EVERYONE has, at some stage in their lives, had to catch a mouse. Apparently the rapscalious rodents living around Tullahought had no wish to be stars in their own parish.
The freeborn locals disappeared from barns, feedsheds and their often-comfortable indoor settings. After scouring the country, the entrants were eventually collected in another racing mecca in Kilcullen on Friday evening and travelled in style to Windgap for acclimatisation over night.
On Saturday evening on a hardy, star-studded, frosty night, lit by a New Moon, and well away from the cats eyes-lit main roads, Power’s of Tullahought was packed to the rafters with anticipation for the albino, Stuart Little look-alikes speed trials.
For those in attendance it would not even leave room for mice in the thatch, if there were the traditional thatch on the roof of the popular hostelry. Attracted to the venue by the Kilkenny People and Facebook, curiosity in the novel fundraising venture and to support the local hurling club, the crowd reflected a whole range of age groups from over a huge area. For many of the younger generation, mice were just pets, whilst the older folk recalled their plenteniess when “ they would nearly talk to you” after the harvest was saved in sheaves, stooks and stacks that remained in the fields. They attracted mice until they were brought in for the threshing. In the farmyard every move unsettled more resting mice as the motion of flying dust, chaff, straw, bags of golden grain and dogs and cats chasing them all added to the perpetual motion and noise of a threshing day.
With many having taken off their coats and appearing in their shirtsleeves to keep the body temperature down with the help of a bottle or pint it was like a threshing day without the dirt and sweat of a hard day’s work. On the night the mice displayed a range of various hues and colours from white to cream to those with Friesian and Galloway markings and also included some naturally coloured specimens. Held in the lower corner of the lounge, the elevated racing track was relayed on big screens across the bar and lounge as supporters could purchase a runner, have a punt, a pint, and refreshments as they joined in the atmosphere.
Led by Master of ceremonies, Noel Smith who added an intercounty twist by having the racers in Lanes 1-4 representing Kilkenny and lanes 5-8 representing their neighbours in nearby Tipperary.
In the races that were even faster than Usain Bolt completed the hundred metres, the entrants unburdened by racing colours or riders ran straight and true along the left to right course. Of course the Cat mice won. Elsewhere some mice rested, sat on the hurdles, went over and back the course and even stood on their hind legs giving plenty of photo opportunities. Others at times just looked down from the raised racing track without a cat in sight and watched the supporters watching them whilst displaying other stretching and acrobatic skills and in some cases a preference to the starting end of the course.
The show was put together by Niall Doran and Eamon Hawe whose handling of the mice to and from the starting stalls was like Mice Whisperers at work. For many it contrasted strongly to their hurling and handball skills where the pairs eye for goals and handball kills that display a range of strength and aggression are legendary.
For the first semi-final and the auction race local Livestock Auctioneer Michael Cunningham got a fabulous response as punters bid for the form mouse for the race. In the race the top prize went to Phillip Lonergan and Noel Power. After the series of races the top prizes on the night went to Aidan Donovan, Currahill, Conor Lonergan and Darragh Byrne. Prizewinners in the draw were Mick Power, Shem Power, Edward Cunningham, Michael O’ Shea, Martina Landy, Tommy Fleming, Eamon Doyle and Eamon Hawe. Tote sellers on the night came from the Camogie Club and were Sarah Grace, Julie Walsh and Clare Grace who were ably assisted by Laurence Doyle, James Murray and Matthew Enright. Making up the team were Noel Power, Aidan Mackey, Billy Brett and PJ Egan.
After some tender care and refreshments the contestants rested overnight and returned home on Sunday evening as many of the supporters also took advantage of the Sunday to recover.
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