( Dublin 1982 King's Cup Winner)
I am one of those people who dislike writing, and having written an article for the Homing World Stud Book way back in 1979, I never thought that I would have to repeat the dose so soon.
However writing as the winner of the 1982 King's Cup race from Le Sables is a different kettle of fish. The honor only falls to a favored few, and I am indeed a very proud man to have won this classic race.
My article in 1979 finished on the note that my ambition for the future was to maintain a high standard of performance I have set myself from the distance. Very little has changed in my management over the last few years. It is still based on common sense and simplicity, every effort being made to ensure that the birds are happy in the loft. I firmly believe that t get the best out of one's birds, they have to be contented and really want to return to their home.
Early in 1982, I decided to make an extra special effort to get my birds ready for the long French races. I must confess that I myself was much keener this year that I have been for a long time and it was encouraging to note that my racing team seemed to respond. In a club boasting 80 members, and embracing the whole federation radius (50 miles y 15), I won positions in every old bird race. This was no mean feat when one considers that the weekly birdage is 800-950. Ours is the only club within the federation radius where everybody is welcome to join, as we believe that fanciers must be able to compete every week in order to reach the top.
I have been top
prizewinner in the club for twelve years out of the last sixteen. I
only mention this to point out that, contrary to popular belief, it
is possible to win both the short to middle distance sprinters imported
Going back to club racing for a moment, and to the great sportsmen in my present club, I appreciate and regret that all pigeon men are not of their caliber. I remember racing in a club some years back and winning 13 out of 19 races flown. At the following years A.G.M. a proposition was put to the members that the club be divided into two sections.
It was defeated on a show of hands, but had carried I would have been left on my own in one section. So much for sportsmanship.
Leading up to the kings cup race, my birds continued to show exceptional form. I was 2nd Open South Road Fed from penzance (3,500 birds) and then I had the honor of topping the fed in the old bird derby from Sartilly with a half brother of the subsequent King's Cup winner. Incidentally I was runner up in the race for the Miller Gold Cup, a trophy I won back in 1969. Actually, it was my third time being runner-up. My win in the King's Cup entitled me to join a small select band who have won both the derby and the King's Cup - Only I did it in style, winning both in the same year.
On the morning of the King's Cup, word came through that the birds were up in a N.W. wind and concluded that it would take a very game bird to get back home. I doubted that any would be clocked on the day, and that proved true in my own case, I made no inquiries at all, but got up at 4.45a.m the following morning (Long distance racing is not a sport for the lazy fanciers). You can imagine my surprise when I saw what looked like a pigeon on the landing board. Sure enough, it was astounded to see how fresh she was after such a hard fly. It is hard to imagine what it must be like for a small bird to fly 514miles into cold N.W. wind making a velocity of 914 y.p.m. With most of the journey over water and no protection from the biting wind. To me it is a supreme test of courage and some thing I have tried to breed into my pigeons for twenty years, without great courage, a bird will not come home to Ireland from France.
On ringing Christy O'Connor, I learned that there had been no day birds, and with, my early time I knew I was in the hunt for a high position. When no birds had been recorded by 11.30 a.m, I realized I was the likely winner and I now felt that I had realized my lifelong ambition, Incidentally, there were no other birds in race time in Eire, and only a handful returned to the North of Ireland over the tree days. My little hen was certainly a worthy winner.
I have decided to call the King's Cup winner after my wife Nancy. My wife has given me tremendous support and encouragement over the years, and has always shown great patience and understanding when unfortunate holdovers have tended to disrupt the family routine. And would you believe it on the day I won the King's Cup, My parents were celebrating their Gold Wedding anniversary. It was certainly a day to remember.
My King's Cup winner is a five-year-old red hen and I decided to race her very lightly before the big race. The reason behind this thinking was the fact that she is not only heavily built and have found in the past that this type of pigeon does not require a great deal of work to reach peak condition. She got two inland races, a race from penzance, three 40 mile tosses and into Les Sables sitting 13 days with her first flight just coming through. Her sire was a good blue cock, 2nd and 6th open Dinard. And a half brother to my Miller Gold Cup winner. He was also brother to my good red hen, 17th and 24th Nantes in two very hard races. The dam of 3237 was my big red hen, which won 1st Le Havre in '77' when there were only 10 birds on the day. Nancy's dam is a 1975 blue check hen purchased at Bob Dunlop's clearance sale. She had flown the Penzance Y.B National for Bob himself a King's Cup winner and is a g-daughter of his winning pigeon.
My advice to novices is to read all the articles written by top fanciers, but studying them you will find that they all contain the same message, only in different words. They will advise you to purchase late bred or flown youngsters from a top flier, preferably in you own district, and listen to his advice, not heeding the self appointed experts who have never won a race worth talking about. However, it is always worth remembering that you can only buy a man's pigeons. You cannot buy the man himself, the fancier who has mastered the art of breeding good pigeons. It is my conviction that unless one can master the science of breeding, one can never stay at the top for long. You should also remember that if a fancier is beating you out of turn, it is only because you are allowing him to do so, and you should look to and improve of your own set up.
I would also advise beginners not to purchase birds from fanciers who do not even compete in the races you expect to win, avoid at all costs third and forth generation unflown stock, or stock birds which have been looked up for a long time.
A lot of young fanciers end up disappointed and disillusioned with this type of pigeon.
Methods of training differ considerably from loft to loft, but there again a beginner should hear what the experienced fanciers from whom he purchased his stock has to say on the matter, and then make up his own mind as to what would be best for himself. I would strongly urge all fanciers to attend, if at all possible, the A.G.M of their respective clubs and federations, and not to be afraid to speak their minds for the betterment of the sport in general. Listen carefully to what other people have to say irrespective of who says it and then act accordingly to one's own judgment. I have been President of the Irish South Road Federation for the passed five years and I would like to thank publicity the committee members who have helped me and the other officers to put the organization on a sound financial footing.
Our success has been due in a large measure to a wonderful spirit of cooperation, and it is my fervent wish that the same spirit will continue to prevail in the future.
To conclude, I have won races at all distances over the years, but to me there is nothing to compare with the thrill of a pigeon arriving home from a long distance race, whether a winner or not, and I will never forget the sight of my small red hen on the landing board on the early July morning a worthy winner of the 1982 King's Cup. Against that, of course, there are also the bitter disappointments of sacrificing many good pigeons in the supreme efforts of reaching the very top in pigeon racing. Losses are inevitable.
Finally, I would like to thank the many fanciers who sent congratulatory letters, telegrams and telephone messages on the occasion of my great win.
The gestures were much appreciated, but it would be impossible to thank individually each well wisher
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