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On the banks of the Lee - 04-01-21

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On the banks of the Lee

The Winter Solstice is now finally behind us and the arrival of extra daylight is on its way. From now on with each passing day we will begin to notice that little extra bit of light creeping in. This annual event can bring about a smile for many and as for the pigeon fraternity, this daylight is most welcome. The smell and sounds of spring will soon emerge and nature will once again have its say. Also on its way is the much anticipated arrival of the Covid 19 vaccine. After a real tough 12 months for many let's hope that 2021 will be a little kinder to us all and hopefully by summer we will see some little glimmer of our old ways and traditions returning. Either way, it is a process of evolution and we must evolve with this process. A famous quotation by Leon C Magginson stated, "It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change".

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Youghal in County Cork, a great location and home to some of the best fanciers on the Island of Ireland. 

Recently I had the opportunity to watch the Radio teilifís Éireann television documentary about the legendary Hurling icon, the late Christy Ring. The documentary was called 'Christy Ring, man and ball'. I have to say, I thought it was a very enjoyable documentary. It was a very moving and deserving tribute to an absolute legend. Christy Ring was one of the greatest hurlers if not the greatest to ever grace a Hurling pitch. Still today, even in death, Christy Ring continues to be an inspiration on all those who are playing the game, those have played the game and those who are about too. 2020 was marked especially because this was the year of Christy’s 100th birthday being born in Cloyne on the 30th of October 1920.

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Statue of Christy Ring in Cloyne 

The documentary, some of which contained unseen footage, was a powerful tribute to a Hurling genius. Ringey as he was known to all worked as an oil delivery man and away from the field Christy was a shy quiet type of man in general. On the pitch the legend Ring came to life, always giving his all and in his own words always wanting to be better than anyone else. He was famous on the field for his scoring prowess and his physical strength. Only 5ft 8inchs in height Ringey possessed huge determination and was as strong as an ox. On one occasion Ring quoted "never take your eye off the ball, even when it's in the referees pocket".

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The late Christy Ring in action once upon a time. 

Ringeys main position was centre forward and to this day he is the only player to have competed at Inter-County level in four different decades. Amassing over this time at club level an incredible 14 Cork County Senior championship Medals and 1 munster title. While playing in the red and white colours of Cork he was to accumulate 9 munster titles, 8 All Ireland titles and 4 National league titles for the rebel County.

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The face of Cork City Hall in honour of Ringey. 

Ringeys sudden death in 1979 sent shockwaves throughout the land and the scenes that followed at his funeral were unprecedented. As one gentleman mentioned in the documentary "It was a sin to put that man in the ground". Our former Taoiseach Jack Lynch was also a former teammate of Ringey both playing together with the famed Blackpool club Glen Rovers.

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The legendary Christy Ring in battle.                                         Ringey lining out for Corcaigh. 

Speaking at Christy’s funeral he spoke the following words "As long as Hurling is played, the story of Christy Ring will be told and that will be forever", R.I.P. Christy Ring.

Moving on It feels like forever since racing stopped but it won't be long before the baskets are being cleaned again. I'm pretty certain some fanciers will already have their nest bowls cleaned and will possibly have eggs or YB’s on the scene already. Whether you like to breed early or late do what suits yourself and try and enjoy what you are doing because that is the most important thing and I wish you all the best of luck whatever your plans. Many fanciers will be hoping that the year of 2021 will be their year and that I believe is part of why we do what we do day in day out.

Recently I had a chance to catch up with local flyer Kenneth O' Doneghue. Kenneth is not long involved in racing pigeons but is already turning heads. Kenneth is a member of the Cork North West club and although he might not be long in the sport he has one thing in his favour, he possesses some serious pedigree as he is the grandson of the late Tadgh Bullman. When Kenneth was young he used to spend a lot of time with his grandfather Tadgh and it’s fair to say he was exposed to what we call the pigeon bug from an early age. For many years since childhood Kenneth had pondered and dreamt about the idea of having pigeons for himself but to no avail. In 2019 this was all to change and finally Kenneth's dream was to become a reality. Quickly putting a team together Kenneth decided to race in 2020 for the first time and boy oh boy did he race. Kenneth's first race of the old bird season was from Thurles and against all odds the wining pigeon on the day was to be timed in by Kenneth himself.

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Kenneth O'Donoghue with his son Ken holding their mealy hen winner of the Thurles race.  

Beginners luck?, I don’t think so because not just did Kenneth win from Thurles he very soon afterwards would follow up with another win from Tullamore.

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Kenneth's blue hen, winner of the Tullamore race. 

Not being content with that Kenneth went on to top off a remarkable first season by adding two more victories in the young bird season with both wins coming from Enniscorthy in County Wexford.

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Kenneth's blue pied w/f 2020 young hen, winner of Enniscorthy race from Wexford

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Blue 2020 young hen, winner of Enniscorthy also for Kenneth. 

Kenneth also notched up several 2nd, 3rd, 4th places during the year and to finish off he managed to gain a respectable 11th Cork federation from Dundalk at the end of the season.

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Kenneth's four winners from the 2020 season and take note, all four are hens. 

Kenneth wishes to acknowledge and thank Anthony Bullman for breeding him his Thurles winner and also thanks to Jimmy Willis and Nick Apostu for breeding his Tullamore winner. Well done Kenneth, talk about making an introduction! I'm sure with Kenneth's keenness, pedigree and determination the fancy will be hearing a lot more about this gentleman in the future and we wish him all the best in his pursuits.

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The late Thomas Crean, a gentleman and great Cork pigeon fancier. Thomas was known to all in both the bird and doggy circles. Thomas is remembered fondly and was a great character loved by all. Rip Thomas.  

Upon closing I would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone good health and a very happy new year.

Alan Busteed