SI Vault
Clive Gammon
September 06, 1971
Being the story of one Michael Brennan, an Irishman hooked on the dogs—he trains them on sea gulls and sherry and mud—and a Welshman with the luck of the Welsh
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September 06, 1971

Another Fine Madness

Being the story of one Michael Brennan, an Irishman hooked on the dogs—he trains them on sea gulls and sherry and mud—and a Welshman with the luck of the Welsh

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"That's what worries me," she said.

Nevertheless I was there next evening as they drove out of town. We made due obeisance to the Master McGrath monument on the Clonmel Road that twisted through the rocky foothills of the Comeragh Mountains along the tumbling, trout-filled Nier River, Rommel quiescent in the back seat with Joan. The white cottages grew denser, became gray streets, and we were into Clonmel. I could have found the track by following the cloth-capped, blue-suited men making purposefully in one direction, turning at last into a narrow entry just below a pub announcing itself in clear primary colors as The Greyhound Inn. We parked in a meadow, and Michael went off with the dog.

The Clonmel track, like most other Irish ones, is small scale, functional, a little down at heel. "There's big horse racing at Limerick tonight," Joan said, "so there won't be many here." Indeed, the covered concrete steps that were the central feature had maybe a couple of hundred people standing on them, mostly men in caps with weathered faces, but there were a good many children and one hawk-faced, aristocratic woman in a tan trouser suit.

Michael came back after leaving Rommel in the tight security of the kennels. "What have we got for the first?" I asked him.

"Hold yourself in for the third," he said. "It's only the ijjits bet on every race."

But the kennel boys were parading their charges, and the No. 2 dog in the blue coat looked good to me. I sneaked away to the tote for a modest bet, taking my place in the queue at the 60 new pence window behind a lot of little boys, one or two of whom couldn't have been seven years old. "Twice on No. 2," I whispered professionally, sliding away with my tickets and hastening back to the stand. "The dogs are in the traps," the rickety P. A. system wheezed. There was the distant rattle of the electric hare; I leaned forward as it flashed by and tripped the lock of the trap, and there was a blur of color.

The absurd thing about greyhound racing is the actual speed at which you lose your money. Less than 18 seconds it takes the dogs to cover 300 yards in the short races like this one. There are probably roulette wheels that take longer than this to decide the fate of your money. What almost makes up for the losing of it, though, is that glorious and dynamic moment when the dogs leave the trap, orange-, white-, red-, blue- and black-clad animals in a classic frieze. Presumably this consolatory effect dies away after a few occasions.

Brennan was smiling in a somewhat self-satisfied way, I thought, when I rejoined him. He said, "Joan's the same. Got to have something on every race. Same result, too."

"Where is she now?" I asked.

"Placing her bet on the second, of course," he said. "Now give me your card." We studied the third together. "The vet's got a dog in this one. That's Liam O'Donnell I was telling you about, the fella that gets me the dead cows. Fenian Venture, that's him. In trap six. Where are you going?" he said.

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