• In The Stables with Jerry Hannon

    Listowel Race week is very special for so many reasons. For me, it’s all about coming home to work, I'm killing two birds with the one stone. I’m playing to a home crowd for seven days and I love it. 

    I’m an exile now. Dublin has been my base for the past five years. They thought I’d never leave my mother’s side! Teresa is the best in the world. For her, Listowel week is all about keeping me fed, breakfast, lunch and dinner. She’d butter the bread if I’d let her! Saturday is locals’ day and she’ll come down to the ‘island’ for the races. The family, including my sisters Emer and Paula, will all meet up for a drink afterwards and maybe Mam will tell me I did a good job for the week. Deep down, I know she’s very proud of me. 

    We lost our dad Joe back in March of 2009. It was a huge blow to us all. He was my biggest fan. He once told me to treat every race as if it was the Derby or the Grand National and if I get a little excited at times, well that’s why. I miss him all the time but especially this week. Yesterday’s winner Youceeyouceecee is owned by Eamon O’Carroll and his family. He was a great friend of Dad’s and when Eamon’s Tom Doodle won at Listowel in 2007, Dad stood in for the photo in the winners’ enclosure. 

    One of my earlies memoires is of Dad getting the late Liam Healy to take a photo of me with Charlie Swan. Charlie was easily my favourite jockey when I was growing up. Liam stood me up on the steps of the stewards’ stand beside the weighroom at Listowel and Charlie stood in beside me. A big moment I can tell you. Dad would have brought me to the Listowel in my very early days and as I grew up I would have cycled down to the track on my black and red BMX. I went everywhere on that bike!

    Liam and his family only lived around the corner from us and we have known them all our lives. I honestly don’t know what I’d be doing without Liam. He was a sound advisor and claimed me as the son he never had. He even taught me how to drive! I loved helping him out and he even said that I had “the eye” for photography. The best picture I ever took was of Stroll Home and Paul Carberry on their way to winning the Galway Plate in 1997. Liam had sent me down to the second last fence and that’s where I got the snap. I had seen every racecourse in the country with Liam by the time I was 16 or 17. Laytown completed the full set at the time and it remains the only course I haven’t done a commentary at.

    It seems like everything that happens this week brings back memories. Calling the Liam Healy Memorial Lartigue Handicap Hurdle on Tuesday was a trying task. I’m close to all the Healys, Pat, Liam Og, Lisa and Cathy and their extended families. I’d do a good bit of the travelling with the lads, car-pooling remains a big thing. Brendan Sheridan is part of that gang, especially when head north to Downpatrick and Down Royal. 

    Another big influence has been the great Dessie Scahill. I’ve been doing the course commentaries on a full-time basis since July of last year and I’m delighted to be sharing the duties with the man that has been an idol of mine for close to 30 years. I freely admit that when I went racing in the early days, the action was going on behind my back. Everyone would be watching what was happening out on the track and I’d be looking up at Des with my mouth open. A treasured possession is a photo I have of me standing in the commentary box of the old Corrib stand at Galway watching him calling a race. It was taken in 1996. He was top of the pops back then and he still is to this day. A remarkable talent and in a class of his own on the big days. 
    My first commentary on the track was at Downpatrick in May, 2000. I started off with pony racing and in point-to-points. When I left school, I worked in the office for the Healys for a year and a bit. Pat was in Australia at the time and I held the fort while the two Liams worked the tracks. I was on the sales team for Cadburys for a few years. I worked all over Munster. It was the easiest sell of all time. Who doesn’t like Cadburys chocolate!

    I spent eight years with Paddy Power, starting off as a cashier in Tralee and working around the county before moving to Dublin where I worked in their offices in the south of the city and spent three months in the head office in Clonskeagh. 

    Everyone that knows me knows that I’m at my happiest now. Calling the horses has always been a dream. And to be able to do it in your own home town is brilliant. There will be a big crowd on the ‘island’ for the Kerry National this afternoon and we’ll top that on Friday for ladies’ day. I’ll be giving it my all from the best seat in the house. Tell Mam I’ll be home for dinner at 6.30. She’ll be waiting at the door for me!

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