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Hehir hopeful to bring English Derby back to Inagh

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Trap six awaits Coolavanny Chick in the Star Sports Bookmakers & ARC English Greyhound Derby this Saturday, getting there stands out as “the pinnacle” for trainer Noel Hehir.

Regarded in the highest esteem by leading Irish handlers, Inagh’s Noel Hehir has bred the daughter of Droopys Sydney and Toms Delight Chick to be considered a ‘superstar bitch’.

For the past six weeks, Noel has been based at Nottingham with travel restrictions ensuring he has had to stay there for as long as Coolavanny Chick has remained in the competition. He has been staying at the Alford kennels of the Geelo racing team which is headed by owner Nic Brereton and trainer Carl Perry.

“It is great to be there, the week is going well so far and she is ready to go,” Hehir said of how the last few days of preparation have been going.

“As anyone would say it means the world but it actually does mean the world. To get to an English Derby Final an awful lot has to go right, you have to have the dog and an awful lot has to go right in the preparation. Week in week out you have niggles here and there but you have to treat them and get them all right and back for the next day. I’m absolutely thrilled to be there,” Noel told The Clare Echo.

Reaching his first Derby final is regarded as “the pinnacle” by Hehir who tasted success in the Irish Derby previously alongside Pat Curtin.

He is content with the form of Coolavanny Chick. “She is coming to the boil. We had a few little niggles with her after Saturday night but I had the physio working with her on Monday, we’re working on her all week and by Saturday I expect her to be ready”.

Physio is a weekly routine for the dog. “You would have to be massaging and getting into all the trigger points and making sure everything is in working order, that is normal enough”.

Noel is pleased that Coolavanny Chick has been drawn in trap six for the Derby Final. “I’m happy with that, the draw has been good. She’s in trap six for the fifth week in a row. She is a natural wide seed so she would automatically get trap six being the only wide seed left in the competition”.

With a history stretching back to 1927, the English Greyhound Derby Final is deemed the most prestigious race in the British greyhound racing calendar. The Clare support will not be in Nottingham in body this weekend but most definitely in spirit.

Hehir outlined, “The one man that is really missing out is Michael O’Leary, he would have had a plane load coming for it. That is the way it is and nothing can be done about. We’re lucky to have any Derby the way the situation is”.

Two individuals in particular will weigh on Noel’s mind in the moments leading up to the race. “A great friend of mine and a man I would never have known anything about a greyhound for but Michael McGuane, a neighbour of mine at home. The travelling would be too much for him at this stage, I know he is wishing us the best of luck. My little boy Oisin always comes to Shelbourne Park with me on Saturday night, he can’t figure out why he can’t be here with me, but for the COVID he would be here but he is the lucky charm at home and we’ll be home to him soon hopefully with the Cup”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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