WITH the season winding down and this our final hunting report we thought it might be appropriate to look back on the season just past. Happily, those who were predicting the demise of hunting between Covid and insurance difficulties have proven very far off the mark. Most, if not all hunts, are back to where they were and while many old and trusted members took it as an opportunity to hang up their boots, the deficit has been more than made up by a plethora of young and enthusiastic hunt followers who will be there to enjoy the thrill of the chase behind a good pack of hounds now and well into the future.

Speaking of the area I know best, the four Limerick mounted packs, they faced the challenge and came out stronger and better than ever before. The Limerick Foxhounds recently described by Horse and Hound with no hint of hyperbole as “probably the best in the world” after a brilliant day from a meet in Kilmeedy have been showing some fantastic hunting all season.

Likewise the Stonehall, under their most enthusiastic huntsman Jamie Cross, have been crossing the West Limerick walls with a dash that hasn’t been seen since John Finucane (now master) carried the horn.

Alex Barry, 12 years old, takes on the big double bank at Kilballyowen with the County Limerick Foxhounds \ Catherine Power

The Limerick Harriers have been attracting a loyal following not only from their own county but a substantial number of keen outside subscribers from Cork, Tipperary and further afield.

Not only that, but they are able to welcome visiting groups both from USA and Britain thus helping the local tourist economy during their slackest time. We wish their huntsman, Padge Beahan, a speedy recovery from a recent fall.

All the good news isn’t concentrated in Limerick though, with Duhallow and Tipperary both having enjoyed great hunting with big fields almost every day. Looking south, the North Kerry Harriers under their enthusiastic master and huntsman David Trant have enjoyed huge fields and some cracking days all season.

Likewise, the Laois are having one of their best seasons on record with huge fields out almost every day.

Scarteen, under their new honorary huntsman, Hughie Ryan, have really hit a purple patch with red letter days almost back-to-back, particularly since Christmas. The lore of Scarteen lives on and can best be summed up by former master and the premier hunting artist of his generation, Daniel Crane, who longingly commented on a recent day from Emly which proved to be a cracker:

“It is the last Tuesday in January and the Scarteen Black and Tans meet at Emly as they have done for season after timeless season. The country depicted here (in his latest picture) is crossed from this iconic meet. Emly is a beautiful town and today the clock will stop at 10.45am as hounds are paraded up and down the village and by the school for the children to see.

“As they pass along the Main Street most doors will open, shops and offices pause in business and traffic will pull over to admire the iconic and beautiful hounds and those mounted who are eager to follow them.

Edmund Dick MFH Waterford Foxhounds, Brian Murphy MFH North Kilkenny, Cormac Bolger whipper-in, Jim Kenny huntsman of the Waterford Foxhounds, Ian Shanahan MFH, Johnny Kiely MFH Waterford Foxhounds and Noel Rafter MFH and huntsman of the North Kilkenny Foxhounds \ Catherine Power

“This is a place that recognises the valuable and intrinsic part played by the hunt in rural society Thankfully these places still exist, consequently the hunting is first rate.

“Today I am obliged to my easel but my heart is with hounds in Emly.”