A FORMER champion jockey will put his body on the line when he goes chasing a different type of sporting glory this weekend, writes Trevor Spillane.
He has broken his back twice - and his neck among other injuries - but Kilmoganny native James O’Farrell will be hoping to clear any potential hurdles put in his path by Thomastown as he aims to win the junior club All-Ireland hurling final in Croke Park.
Kilkenny’s bionic hurler will take on his own county-men when he lines out for Fullen Gaels of Manchester in Sunday’s showdown.
A former member of the Carrickshock club, O’Farrell has been hurling with the ’Gaels since taking up an IT job in Manchester late last year.
He won county honours at under-16 and minor levels with the ’Shock, but his real sporting claims to fame came on the equine front. A former champion jockey in Norway and Sweden, O’Farrell made global headlines when he steered Percussionist to victory in the 2010 American Grand National.
Rerired from racing
Claiming that win earned a cheque of $250,000 for the horse’s owners. It was the richest race of its kind in the US.
While injuries have forced his retirement from horse-riding - O’Farrell will be hurling with pins in a broken wrist - it hasn’t stopped him from helping the ’Gaels reach the big final in Croke Park.
In another local connection, O’Farrell’s father Seamus, a champion horse trainer, will assist the Manchester club from the sidelines for their game.
“It’ll be divided loyalties for me,” said Seamus, who hails from Thomastown. “However, I hope we’ll see a good game.”
Meanwhile, the massive windfall for Kilkenny GAA from the Bruce Springsteen summer concerts at Nowlan Park will be used exclusively for the development of county headquarters, writes John Knox.
With the finances of the County Board already among the healthiest in the country, Kilkenny can plan big for the ’Park with the money from the music extravaganza.
This county has a reputation for running its affairs in a very business like fashion, and at annual Convention in December posted a profit of 293,770 euro on an income of 3.6-million.
In a difficult financial climate, and after a rushed championship season on the home front because of the All-Ireland hurling final replay which stole local game time, Kilkenny still returned a profit that was over 69,000 euro better than the previous year.
For the past five years and more Kilkenny have been doing well financially, and the ’Board’s accounts are the envy of every other county.
The ’Board is well able to meet its commitment for the new stand at the country end of the ’Park. On top of that, money for the development of the Dunmore Complex which will feature floodlit pitches and dressing-rooms has been ring fenced.
So all the money generated by the July 27 and 28 concerts will be plough back into upgrading Nowlan Park.
“The concert money will be for future work on Nowlan Park,” insisted County Board chairman, Ned Quinn. “What is currently owed on Nowlan Park is manageable. The ’Board is able to pay that without the concerts.
“The money will be used for future improvement we want to make,” he added. “We spent 80,000 euro on the ’Park last year. There is always work being done. We are all the time upgrading facilities, and we will continue to do so.”
Big local games
The ’Park will be closed to games for a little over a week around the time of the concerts, but there will be big matches played locally. Rounds of the senior and intermediate hurling league/championship have been provisionally fixed for the end of April, two in May and two in July, one round on the concert weekend.
Obviously there won’t be any matches fixed for Nowlan Park, and St John’s Park will be out of bounds too because of its proximity to the concert venue. Otherwise it will be all systems go at all other match sites.