EVEN in these hunting times, challenged on the one hand by Covid-19 and on the other by insurance issues, the business of running hunt clubs must continue.

Integral to all that is the appointment of joint masters, those sporting men and women who step forward - usually with cheque book in hand - to support their local hunt.

Sometimes it may just a brief excursion but for longevity in office, few hunts can compete with the Carbery in west Cork where Edward and Patrick O’Driscoll have been in office since 1952. With their kinsman Barry, a relative newcomer having only joined the mastership in 1990.

Other masterships of long standing are Chris Ryan of Scarteen since 1986 who has hunted hounds for most of those years, while Jay Bowe of the Bree has been in office since 1992.

David Lalor of Laois has also been in office since 1992 and has been joined this year by Verity O’Mahoney of Portarlington.

This season’s appointments

However, there have been quite a few new appointments this season and it is to those I turn to in this piece.

Scarteen have acquired no less than four new joint masters in John Hourigan, James (Jake) Murphy and Mairead English, all of whom farm within the hunt country, and Oliver Ryan-Purcell who practises as a solicitor in Cloughjordan.

Neighbouring pack, the Tipperary have added Maria Marron who lives near Cashel and has brought a huge breath of enthusiasm to hound breeding and kennel management. Niall Foley, whose dad James became something of a legend as amateur whip to Hugh Robards, has joined the Co Limerick mastership with John Halley MRCVS and Emma Thompson.

Among the harrier packs to have added to their line-up are our own local Limerick Harriers where Garry McCarthy has rejoined the front bench. West of the Shannon, Imelda O’Donnell, formerly master of the Tara Harriers, has joined David Burke as master of the Grallagh Harriers in Galway.

Johanna Hyland from Ardrahan has joined the Blazers’ line-up as has Alan Briscoe from Ballinasloe with the East Galway. Meanwhile Aoileann Nic An Iomaire, who runs an Irish Draught yard in Spiddal, has taken up office with the North Galway.

With the retirement of most of the old team who ran the Ballymacad with great success, a new team of Michael Bevan from New Bliss, Co Monaghan, Brendan Cosgrove from Co Cavan and Martin Farrell have taken up the reins of office.

Finally, the Carlow Farmers team has been joined by Mehran Mirmadi from Dalkey, Co Dublin. The Kilkenny have added Ben Goodbody from Fethard and Fionnuala Lennon from Sallins.

I’m sure all hunting people will join me in wishing these sportsmen and women every success and plenty good hunting in these challenging times while in office.