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12 May 2005 Edition

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Belfast Downers and Chateau Portlaoise

BY Matt Treacy

I was unable to comment upon any of the League finals last week for the simple reason that I didn't see any of them. So, unlike Ronald Reagan, who used to broadcast 'live' commentaries on baseball games while reading ticker-tape reports, I will refrain from detailed analysis. Suffice to say that Armagh confirmed that they will be serious contenders again this year in the Championship. Monaghan did to Meath what Meath more often do to others, and Kilkenny made a declaration of intent for the rest of the summer.

The reason for a sport-less weekend was down to the elections. Or rather up to the elections. The Saturday of the All-Ireland Under-21 Semi-Final between Dublin and Down saw me on the way to Belfast. Perhaps there was some power of psycho kinesis at work, however, because Seán's car eventually gave up the ghost at Monasterboice. Despite my repeated hints concerning the proximity of Navan (and the match), we were eventually deposited at Drogheda train station and resumed our journey.

Just as well really, because Down won. And where did we spend Saturday night? In Short Strand, which, as I discovered to my cost in Portlaoise in September 1994, is actually in County Down. And who should I meet there only the Bear, who happened to be the only genuine Belfast Down person in Portlaoise at the time but of course everyone other than the 30 Dubs who were there were honourary Down people for the day.

Myself and the Bear had a "difference of opinion" following the 1994 final, both of us having consumed a significant and verifiable quantity of Chateau Portlaoise. The exchanges were more civilised this time and we didn't have to come in the next morning to mop the floors in St Matthew's. Just as well Scroogie wasn't there.

The only other sporting activity was an early morning foray into some of the streets close to the Annadale Flats to deliver leaflets. It was a good morning for walking fast! Definitely some potential there for the next Olympics. We had been informed the night before that we were actually going to go into the flats but I have a feeling that my old cruciate ligament problem might have resurfaced in that event.

A final mention of Belfast must include the St Malachy's Club in the Markets. Ann, who trains the camogie teams, had several of us inflicted upon her for more than a week so we will all be hoping they repeat their previous success at the Féile this year. Oh, and if there was anything missing from the house, Caoilfhionn took it.

Someone was telling me that some smart arse in one of the pubs where An Phoblacht is sold always asks where the racing page is, so I am going to make a small contribution to satisfying him. The Punchestown festival witnessed the defeat of Moscow Flyer, Moscow having previously won 19 of the 19 races he had contested in which he had remained on his feet.

I have to admit to a great fondness for the beast. And not because he has significantly replenished my bank balance on several occasions. Moscow will be remembered (and he is by no means finished, as next year's Champion Chase will hopefully confirm) in the same way as Arkle. At the very least he is deserving of a ballad to equal that penned by Dominic Behan to the great one of the 1960s. There's a challenge for Charlie and the Bhoys!

And if the chap looking for the racing page happens to be reading this in Harold's Cross - take the 5/2 ante post for Cheltenham next March. Go on the Moscow.

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