines, while the dam was bred by Michael & Joe O’Reilly (Joe O’Reilly is actually Darren’s brother-in-law) and is from the ‘Popeye’ lines of Woodroofe Bros in Sunderland. ‘The Gussett Boy’ is a darkened youngster and had been in all the races except the first one from Dungarvan. He was sent to the race having just taken an interest in a hen on the Friday before basketing. He was left with the hen all weekend and this seems to have been effective, as he was certainly keen on the race day.

Darren and Eleanor have a relatively small set up and rear between 40 and 45 young birds and they are all put on the Dark. They try to get all their birds on the dark before the end of March and keep them on it for 10 weeks. They are all fed on Natural corn from Sheldon Leonard. They start off with 4 tosses from 5 miles and follow this with 10 tosses from 12 miles and then straight into 2nd Dungarvan. When racing starts the birds are trained depending on the weather and then after the fourth race they are flown round the loft for 50 minutes morning and evening and are only tossed again if Darren and Eleanor think they are getting stale.

Darren and Eleanor have asked me to thank Sheldon Leonard and Michael and Joe O’Reilly for breeding the sire and dam of their National winner and also Billy Wallace from Cork for his advice and friendship over the years.

Eleanor Burke and Darren Cullen


2nd South section, 2nd Open E Barnes & Son, Ballybrack, Vel 1514, Flying 217 miles, winning £852


The partnership of Eddie Barnes & Son Ballybrack are establishing themselves as leading National fliers having been 6th and 11th Open in the Yearling National in June. Known affectionately to his clubmates as ‘Ed the Fed’, Eddie Senior is joined by his son Eddie Junior in the partnership. Having won the Sam Buckley Memorial Cup for the best two bird Average in the Yearling National they can now add the Robin Duddy Trophy for best Average Sennen Cove Yearling National and Penzance Young Bird National (3 Bird Nom) to their list of achievements.

The sire of the Barnes’ pigeon is a Joop Koch, which was a gift bird from Fleming Keery Newtownbreda, while the dam is a Janssen from Poderosa Lofts and is down from the ‘James Bond’ lines. Timed at 12:28pm this young cock was a darkened youngster and is only carrying five nest flights at the moment. He was the first of three birds home out of an entry of four. The cock had been sitting on eggs for a week but when his hen was late home from an earlier race he had left the eggs and he had just started taking an interest in her again before going to the National.

The Barnes rear 60 young birds and 90% of these are put on the dark. The second Open pigeon had all the races except Owenahincha as they didn’t send to this one, as they didn’t like the forecast. Four days before basketing for the race the birds had a 50-mile training toss. Frazerplus is used for the young birds as well as Brockamp oils and powders. At this time of the year Frazers Diet 200 is given.

Eddie Barnes & Son


3rd South Section, 3rd Open R Fewings Rathnew, Vel 1503, Flying 199 miles, winning £405


At 3rd open is Rathnew’s Ron Fewings who is a relative newcomer to the sport, this being only his 3rd season racing. He enjoyed a great race from Penzance with a second bird in the prizes at 51st South section 187th Open.

Ron’s bird at 3rd Open is a blue hen, a darkened youngster, and whilst starting her racing career slowly, started to improve as the season progressed and was selected for Penzance quite early on in the season. For the National she was racing Roundabout to an Old cock and in addition to the races in which she participated she would have had 2 or 3 training tosses per week from around 30 miles.

Breeding on the dam’s side is Van Loon (Silver Shadow) and the sire is Busschaert, a gift bird and Staf van Reet. Ron says he owes a lot of his success to the help and advice he has received from his friends Paddy Snell and Sheldon Leonard and he is also a great believer in and uses extensively the Doctor Brockamp products and system.


4th South section, 4th Open Owen Kirwan Gorey, Vel 1497, Flying 181 miles, winning £355


In 4th South section, 4th Open is a loft that has enjoyed a considerable success with the Irish National Flying club, that of Owen Kirwan of Gorey. A previous Yearling National winner in 2008 he was also 6th in 2007 and 10th in 2009.

Owen timed a dark grizzle hen at 11.57am, racing on darkness and sitting 10 days. She had seven or eight Inland races before going to the National. The dam was 21st Open in this race last year and is a Tourner, while the sire is Houben/Janssen and was 3rd club, 10th Fed in the IHU National Penzance this year. Owen had another pigeon in the result taking 58th South section. Owen had a great week having been 3rd Open in the IHU National from Talbenny on the Saturday before the Penzance National and on the Sunday after Penzance he was 8th in the North Coast Classic One Loft race from Clonmel.

Feeding is Natural and Gerry Plus starting off with a young bird mix and then as the racing progresses changing to a widowhood mix. Owen trains hard for a few weeks before racing starts, up until the second young bird race and then they are flown mornings and evenings. The young birds are kept together as Owen feels they are more content that way.

In closing Owen would like to congratulate Darren and Eleanor on their National success.

Owen Kirwan Gorey

5th South section, 5th Open Breada Deegan Dublin North County Vel 1450, Flying 231 miles, winning £771


5th South section, 5th Open is the only lady fancier racing on her own in Southern Ireland, Breada Deegan from the Dublin North County club. Breada is a top racer with many wins to her credit including 1st Open from Sennen Cove last year where she won two ETS systems on the one day. Breada’s husband Noel is a well known National racer racing in the Finglas club.

The bird timed here is another grizzle hen sitting on a one-day-old youngster. She is of Thanis breeding through Tommy Nelson, Malahide and she flew every young bird race before the National.

Breada rears 70 young birds and they are all put on the Dark. Despite an exceptionally bad year’s racing Breada still has over 50 young birds left. Noel does the training but this is totally dependent on the weather. Breada feeds Versele-Laga Gerry Plus and also boils her own Garden of Eden herbs. This is then bottled and added to the water on a regular basis.

Breada had another bird in the result here taking 23rd South section, 66th Open to round off a memorable day.

Breada Deagan


6th South Section, 6th Open D Cummins & Son Finglas, Vel 1446, Flying 228 miles, winning £330


We go to the Finglas club in Dublin for 6th South section, 6th Open to the lofts of Derek Cummins and Son. They had a super race here with three in the result altogether with the next two birds taking 10th and 21st South section, 23rd and 64th Open for total winnings of £787 and probable winners of the De Scheemaecker Trophy for best two bird average.

The Cummins had an entry of four hens and three cocks, and ended up clocking all of the hens but none of the cocks. Their first bird is a Koopman from Galaxy lofts stock, and was racing on the darkness. She was sent to the National sitting 14 days on eggs. Derek’s second pigeon was 4th club, 8th Open South Road Fed from Talbenny on the Wednesday before the National and was sent to the National on a 10-day-old youngster.

Derek believes in lots of training for the young birds and they get a 25-mile toss every day from Monday to Thursday with Henry Byrne. Feeding is quite a mixture really as they mix their own to include a Widowhood mix, Versele-Laga, Vanrobaeys, Natural and Gem.

Although they normally rear about 100 young birds this year they only reared 66 and found that they didn’t lose as many and they did just as well if not better than usual.

Derek Cummins


7th South Section, 7Th Open Bodie & Dobson Individual South, Vel 1417, Flying 224 miles, winning £1011


Bodie & Dobson are 7th South section, 7th Open here. The partnership was formed in the 60s and they have raced together since, and it is made up of Richard Bodie and Ned Dobson. The pigeon timed was reared by Gerry McCourt and is Soontjens/Grondelaar on the sire’s side and Janssen on the dam’s side. This bird contains ‘Rocky’ lines, a champion racer in the South Road Fed. Derek Larkin, Finglas was 4th Open Yearling National last year with one down from ‘Rocky’. Richard and Ned were 2nd Open in the Yearling National a couple of years ago with another bird bred by Gerry McCourt and that one had the same Soontjens lines as the bird timed here. So lots of successful National lines contained in this one.

The pigeon at 7th Open here is a hen on the darkness racing to the perch. She was raced every race up to the Saturday before marking on Monday for the National. Richard and Ned rear about 70 young birds and they all go most weeks. They train from 30 miles Tuesday to Thursday with an occasional toss on the Friday.

The youngsters are given a light mixture once a day and they are not flown at home at all when they start to train.


1st North section, 8th Open P Byrne Banbridge, Vel 1402 Flying 291 miles, winning £240 and the William Erwin Memorial Trophy for the winner of the section not winning the Open


1st North section, 8th Open is Pat Byrne of Banbridge. A farmer and a good stockman Pat has a string of good performances over the years. The North section winner is a lovely black hen with a grey head. A darkened young bird she had every young bird race prior to the National except for the first two races and was flying to the perch.

The sire is a Delbar, which also contains the blood of R Carson & Son’s Dinard cock. The dam was a Marcel Albrect gifted from Colin Gibson, Dromara. The young birds are flown morning and night and also have periods on the open loft along with a couple of 40-mile tosses twice per week. Feeding is a good general mix.

Pat rears about 100 young birds and half of these are put on the dark. However with other commitments Pat admits that timings aren’t always strictly adhered to. Pat had two birds out of an entry of four with his second bird having been in Talbenny on the Saturday before the National.

Pat Byrne


8th South Section, 9th Open J Prenter Sallynoggin, Vel 1401, Flying 219 miles, winning £279


Last year’s Yearling National winner John Prenter Sallynoggin is 8th South section, 9th Open here. Having only started to race in 2010 the Yearling national last year was in fact John’s first ever win. However I have noticed that his name appears regularly now in the competitive Sallynoggin club result. John had an entry of 7 in the Young Bid National and had 4 on the day, three hens and a cock, with his second bird taking 12th South section, 28th Open.

The pigeon timed here like the Yearling National winner is from pigeons obtained from Russell Alcock, Burton on Trent near Birmingham. The sire is a Gaby Vandenabeele while the dam is a Janssen. A hen, she was sent sitting on a single 12-day-old youngster. John feeds heavy but trains hard usually twice a day either a 28-mile toss by himself or a 40-mile toss on the transporter. They get a light feed after the morning toss and a heavier feed after the evening toss.

This was John’s first year on the Darkness and he believes he hasn’t got it quite perfected yet, but I’m sure he will for next year. The young birds had most of the young bird races but missed the first race and another one due to football commitments with the kids, with the John’s sons being aspiring goalkeepers with Shamrock Rovers and St Francis in Dublin. 

John would like to thank Russell Alcock for the parents of his first bird here and Graham Matthews also from Birmingham for the parents of his second bird, a Gyselbrecht that is a granddaughter of ’The Phoenix’.

John Prenter


2nd North section, 10th Open A Darragh, Cullybackey, Vel 1397, Flying 329 miles, winning £125


At 2nd North section 10th Open is a fancier who needs no introduction, Alan Darragh of Cullybackey who has a National Record of success going back over many years. Alan’s latest success is with a blue cheq cock and this pigeon is by all accounts quite a character. First of all he is a somewhat later young bird than Alan’s main darkened team so although in the loft with the Darkies he was only on the system for 2 or 3 weeks. Although being younger he was soon to prove a very dominant cock and claimed one of the sections of the young bird loft for himself. Alan let him have it for his own until shortly before he was due to go to Penzance when he opened the door and let the other birds in, much to the annoyance of this cock. Incidentally had just returned from the NIPA’s Talbenny race on the Saturday where he had finished 6th section, 33rd Open so he flew two cross channel events in less than a week and had been a prize winner in both. Although he had flown both the cross channel events he had not been entered in more than three of the inland races. This chequer cock was bred by John McGettigan for Alan from a pigeon which John had from Alan and is down from Alan’s 3 times France (King’s Cup) pigeon. Alan Darragh is another fancier to have more than one bird in the prizes from Penzance with a second bird at 68th North section 102nd Open.

Alan Darragh


The Irish National Flying Club would like to thank the sponsors of this race, Samuel McCausland Ltd and Veterinary Services for Birds (Dr Francis Scullion), all those who helped at the race marking and clock centres. I’d like to personally thank all those who helped with this report especially Clifford Browne and Davy Black and all who helped with photographs.


Brendan McLoughlin

INFC Press Officer