*Clonbrien Treaty was one of the semi-final winners. Photograph: Brendan Gleeson

Saturday night saw the remaining twelve greyhounds do battle for a spot in the final of the 2023 Con & Annie Kirby Memorial in front of a large crowd at Limerick Greyhound Stadium.

By Michael Maher

Although there were a few shock exits from the Classic, it was no surprise to see Graham Holland dominate as he accounted for both of the semi-final winners on the night. Indeed, after safely navigating four greyhounds through to the final of the BresBet Easter Cup last weekend at Shelbourne Park, Graham Holland will now make up 50% of the Con & Annie Kirby final next Friday night at Limerick.

However, the decider remains a wide-open contest despite that statistic and representatives of all six finalists will fancy their chances at landing the €80,000 feature.

In the opening semi-final, much of the focus was on which of the Pat Buckley-trained duo of Bens Teddy and Terezas Mendoza could gain the early supremacy as they occupied the inside traps of one and two. In contrast however, it was 10/1 chance Gaytime Hugo, who would have been arguably favourite to trail the field early on, that took a flier from trap four and set his stall out early. Ryhope Beach was next to show from the striped jacket in six and Scaglietti was making fine progress from trap five, despite his efforts to get to the rail.

At this point, the 5/4 favourite Bens Teddy was outpaced in the opening exchanges as Terezas Mendoza breezed past her kennel companion and with Scaglietti darting to the inner, traffic ensued with Blastoff Salah forced to check, in turn hampering Bens Teddy and effectively ending the chances of progression for both greyhounds.

As a result of the early traffic, the strong running Gaytime Hugo manufactured a healthy advantage entering the back straight as he had some three lengths in hand over Ryhope Beach, with Scaglietti a further couple of lengths back in third place. The leading trio were strung out like ducks midway down the back and, even at this point in the race, it was clear who would make up 50% of the Kirby final next Friday night. Gaytime Hugo continued to set a relentless gallop into the third turn and he stopped the third bend sectional clock at a brisk 16.00, with Ryhope Beach continuing to give chase in second place. Rounding the bottom two bends and Ryhope Beach was beginning to make slight inroads into the leader, however, Gaytime Hugo has bags of stamina and he was never under serious threat as he galloped out brilliantly for his owner Stephanie O’Connell.

Crossing the line with two and a half lengths in hand over Ryhope Beach, who again ran an exceptional race in defeat, the time for the home-bred son of Gaytime Hawk and Gaytime Derval was a scorching 28.09. Scaglietti claimed the final qualifying position in third and he remains a leading hope in five days’ time, while the remaining trio of Terezas Mendoza, Bens Teddy and Blastoff Salah didn’t enjoy the clearest of paths but no doubt we will be hearing more from these greyhounds in the months the follow.

The second semi final was a wide-open contest in the betting market as both Clonbrien Treaty and Bogger Lucky were sent off the 5/2 joint favourites.

After threatening a huge run for the majority of this Kirby renewal, Clonbrien Treaty produced that effort in the quarter finals as he romped to a 28.31 success. It was suggested on that occasion that the penny may have finally dropped for James and Muireann Murphy’s charge and this certainly looked the case as he once again pinged out from trap one last night. Bogger Lucky was next to appear from his striped berth in six but any progress he was to make in the opening yards was halted as Clonbrien Treaty drifted notably wide on the run to the turn.

As a result, Bogger Lucky was forced to seek an inside passage rounding the opener with Hovex Tommy following Liam Peacock’s tracker through in third place. In behind saw Singalong Eimear miss the kick to sit fourth, while the same could be said of both Whyaye Man and Ballymac Seanie and the trio looked in big trouble rounding the opener.

Up front and Clonbrien Treaty held a lead of one and a half lengths entering the back straight from Bogger Lucky in second and in truth, both greyhounds outpaced their rivals at this point as the duo showcased their phenomenal back straight gears to go clear. Hovex Tommy continued to give chase in third and was some three lengths adrift of Bogger Lucky entering the penultimate bend but he was to step up his challenge around the bottom two turns.

There was no doubt about the winner of this contest however, as Clonbrien Treaty continued to set an explosive gallop around the bottom two bends and the son of Pestana and Clonbrien Millie stopped the sectional clock at a rapid 15.88. Despite drifting wide once more on the run for home, Clonbrien Treaty was powerful in the closing stages and he crossed the line with four and a half lengths to spare over Hovex Tommy, who ran a spectacular race in behind to come through and seal a 1-2 for Graham Holland.

The final qualifying position went to Liam Peacock as Bogger Lucky, who matched Clonbrien Treaty to the third turn, finished just a head further back in third place. The time was a sparkling 28.15.

Six lucky clubs also progressed and will now share in a €20,000 prize-fund set aside by JP & Noreen McManus for the nominators.

The draw for the final of the Con & Annie Kirby Memorial Final & Nominators are:
T1 – CLONBRIEN TREATY (I) Knockainey GAA
T2 – HOVEX TOMMY (I) St. Senans Ladies
T3 – SCAGLIETTI (I) Feenagh/Kilmeady GAA
T4 – GAYTIME HUGO (I) Doon GAA
T5 – RYHOPE BEACH (M) Hospital/Herbertstown GAA
T6 – BOGGER LUCKY (M) Effin GAA

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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