RAHEALTY could hardly be described as a village, rather it is a hamlet on the road between Thurles and the prosperous mining village of Moyne. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame is that it is the home of a former Ireland’s Fittest Family, the Cummins family who farm and run a garage just opposite Rahealty school.
As we approached, boxes were already on hand and prominent among them of course were the Golden Vale Foxhounds, all 12 and a half couple with their huntsman Dan Moloney now in his second season. Since we were with Dan last season, he seems to have really grown into his role and approaches each hunting day with such enthusiasm he could hardly go wrong. From Roscrea, he formerly hunted a private foot pack before seeing practice with Johnny Dean and the Radnor Hunt in Maryland.
All the while he kept his hand in as an equine dentist, a profession he still practises as time allows in between hunting. Since last season he has found time to get married to Sarah Loughnane who was not out on the day as she was preparing greyhounds for coursing. He was riding a nice three-quarter bred he had bought from Pauric Moynihan, the new huntsman of the Kildare Foxhounds, who performed every bit as good as he looked.
Rahealty boasts neither shop nor pub but the masters had generously thrown on light refreshments to beat the winter cold and strengthen the resolve of riders facing the banks and ditches of Co Tipperary. While many hunts around the country appear to be suffering from diminished fields, such was not the case in Rahealty with well over 40 riders out including several young sportsmen.
The number would have been bigger but for a charity tractor run in Knock which took some regular followers as Johnny Martin and family from Clonakenny. Since we were with them last season, the veteran Mattie Maher from Killough has been joined in the mastership by three sporting members who have stepped up to the plate to support the hunt they love.
They are all long-time supporters of the Golden Vale, some of them going right back to Michael Purcell’s time. The list, in no particular order, is Pat Cantwell who owned and raced the very useful mare The Moyne Machine, trained by Tim Doyle, and visited the winner’s enclosure no less than five times in a successful racing career. Pat’s son, Tony, who works with Dovea AI, has inherited his father’s love of hunting and rarely misses a day.
Another recruit is Brian Walsh from Johnstown and making up the trio is Sean Moore from Templemore. Chairman and well-known horse producer Michael Costigan was out as ever, well mounted.
Regular whipper-in Cynthia Hanly, who works with Bulmers in Clonmel, was out on her coloured mount, she is the daughter of Pat Hanly who, in his day, was Willie O’Grady’s number one jockey and now runs a livery and hunting yard near Killenaule. She has been has been joined as whipper-in this season by Craig Loughnane, who is in the fibre optic business.
Award-winning Shorthorn breeder Glen Carter from Clonakenny, had family support with young Ben and daughter Louise also out with him. As was Frankie Fogarty from Templemore, on his good grey, looking a million dollars since he received a new kidney. This kidney came as a result of a living donor who literally gave the gift of life to Frankie. He was accompanied by son Aaron who works with his dad in the family construction business and daughter Saoirse who rides out for local trainer Pat Doyle.
All too soon the hospitality had to end, our huntsman apologised for being five minutes past the appointed time as he moved for his first draw at John Quinn’s farm, a successful bloodstock breeder, before moving on to Tim Doyle’s very extensive farm which is run as a racing stables.
After a career as an amateur clocking up over 40 wins, he became a very successful trainer with the likes of Moyenne, winner of the Listed Scherping-Rennen at Baden-Baden in 2005 and the talented Grade 2-winning chaser Mallowney.
Field-master of the Golden Vale Foxhounds, Owen Mockler and his son Jack, on his young pony after a good run at the hunt's meet at Rahealty \ Catherine Power
However, it was across the road in some woodland behind Ely’s Transport that hounds spoke. It was Raven, a second-season hound and a draft from Westmeath, who took interest and soon had a fox afoot. Reynard was spotted slipping away by young Brian Bergin from Roscrea, a nephew of joint-master Pat Cantwell who was up front all day, assisting the huntsman, and hounds were on song almost straight away.
A smashing hunt ensued, with many a scratched face, over some old country far from roads with hounds only being followed by sound for much of the time. They ran on through Declan Dwyer’s towards Rahealty Castle before eventually being marked to ground in a big bank in Garraroe farm.
This was a smashing hunt and many a huntsman would have blown for home but not Dan, who gathered up his hounds, while those remaining gave their horse a welcome breather. He then crossed the main Thurles road to draw a field of beet, a crop which is making a welcome return to the farming scene.
While this didn’t hold, nearby there was a rath on Michael Shanahan’s very extensive dairy farm. Michael and family were there to welcome hounds, but then he is a former whipper-in to the Golden Vale and hunted hounds for half a season in the absence of the then huntsman. He is currently on a hunting sabbatical while he rears his burgeoning young family and develops his dairy farm.
Here hounds found and so good was the going that Michael was able to follow the action in his jeep almost as good as being on a horse. They hunted on into Orwell Stud which, back in the day, bred the great eventer Durlas Eile, 1965 Badminton winner ridden by Major Eddie Boylan. In the thoroughbred field, they bred Gaye Brief (7/1) who won the 1983 renewal of the Champion Hurdle, trained by Mercy Rimmel.
Great sporting tradition
Then as now, Orwell is the property of the Sweeney family, and there to see hounds through were Phil Sweeney’s daughters Marguerite (Barrett) and Pam who have lost none of the great sporting tradition that always went with Orwell.
But with a diminishing field, hounds really flew before marking in a bit of bogland not far from where hounds met.
There was little left but for our huntsman, staff and what was left of the field, to make the short hack back to the boxes and return hounds to kennels and horses to a well-deserved rest for at least a couple of days.
The Golden Vale
Chairman - Michael Costigan
Huntsman - Dan Moloney
Joint-Masters - Mattie Maher, Pat Cantwell, Brian Walsh, Sean Moore
Field-Master - Owen Mockler
Honorary Secretary - Sharon Crampton
Point-to-point Secretary - Martina Fogarty
Whippers-in - Cynthia Hanly, Craig Loughnane
Founded by the late Tim Hyde, winner of the Grand National at Aintree in 1939 on Workman. Tim had hunted the family pack, The Shaun Peels, in his native Inishshannon before coming to Tipperary and hunting a country once hunted by the Thurles and Kilshane Harriers, extending from Devil’s Bit to Bansha. Allowed to lapse in the 1950s due to Tim Hyde’s riding injury, they were reformed in 1975 by Michael Purcell and Tim Hyde Jnr.