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Monday, October 16, 2006

Pressure? That's for tyres and footballs

The highlight of a wonderful day's racing at Newmarket on Saturday was seeing veteran Irish trainer Jim Bolger land both the Dewhurst and the Rockfel Stakes. The battle between Teofilo and Holy Roman Emperor was one of the most stirring two-year-old encounters I've ever witnessed and I certainly won't be opposing Bolger's brilliant colt- or his stablemate Finsceal Beo, so impressive in the Rockfel- in next season's Guineas.
Bolger is not only a great trainer, he's also an extremely nice man with a lovely turn of phrase. When asked in the post-race interviews on Saturday if he felt under any "pressure" having to train the favourites for both the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, his response was: "Pressure?. I don't do pressure. Pressure is for tyres and footballs."
It's a nice line to remember next time somebody complains to you about being under pressure.
Here's my 'My Other Life' interview with Bolger from the Racing Post, in which the great man talks about his love of hurling, "The Riverdance of Sport."

Hobby: Hurling

When did you first develop an interest in your hobby?

I’d say it happened at the same time I was learning to walk. The Gaelic Athletic Association is represented in every parish in every county in Ireland and my parish had a good hurling team when I was growing up. I’m from County Wexford and in 1955 they won their first All Ireland Final for 45 years. I was thirteen at the time: thirteen year olds always think they know everything and I suppose I thought I knew everything about hurling. The Wexford team of 1955 were all my heroes, particularly the Rackard brothers, Nicky, Bobby and Billy. I don’t think we have seen their equivalents to this day. The interesting thing about them was that their father was a cricket man and not interested in hurling- so if Michael Stoute wants to have a son who goes hurling, he needn’t despair !

How much time are you able to devote to your hobby?

I played the sport badly in my youth, but I follow hurling exclusively in the sedentary mode nowadays. I make about a dozen trips to Croke Park a year with my grand-daughter Clare Manning and see some local matches as well. There’s also more coverage of matches on television now than in the past.

What for you is the appeal of your hobby?

Hurling is a combination of speed, skill and courage. It is the fastest ball game in the world as well as the most skilful. Liam Griffin who managed the Wexford team who won the All Ireland in 1996 has described it as ‘the Riverdance of sport’.
It’s also very tribal, and as a Wexford man living in County Kilkenny I’m regarded as sleeping with the enemy!

What is the greatest moment of pleasure your hobby has brought you?

Wexford beating Limerick in the All Ireland Final in 1996 was wonderful as it was the first time we’d won it since 1968. If you win the All Ireland you have the added satisfaction of knowing that you’re the world champions as well! Another nice memory associated with hurling was in 2002, when I invited Billy Rackard, the only surviving brother- to the races. We picked Oaks Day at Leopardstown and I won the big race with Margula -it was nearly as good a day as 1955! I was also lucky enough to see the great Christy Ring play for Cork- he is widely regarded as the best hurler of all time.

Do you have any ambitions pertaining to your hobby?

There are thirty two counties in Ireland and if Wexford could win the All Ireland once in thirty two years I’d be very happy. I would also like to see the lesser counties do likewise.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I am almost as interested in Gaelic Football as I am in hurling and I watch most sports on the television. I am told by those who love cricket that it is the best game in the world, but I still don’t really understand it.


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