The Kilkenny Foxhounds

Chairperson: Catherine Dwan

Joint-masters: Dermot Dwan, Joe O’Flynn, Ben Goodbody, Fionnuala Lennon

Honorary secretary: Margaret Bolger

Huntsman: Mark Casserly

Whippers-in: Gary Kelleher, JJ Bolger (amateur)

Country hunted: Varied, banks, drains, stone walls and rivers.


Hunt formed in 1797 by Sir John Power of Kilfane. The kennels have been at Mount Juliet since 1921 when Dermot McCalmont took over the hounds from Isaac Bell. The hunt then passed into the control of the McCalmont family, Dermot and later his son Victor, and could be said to have entered their golden period where they were run on a lavish scale for the next 60 years.

Meets: Tuesday and Saturday, 11am.

THE small village of Hugginstown in South Kilkenny was our venue last Saturday for a meet of the Kilkenny Foxhounds. With many hunts sidelined due to insurance, the Kilkenny Foxhounds have no such worries and are fully carded until the end of the season.

As we arrived, the village was just coming alive with the arrival of horses and hounds. A few intrepid huntsmen made a quick dash for the welcoming hostelry on the main street, open for the occasion. It is run by John and Dan Irish who also farm extensively in the area and their land was well hunted on the day. But as huntsman Mark Casserly enlarged his 14 and a half couple, everyone had been legged up and it was a full compliment that hacked to his first draw as the clock struck 11am.

The full line-up of masters were there and looking very smart, all on horses that looked as if they could be in the shake-up in a competitive members’ race. Since we last visited, Ben Goodbody from Fethard and Fionnuala Lennon from Kildare have joined Dermot Dwan and Joe O’Flynn in the mastership. Ben had, as his guest on the day, Emily McMahon who runs Lambertstown Stud who had made the trip south from Co Meath.

Joe Flynn from the Rathsallagh House Hotel has hunting in his blood as his father, also Joe, served for many years as master of the Laois in the Rory Dicker era. Happily Joe Snr is still going strong and takes a keen interest in all hunting affairs.

With many of the masters living outside the hunt country, most of the horses are kept in livery with Noel Walsh and their turnout is a credit to both Noel and the Kilkenny Hunt. Noel was out on the day on a nice four-year-old grey he is bringing on. His brother Martin runs the Salmon Leap pub in Thomastown and hosts the KH point-to-point on his farm.

Great hunting heritage

Dermot Dwan of Kellsgrange Stud is a well-known breeder and is married to hunt chairwoman Catherine Dwan MRCVS, a distinguished equine veterinary surgeon. The Dwans are a real proper hunting family, their other brother Bill of The Castlebridge Consignment is the joint-master of the Meath.

Castlebridge, the largest consignors of bloodstock in Europe, regularly feature in the top five of sales reports, both in terms of aggregate and individual prices.

Mark Casserly, now in his fifth season in Kilkenny, is originally from the royal county of Meath where he did his apprenticeship with the Henrys before hunting the Iveagh in Co Down. When he moved south, he brought Victor, his best hunter, with him. A coloured horse, he had been well schooled over the hedges and wire of Iveagh in readiness for the huge walls of Kilkenny.

Kilkenny has two whippers-in, the professional Gary Kelly, now in his third season from Laois, and the amateur James Bolger who, when not hunting, works in Ballygallen Stud. His wife Margaret was on foot on the day and had the onerous task of collecting cap and making sure the visitors had signed hunting waivers, etc. Making up the team in the hunt jeep, filling a variety of roles were Kevin Lawlor, James Tyler and Mick O’Keefe.

Old friends and new

Hunting is all about meeting up with old friends and one of the first people we bumped into was Mary Dicker, originally from Kilfeacle in Tipperary but now living near Piltown. The family keep the Rockview Harriers which were hunting on the day, explaining the absence of her husband Rory and son Johnny, now a commandant in the Curragh.

The first draw was just a short hack away in Connolly’s extensive farm but unfortunately proved blank. They then gathered up hounds and crossed the Ballyhale road and drew Coogan’s and Fitzpatrick’s sandpits.

It was there that Muppet (Kilkenny ’17) by Cotswold Vale Banjo, had a fox afoot and even with patchy scent, they hunted on giving super tongue into John and Dan Irish’s before hunting on into Brendan Holden’s and marking to ground in Eddie Fitzpatrick’s. This gave an opportunity to catch up with the field, including a group from neighbouring Kilmoganny, led by joint-master Breda Cahill and George Frisby along with his son Hugh.

From North Kilkenny was young Robert Healy whose father Billy is senior joint-master. On gate duty for the day were former Laois huntsman Dermot Hanniffy, assisted by his sister Ann. Husband and wife team, Mary and Steve Cotrell, were out and and making the best of their time before their very extensive dairy herd start calving and Steve will be confined to barracks.

Visiting from the Curragh was leading trainer Ken Condon, who won the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas with Romanised in 2018. However, the Kilkenny walls are no respecter of persons or prestige as Ken took a perler over a wall near Paul Holden’s gallops. Then these series of walls in the old days were known as the “Murder Mile” by no less than Bunny McCalmont of Mount Juliet. No such feat befell Sarah Bould on her smashing coloured who gave a great display. Sarah is the partner of Comdt. Johnny Dicker who, it being Saturday, was busy hunting the family pack elsewhere.

Challenging walls

As hounds drew on through Fitzpatrick’s hill, we were put under the able guidance of Robert Kent who formerly hunted the nearby Mullinavat. His son, young Jack, a gallant young jockey and at 12 years old a veteran of the show-ring, gave a stylish performance over this and the other good stiff walls.

This area is full of made hunt walls which take a bit of jumping and Catherine was fortunate to have her fellow photographer John O’Carroll as her guide as they hit off on foot to these distant obstacles.

While hounds spoke, they weren’t able to carry the line and they drew on through Michael Phelan’s of Red Mills where they found and a nice dash ensued by Paul Holden’s gallops which seem to go on forever. Paul only recently stepped down as master. He and his daughter Ellmarie won the family-sponsored Holden Plant Rentals Shamrock Handicap Chase with Ex Patriot, ridden by Derek O’Connor.

It had been a long day and with shadows lengthening and storm clouds gathering, Irish’s pub in Hugginstown sounded like the obvious next draw.