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GRAND NATIONAL: When the GAA goes National
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GRAND NATIONAL: When the GAA goes National
on 13 April 2018
Emmet Moloney of the Irish Farmers' Journal puts a GAA slant on the runners and riders to pick the National winner

THIS is one of those calm-before-the-storm weekends. The GAA is on a club championship health kick (in certain counties anyway) and the rugby giants are getting ready for the Champions Cup semi-finals. Pretty soon we won’t know ourselves with the matches coming thick and fast but for now we’ll pause and consider the sport of kings.

We have a horse race this Saturday and while I’m prone to a harmless bet now and again, I’ve never had the winner of the Grand National. I’ve tried backing favourites, Ruby, stables and jockeys in form; I’ve gone on the weights, good form around Aintree – I’ve even listened to what Ted Walsh inevitably tips up the night before.

Still no winner.

For this week’s column, I perused the runners and riders but I couldn’t get the league just gone by and the championship in front of us out of my head. The GAA blood always flows and that’s a good thing. Then it hit me. If I mix the two, I can apply GAA logic to the race and that will give me the winner. Bear with me.

If I was from the Premier, then Delusionofgrandeur would have appealed after last weekend. I had been tempted by Wounded Warrior if he had run, and how such men are dangerous come championship time. Best not to write them off.

Had I been born in Meath, then as a Royal I’d be thinking about Regal Encore; he’s about 33/1 and that’s about right for Meath footballers to come back right now. A long shot.

I wasn’t born in lovely Mayo but sometimes I feel their pain as a neutral and can only wonder how deep that ache is for a native. The last few years will be etched in their minds that Total Recall (10/1) is a curse. But he might be favourite, comes from a great stable and we know he has the class to win it. Where have we heard that before? All Mayo need is that Final Nudge (50/1). Will it arrive in 2018? I hope so. If one of those wins at Aintree, then the hex is definitely lifted.

Galway isn’t my home place either but it’s close by and they’re in a very good place now. In fact, in hurling and football, they look like the Perfect Candidate – maybe that 66/1 is value for the double this summer? It might be on Saturday.

While not hailing from Donegal either, I’ve always had a grá for the place. The people there are warm and always Pleasant Company (25/1). They and the horse might surprise.

Davy has Wexford revved up since he arrived down there and these next few months and weeks could be huge for them. He has, however, awoken the snoozing (not sleeping) giant that is Kilkenny; the battle lines drawn for their upcoming tussle in Nowlan Park.

On the sideline that day it will still be The Last Samurai (14/1) and it should be one for the ages.

All those that were writing off the Cats after two league games are back on the bandwagon and talking All-Irelands. Not so fast, lads. Kilkenny are contenders for sure, but the jury isn’t in just yet. There are a lot of hands that haven’t been played yet.

I Just Know (25/1) there will be a kick in the likes of my closest neighbours Limerick, who have trumps to come back into their squad from Na Piarsaigh and momentum bubbling close to the surface. They’re a bet to do something this year – it just mightn’t be the summit.

The only place to Buywise (50/1) on that front of course is probably the Dublin footballers. But this year more than ever they appear a little vulnerable. Always beatable in the five finals they have won in recent years, all by one score, these last few months have seen indications that there is trouble in paradise.

Whatever is happening with Diarmuid Connolly is a case in point. The Road To Riches (50/1) is paved with footballers of his ability. . With him, the Dubs could still struggle.

It it’s not Mayo, Kerry or Galway to take advantage of the Dubs running out of road, who could surprise us? Well there’s usually a team that are distinctly unimpressive at league time who then become the butterflies of the summer.

This time last year plenty were talking up Tyrone and they are gone silent. They didn’t really raise a gallop in the spring. I think their Vieux Lion Rouge (33/1) might be working off a two-stop strategy this year and there is none cuter than Harte at doing it. Keep an eye on them and the horse.

I’m not from Laois, who could always do with two Munnellys, so it can’t be Double Ross (50/1) and while Louth and Down can each lay claim to Carlingford Lough (50/1), they will be both be on the shores early this summer.

But I’m still no closer to picking the winner.

Once upon a time my party piece in singsongs was The Dutchman (25/1) and I’m humming it now to be honest, but beautiful as the tune is, the Clare connection isn’t strong enough. This was crossing my mind yesterday evening as I was driving in North Clare, around the scenic Liscannor coastline. The sea was calm, the skies were clear in the distance were Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer.

Now I’ve always thought those three unique pieces of land should really be in Clare and not Galway. I was thinking how I’d get the Banner Malvinas returned when my mind was then drawn to the car radio where Donn McClean was giving a little run through potential Grand National winners and where the money was going.

Then it all fell into place. There’s money for Katie Walsh and her husband Ross O’Sullivan’s horse.

Money behind a Walsh horse in the National? Sounds good, what’s the name of the horse? Well roughly translated it means Bay of Islands, which is exactly what I was looking out on.

We like to follow the money in Clare so Baie Des Iles (16/1 and getting smaller) it is for me! Best of luck to all.

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