Jimmy Quinn is a man for stories and laughter. Maintaining the Limerick track for the past four decades, Jimmy knows the precise date he started officially with Rásaíocht Con Éireann – 28 September 1976.
Today he’s had a busy morning with trials. The busiest in the country he tells me. The sport has changed a lot since then. He still remembers a young JP McManus at the Markets Field track, one of 22 bookmakers at the time. Connie Kirby kept greyhounds and his daughter (now Noreen McManus) would often assist around the kennels.
JP & Noreen McManus now sponsor the Kirby Memorial in Limerick in honour of her parents. Jimmy feels ready to tell me a full history of the Bord, from when a Mayo man Seamus Flanagan was the first CEO of Rásaíocht Con Éireann to 1968, when the organisation were the first semi-state to leave Dublin and move to Limerick.
Bord na gCon bought 108 Henry Street, the old St. Munchin’s College but this was later was sold off block by block.
I ask how has our sport changed since he started? ‘Facilities have been improved substantially compared to the Markets Field track. The most entertaining people I have come across were found at the old track. Today, the competition for customers is fierce. People have entertainment at home, live racing on their phones. Back then Limerick was racing Monday, Friday and Saturday. Tralee was Tuesday and Friday. Cork was Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. We all race now on a Friday/Saturday for restaurant bookings. The industry has to compete with all sports nowadays. There was never a GAA match on a Saturday evening back then… everyone in Limerick was either at Saturday evening Mass or the dogs, it was a social outing. Now we have 26,000 filling Thomond Park on a Saturday and stringent drink driving laws', Jimmy tells me as he looks back over the years. His interest in greyhounds started at a young age as his father owned coursing and track dogs. Widowdamsel, a top bitch at the time was his father’s top greyhound. Working at various tracks over the years, Jimmy recalls Galway as his favourite as there was plenty of socialising to be done in the city after racing on Tuesday and Friday nights. His fondest memory includes touring Australia with IGB in 1999 and having the privilege of being a hare driver at the Meadows Track in Sydney. There was one incident of a late night on the town in Melbourne which was immediately followed by an early morning game of golf although Jimmy has vowed not to mention any names!
In another life, Jimmy would have been a member of the Gardai as he was accepted but his passion for racing and greyhounds kept him with IGB. His interests now include hurling, rugby and history although his favourite sport is snooker. For five years, Jimmy would do 18 miles running every Saturday to stay in shape. Most weekends away from the track, Jimmy does the country music circuit and follows Jimmy Buckley, Delcan Nerney, Mike Denver and Lisa McHugh.
It’s clear from spending any amount of time with Jimmy that he is a proud of Limerick and its sporting traditions. As he says ‘the fella with a shovel on the street plays rugby’ and on the city’s love of greyhound racing - ‘You can give out about a man’s wife, but not his greyhound!’