Paul Cooney

A winner of the Gain 600 in 2016 and the Night Of Stars 600 the previous season among many other wonderful racing achievements, Ballyhooly Henry was one of the most game and talented four bend racers of his generation.

Taking on and beating many of the stars of the sport in a glittering career, the former Tom O’Neill trained superstar has now added to his achievements by siring his first winner.

In the very early stages of his stud campaign, Ballyhooly Henry (Tyrur Big Mike/Lemon Soul) saw his stock rise when Joe Murphy’s Murlens Henry (Ballyhooly Henry-Murlens Raw) returned a sublime victory in the second round heats of the Kilsheelan Gallop & F.O.C.T.L. Unraced 525 Yard Stake on Friday at Clonmel.

Fourth in his opening round on debut, Murlens Henry improved for that experience when claiming victory in the hot novice event while posting a fast 28.80 (-20) and looks a very smart prospect indeed. Race report here: https://www.igb.ie/talking-dogs/Weekend-report/frank-fastest-of-novice-action-on-friday-at-clonmel/

The emergence of such a bright pup at this early stage of his stud career will please the connections of Ballyhooly Henry who was trained by Tom O’Neill for the Ashville Syndicate of Ballyhooly in Cork which consisted of Joe Dowling, his wife Rose and son Joe along with local publican Finbar Grindle.

We spoke to Joe Dowling back in 2015 when Ballyhooly Henry was eliminated from the Derby and he was quite expectant that the Ashville Syndicate had plenty to look forward to with Henry at that early stage of his career. He was of course proved entirely correct to have faith in Ballyhooly Henry and we now wish them yet further success in his new career as a winning sire.

Ballyhooly Henry’s profile piece from 2015 below:


In profiling syndicates thus far this column has found many people in their greyhound ownership infancy, embarking on a new venture with friends or colleagues to enjoy nights out at the track while educating themselves about the sport with each new experience.

However, syndicate ownership can prove just as exciting for those who have already had a successful history in the sport, especially when bringing family and friends together as it has done for the Ashville Syndicate with their supremely talented Ballyhooly Henry (Tyrur Big Mike/Lemon Soul).

The syndicate consists of four members and James Dowling of Ballyhooly in Co.Cork explains, “there is myself and my wife Rose, my son Joe along with our local publican Finbarr Grindle. We’ve all had plenty of dogs down the years running with the Ballyhooly prefix but this is the first one we actually had trained outside of the kennels. It’s not that we thought we had a world beater or anything but we are almost retired at this stage and our trainer Tom O’Neill is only four miles down the road so the dog is practically at home.”

For many new syndicates, sourcing their first race dog can be a daunting task but there was no such problems for the Ashville Syndicate as James reveals that wife Rose is a sister to Denis Lennon of the famous Lemon kennels in Threecastles and can attribute his greyhound interest to her. “It’s fair to say that Rose was reared with greyhounds all her life and of course plenty of good ones. We weren’t married very long before we started with a few dogs in Ballyhooly and we are at it since but when we were going looking for a pup this time, it was fairly straightforward that we would go back to Kilkenny.

I remember going to pick him up last year, he was 14 months old and when Dinny tells you he was untrialed you can take that as guaranteed. It was a week before the All-Ireland Hurling Final and both myself and Rose are Kilkenny natives. Someone asked what is his pet name and I laughed saying, there’s no pet names here with so many dogs around but if we win the hurling his name will be King Henry!

The word from Tom O’Neill was quite good early on then and it was proved correct when he won a novice stake at Cork to start off. He went open in his next run which was in February so it was a natural decision to have a go at the Con & Annie Kirby at Limerick. He won a nice open race before the competition and went as far as the third round but we weren’t convinced that Limerick completely suited him, especially at 525 with the shorter run to the bend, even though he ran plenty well enough.

Tom always thought he would be suited by Shelbourne and that hasn’t changed since he got knocked out of the Derby. It was great that he managed to win his first heat but his run behind Ballymac Matt in the second round was a cracker in fairness. We were thrilled with the run and he shortened right up in the market after that. It would have been great to get a bit further but he got some crowding in the third round and missed out by a length, still you have to be happy that he was up to that level being that he is only a May 2013 whelp.”

Extremely knowledgeable and a student of form, our conversation proceeded by dissecting the Derby semi-final action and the likely outcome of the final itself where James is hoping to have Ballyhooly Henry feature on the undercard.

“We travelled in force to Shelbourne with a good supporting crew and we’ll back again this week. The syndicate’s are a great way of getting people involved, they bring more to the tracks and it’s nice to have plenty of support. He will be entered to run this week anyway and hopefully at 600 yards. We see his future being mainly over the extended trips. He can be a smart trapper but doesn’t have huge early pace in fairness but he’ll stay all day for you. We’ll probably be looking out for 600 yard stakes in the immediate future but at his age we wouldn’t rule much out and either way we have an exciting dog for next year, with fingers crossed that he stays sound.”

Proprietor of one Ireland’s oldest pubs, Finbarr Grindle is no stranger to limelight with some famous regulars and the premises often featured in media publications as a must visit! His support of greyhound racing was also recognised in 2011 as the Youghal Track Supporters Club bestowed on him an Honorary Supporters Award. The pub is a base for the Ashville Syndicate despite James joking that Tom O’Neill doesn’t even drink!

“Apart from being family, the syndicate are all friends, we are enjoying the whole experience and it’s going to stay together because despite a few enquiries, the dog is not for sale.” Laughing, James explains that “we had a few calls but you couldn’t say that I actually got an offer because I put a ridiculously high price on him. If they were willing pay it so be it but it’s probably more accurate to say that he wasn’t really for sale.”

Ballyhooly Henry returned to Curraheen Park following his elimination from the Derby and confirmed his current well being with a brilliant 29.64 victory in a AA0 550 yard event on Saturday of last week. His return to Shelbourne Park this week will add more spice to our feature night of the year and we wish all connections the very best with an immensely talented tracker who surely has a big future ahead.