"Introducing A Gentleman"
In the first of a series of articles it gives me great pleasure to introduce a gentleman more commonly known as Micheal "O". Micheal was born in the year of 1946 into a family of 10 in a place called Cattle lane on the north side of Cork city. From this location Micheal’s father (Micheal senior) who was a well known character in the area operated with great precision the families coal business, in fact almost anything that could be used as fuel was traded including turf, timber, blocks, etc. With the help of young Micheal "O" and the family, the business was a great success. Micheal senior who was known to some as "micheal dennati" had a keen eye for business and was as sharp as a razor and with a contract with the well established ford company giving them another welcomed opportunity and platform. From this point business boomed for the Dennehys with the famous ford boxes being supplied to farmers, fanciers and the ordinary folk. The Dennehy family used to also make bed base boards from the ford boxes and Micheal "o" recalled the great interaction between the Dennehy family and the Busteed family who were also a business family in the mattress making industry.
Micheal and Francis Dennehy - Micheal with his children Ian and Michelle enjoying the birds
Just for good measure the Dennehy family also had another business not far from a very well known public house known as Connie Donovans. Micheal "O" recalls them also having their hand in the animal industry with pigs, horses and so on, a common thing back then. Glancing back in time Micheal remembered the times when they would travel along sunvalley drive with the horses this was long before the well known parochial hall in Churchfield even existed. Back then it was just fields and more fields, happy times. On enquiring Micheal "O" was quick to make aware of some of the marvellous people that were met throughout the early years as he fondly recalled about the local candy apple maker Mrs Murphy, there was Mrs Noonan in the local shop and the famous Mattie gumballs piggery. On mentioning Micheal’s mother Kitty Dennehy it was gently said "what a wonderful woman and to rear such a big family can be no easy task and what a super job she done". Micheal also was quick to point out that his grandmother on his mothers side originated from Scotland. "Micheal I knew there was wild breeding in your genetic makeup ha ha". Moving on not just were the Dennehys a keen business family they were also a keen pigeon family. While Micheal was young his father kept pigeons and was very well known in the cork pigeon scene. In fact Micheal senior was one of the first founding members of another local organisation called the cork federation. Micheal "O" was mad keen himself on the pigeons from a young age and can remember sitting on his uncles lap watching the pigeons, this uncle was the late great Billy boy Barry. As Micheal "O" glided through his teenage years as well as pigeons another interest was acquired and that interest was football or as known to some as soccer, believe it or not Micheal was 18 years old before he started playing with a team called North villa and little harm was done as a fine player he was with many years of enjoyment to follow and in later years progressing into coaching was a natural process. An exceptional keen eye was had for spotting talent on the field as many a player was guided in the right direction through him. Football for the Dennehys was a family affair and their passion for the game unquestionable. Micheal "O"s brothers Thomas, Liam, Sean and Gerard were all very established footballers who played across the water. With pride Micheal’s informs me of Sean having being internationally capped for Ireland and Gerard scoring a record 11 goals against Crosshaven with Micheal again informing me that this record stands today. If this wasn’t enough along came a gem in the name of "Miah". Miah Dennehy was Micheal’s first cousin (Micheal and Miah’s father being brothers) was one of the greatest footballers to ever grace the Cork football scene, a real special talent. Miah was the first footballer ever to score a hat trick in an f.a.i. cup final back in 1972 against Waterford united. The previous year Miah helped Cork Hibs win the league of Ireland with 2 goals against Shamrock Rovers. Miah was also capped with the Irish football team and played a total of 11 international games. Having spells across the water at Nottingham Forest, Walsall FC, Bristol Rovers and Cardiff city. In Miah's time in England he also regularly played Gaelic football. Eventually Miah returned to his native home of Cork where he went on and coached football teams and also played hurling for St Vincent's gaa, a real leeside legend. Micheal "O" had many interests but there was one particular interest that has turned into a journey and that journey has lasted almost 50 years, that interest being known as "Francis" his wife, racing partner and best friend.
Francis Dennehy proudly holding the pied hen that was 1st club 1st fed 3rd national Perth - From left to right, Kitty Dennehy, Micheal Dennehy, Francis Dennehy and Billy boy Barry
At the age of 16 Micheal and Francis were to meet and by just shy of 20 they were married and relocated across the river to a place known as High street on the south side of Cork city where they happily reside to this day. Micheal stated it was with timber from the old ford company's boxes that was used to do up the house at the time. Before Francis knew what had hit her Micheal’s activity in the back garden seemed to be increasing and before long a pigeon loft was in place. Micheal “O" laughingly says to me that the loft was done before the house but quickly acknowledged his partner and wife for her help all down through the years as without her he'd have been lost. A lovely tribute to a lovely lady With the loft and house complete, family, pigeons and business were combined with working in the haulage industry, rearing a family with 4 children and looking after his beloved birds it wasn’t easy .But with perserverance came a break and that was in the form of halls a well known local industry and with plenty of work 2 trucks were acquired and was never to look back. Micheal explaining to me that up until that point life was tough reflecting back to a time when starting out in a place known as ranks when an old friend Tommy Lynch would get micheal a few days here and there. Micheal would never forget the the times when he would stand in the corner with the other dockers hoping that his name would be called for a days work. With halls providing stability Micheal began to focus on the pigeons, a team was cautiously put together from the bloodlines of Ian Stafford, Jos Thone, J and J from Germany and his long time friends Ahern brothers of Youghal which would have make up the bulk of his birds. Ahern brothers being terrific fanciers winning nationals and flying Scotland consistantly on the north road many times. Success for Micheal "0" was soon to follow remembering fondly the red cock that was entered in the Larne race where a snowball of £100 had accumulated. The snowball bird had to win the race to take the winnings; indeed the red cock was clocked, and win the race he did with a £100 being a lot of money at the time. On another day 3 ybs were prepared and duly sent to Girvan in Scotland almost 270 miles to the Dennehy loft a tough challenge for ybs . They didnt let him down with 1 being clocked on the day and the other 2 the following morning respectively, a great performance from the ybs. Feeding at the time was maize, wheat and Australian peas. Micheal’s greatest day was the day he clocked his pied hen from Perth in Scotland. A 2 yr old being the only bird on the day taking 1st club, 1st fed and 3rd National. Billy Downey father of fellow club member Jim Downey was to get the 2nd bird the following day. Having had many a good pigeon over the years Micheal was quick to inform me about a very special hen called the Montrose hen, Micheal requesting that it be specifically noted that the Montrose hen was bred and raced by Micheal's father. She was a great hen winning many races, a very consistent pigeon. The Paddy Daly trophy from mallow was another that had a stay at the Dennehy residence and on one particular occasion Micheal was presented with the points average trophy in the old famous Flowerlodge. Outside of racing Micheal was also a very keen showman enjoying the show side of the sport and the judging side stating you must keep them well in the winter. Micheal "O" was and still is an active worker for the sport and in the process held many an official position in clubs as well as being in charge of the lorry for another local organisation. Micheal is currently the treasurer of the Mayfield r.p.c and it’s a privilege to work along side him. Micheal wanted to pay a special tribute to what he classed as the greatest fanciers of his time being Power brothers, Tol Daly, George Busteed, Ahern Brothers, Mr Bill Campion and John Beecher. Also among his friends were Paddy and Sheila o Callaghan who were great friends of Micheal’s father. Paddy was a great secretary and a good flyer too. Another was a man known to all Johnny Mahony he was a pigeon man, dog man and the local bar owner where down through the years many a tale was told.
A smiling Micheal Dennehy being presented his award by the famous Ned Power - Micheal Dennehy being presented by Liam Daly of Mallow with the Dan Daly perpetual cup for Perth
The following are Micheal’s own feelings on a couple of Questions I asked of him on the day.
Q1 -What are your opinions on the annual vaccinations?
Ans - I do vaccinate but i feel it should only be done only once as ybs and no more.
Q2- How far do you train old/young birds?
Ans - Old birds 40-50 miles / ybs 40-50miles also.
Q3 - Do you give anything in particular to the birds on return from a race?
Ans - Canary seed and multivitamin.
Q4 - Do you prefer sprint or distance?
Ans - distance
Q5 - How would you compare racing in Ireland to the u.k or europe?.
Ans -Very difficult with vast amount of mountains here and fog threatening a lot, on top of racing with small birdage..
Q6 -Is there anything in the sport that you would like to achieve that you havent?
Ans - Winning from a French race point and being well in the clear.
Q7- What is your fondest memory in the sport?
Ans -My fondest memory was while living in cattle lane as a child and watching out the window
at the lines of pigeons racing into the city lined out from st.marys to the north cathedral, an absolute fantastic sight to see.
Q8 -If you had any advice for a novice what would it be?
Ans - Go to a good consistent fancier and try to get eggs or yb's.
Q9- Would you like to see anything change in the sport?
Ans- All fanciers should be racing together in harmony.
Q10- Is there anyone in particular you would like to thank in the pigeon circle?
Ans - Yes Francis and my family for feeding, watering and clocking my birds. Francis is the backbone of the whole operation.
Before i bring this article to a close Thomas Murphy the chairman of the Mayfield pigeon club and a lifelong friend of Micheal had this to say by way of compliment stating "Micheal Dennehy is one of the great characters of the sport of pigeon racing in Cork city and is always there to help and encourage anyone in need of assistance in any way shape or form". I would like this opportunity to thank Micheal and Francis Dennehy for there time and attention to detail helping me pen this article. I would also like to congratulate them both on their upcoming golden wedding anniversary. I hope and wish you every success, happiness and health for the future.