COURSE choices and career plans are always topical at the start of the college year. For Fergal Birrane, there was never any wavering over his career path. “Horses, it was always going to be horses one way or another,” said the Killala racehorse trainer, one of the stars of Horse Racing Ireland’s recent video campaign.

Not that he grew up around horses at home, “a grocery shop right in the middle of the town,” owned by his parents, John and Maura. The first introduction to the horse world was courtesy of Padraic Judge. “Padraic is my first cousin, he jumped internationally and it was him that introduced me to horses at the start. From a young age, I was always mad into horse and ponies but my parents wouldn’t buy one for me so, when I was about 14, I ended up getting a coloured cob.