HUNTING and eventing are alive and thriving in this pocket of East Galway, and they go hand in hand so much that the East Galway Foxhounds and the Western Region of Eventing Ireland will hold a joint hunt ball this season on January 27th, 2024. It makes sense as this area is a nursery for young event riders that are proven winners. They hone their riding and cross-country skills during the winter in the hunting field, so for any aspiring young event rider East Galway is the place to be. Why? Beside owners like Alan Briscoe, Ralph Conroy, Eoghan McCabe, Tim MacDonagh, the Gibbons family and others, the ace in the pack is Ralph Conroy himself, whose Milchem Equestrian Centre in nearby Tynagh is the hub, with perfect facilities and tuition. They run shows, a HSI Eventing Development League, Starter Stakes, Dressage Clinics and combined training and coaching sessions with international riders like Sarah Ennis. Ralph has coached 14 European medal winners in the last few years. His latest is European Team Champion Silver Medallist Godfrey Gibbons, who also came fifth as an individual in Hartpury. And there are other talented riders like Oisin McDonagh, Katie Gibbons, Duncan McFadyn, Rebecca Scott and Jason Doerflinger, a winner in the Young Eventer Class at the Dublin Horse Show. Jason also won the Redmills OPB League against 54 other entries, and three other events on Milchem Echo, formerly owned by the East Galway huntsman Eoghan McCabe and now owned by joint-master Alan Briscoe. The riders also had wins at Scarteen, Rincoola and Rosanna.


Ralph has a production line of eventers like Milchem Echo, Milchem Mischief, DS Are You Murchu, Milchem Watermark, and hunters and ponies that are ridden by the young riders. Ralph also breeds horses and ponies and produces them to competition standard. This year, British rider James Rushbrook completed Badminton on Milchem Eclipse. But wouldn’t it put the finishing touches to his extraordinary work, if a pool of event horses could be retained so that some of these young talented riders could go on and be stars of the future for Ireland, especially in the Olympics when the nearest Ireland got to a medal was Tony Cameron, who was fourth in Tokyo in 1964.


Eyrecourt, where the East Galway meet was held, has been completely untouched by the Celtic Tiger and still retains an amazing number of beautiful buildings of classical architecture going back to the time of Giles Eyre, who had his own pack in the area. People often wonder where the County Galway Hunt got it’s better known name The Galway Blazers. Well it dates back to an invitation from Giles Eyre to the County Galway Hunt about 1840 to hunt in East Galway. The two packs, having enjoying a day’s hunting, retired to Dooley’s Hotel in Birr. As the night went on, the festivities got more boisterous and the hotel was burned to the ground, hence The Galway Blazers, and Dooley’s Hotel still has a room dedicated to that historic event known as The Blazers Room!

The last time I hunted in East Galway on horseback was in Eyrecourt, when the late Michael Dempsey was hunting the pack in the 1980s. I had arranged that the late Blazers field master Willie Leahy drop a horse off for me in Eyrecourt. And, as it happened, Willie was rushing with hirelings to the Ormond Hunt and was running late as usual. He literally lowered the ramp of the truck let the horse off on the main street, jumped back into the cab and drove away. I ended up running up the main street in Eyrecourt to catch the horse!

Hunt Staff

Eoghan McCabe is a talented young huntsman, having honed his skills well in both horsemanship and also in hound management. He has experience hunting on foot, which is always an advantage, with Kieran Lambert’s Balgarret Beagles and many seasons with a great tutor like Kevin Donohoe, huntsman of the Ballymacad Foxhounds. He then rode out for horse trainer Noel Meade before spending four seasons whipping- in to Kildare Foxhounds huntsman Peter Cahill, another good tutor. Johnnie O’Donnell and his son Shane were doing a fantastic job as usual on foot, all day fencing, and Darragh Kenny is the countryman.

It’s not every day you have a European Eventing Silver medallist whipping-in, but Godfrey Gibbons filled in while regular whipper-in Paudie Lynch was show jumping in Cavan. Paudie’s father, Paul, used to hunt a local pack. Ann Hanniffy also whips-in, and she has a wealth of experience as she whipped in to the Laois Foxhounds for many seasons and has shown hounds and did a great job whipping-in to the previous East Galway huntsman, Liam McAlinden, who gave such loyal service to the hunt. Oisin McDonagh and Jason Doerflinger also play their part autumn hunting and during the season. The huntsman showed hounds at the National Hound Show in Stradbally and held a very successful puppy show, which was well attended. Bridie Larkin has been point-to-point secretary for a remarkable 32 years, which is scheduled for March, 5th, 2024. Her husband Neil is field master and also arranges much of the land over which they hunt, which is a huge advantage.

European Eventing Silver Medialist Godfrey Gibbons with his sister Katie and mother Maria at The East Galway Foxhounds meet at Eyrecourt \ Noel Mullins


Joint-master and former event rider Alan Briscoe and his horses are always turned out impeccably by Katie Thompson. Former master Niall Earls was hunting, as was Godfrey Gibbons and his sister Katie and mother Maria Dunne, who has supported Godfrey all along his career. Also John Coffey, Rebecca Scott, Duncan McFadyen, Oisin McDonagh, Donal Fahy, a nephew of the much-missed former hunt chairman Tom Fahy, Alice Kenny, Alex Kenny, Holly Agnew and Brendan Kenny. Other followers were Joe McEvoy, Noel McManus, Willie Lee and John Joe Richardson.


Despite the recent poor weather, Eoghan and Cyril Larkin were welcome on the farms and the followers were careful, keeping to headlands. But Eoghan proved that you can be careful with the land and let hounds hunt at the same time, and we were treated to what most of us come out hunting for - just to hear quality hound music.

Honorary whipper in Ann Hanniffy at The East Galway Foxhounds meet at Eyrecourt \ Noel Mullins

With all the paperwork done in Paco Dempsey’s Bar, called after a local character, which is owned by Noel Larkin where honorary secretary Kathleen Ward and honorary treasurer Jim Johnston were busy with the modern day waivers and insurance paperwork.

The huntsman, riding the classy looking eventer Milchem Echo, left the Town Square to Dermot Duffy’s covert, but it was blank. So he wasted no time to the next draw, jumping a log off the road into more of Dermot’s land. The minute they entered Con Heagney’s plantation, the orchestra immediately struck up with sweet hound music and I could hear one bitch in particular, who I found out later to be Daydream, who has the most fantastic voice. This customer took them on laps of the covert for about 15 minutes before deciding to head underground.

They then headed across the Tully Road into an ash plantation that looked like it had been affected by the airborne fungus-like disease and consequently for some reason holds no scent. But the next draw proved more positive in Salmon’s Covert and this fellow ran through the extensive farm and on through Mary Morrissey’s for about 30 minutes, where they lost him back at the Tully Road.

The covert in Mahon’s also held and they had a nice hunt out over Lynch’s and on to O’Brien’s, where I understand joint-master Alan Briscoe went gently beagling! Our pilot turned right-handed through Sylvie Nealon’s and Maher’s, where the followers were treated to some nice hedge jumping, where Katie Gibbons and her mother Maria parted company with their mounts, but the soft ground gave them a cushion on landing. This was a long slow hunt on patchy scent, but the pack never gave up, which is a credit to huntsman Eoghan McCabe and his smashing pack of hounds.

The two following coverts in Mal Gohery’s and Twomey’s were blank, but they had done enough as it was 5.30pm, so the huntsman blew for home after a great start to the season and they returned to Paco Dempsey’s Bar for refreshments.