IT’S always enjoyable to visit the Kildare Foxhounds, on this occasion at Suncroft village, as they are such a professional outfit, have magnificent hunting country, and are so welcoming.

I am always struck by the number of enthusiastic farmer followers. As farming is such an isolated and solitary occupation, it makes a change to have convivial company, a contrast to working on your own. There was talk on the road of what land had changed hands, the most popular crops, hunting and how farmers are coping with Covid-19.

The Well Inn in the village was full of banter, and we got our sugar rush before the off with the friendly bar staff of Michelle and Lynn dispensing from jumbo tins of assorted chocolates to complement the coffees, teas and even something stronger.

Billy Flood of Iron Hill Sport Horses, who is a well-known producer offering livery, breaking and transport, was area manager. He likes to make sure that the hunt followers have a challenging day and there were lots of double banks, drains or other obstacles that don’t fit into any category. Billy’s son William, who was third in the Golden Button, whips in to the Glandorn Island Hounds.

However, his main occupation is breaking and backing all their young horses, and one has to admire him for taking all the risks to produce the end product that makes their new owners look good. His brother and former National Hunt jockey Paddy was home from Bahrain where he is chief instructor of the Jockey School at the Bahrain Horse Racing Academy. I was looking forward to meeting up again with Paddy but William said he has got too used to the heat on the beach in Bahrain, a sharp contrast to winter in Kildare!

Hunt staff

Kildare huntsman Peter Cahill, in his fifth season as huntsman, is so professional in turnout, and hardworking at his job. His hounds look immaculate and have a great record showing on the flags, and the hunt horses are a picture.

What I like is that Peter does not rush his hounds, he just lets them draw at their own pace so they trust him. If coverts are blank, he doesn’t panic as there is always the next covert but then Cahill is very experienced having started hunting on foot in his native Cork and then hunting the Carlow Farmers and the Kilkenny Foxhounds.

Eoghan McCabe has been whipping-in to him for the past four seasons and has a bright future. From the Ballymacad country, he spent a season with Peter in Kilkenny, then took a year out working for horse trainer Noel Meade, and is now back working with Peter in Kildare.

But other important members of the team are amateur whipper-in Mark Murtagh, countryman Ciaran Sweeney, who I remember hunting with the South Tyrone, and Brendan Nichol who keeps in tune through The Irish Field and Hounds Magazine as his brother in the UK is a keen hunt follower too.


There were three masters hunting: Mary Healy, whose son Tadgh works for Goffs in Newbury, Richard Sutton and Paul Doyle as Gavin Nangle was assisting his daughter Anna away show jumping. The honorary treasurer Simon Holohan was hunting with his 10-year-old daughter Evie on her pony Billy, who took everything in their stride. Her mother Una is a well-known Irish Draught breeder.

Billy Flood was first to arrive. Flat jockey Rory Cleary was on a striking four-year-old while jockey Shane Foley was on a three-year-old. Maria Keatly and Pam Braithwaite were celebrating having hunted for 30 seasons with the Kildares. Some remarked that they must have started at a very young age!

Richard Wixted was at the meet, and hunting was Richard Cope, Frank Glynn, Miah Kenny, Aidan Cuddy, Naoise Maher, Alan Jordan, Frank Maher (on a smashing up-to-weight hunter), Clare Stanley, Hazel Valentine (who also rides side saddle), Linda Gillespie, Punchestown chairman David Mongey, Mick Byrne, Sean Dempsey and Aidan Cuddy.

Local farmer Tom Kelly’s daughter Maria Keatley was hunting but granddaughter Helen was absent as her horse was not ready in time, as she has very high standards of turnout.


Despite poor scent recently, hounds had busy days, particularly at St Laurence’s where they found in former master Shane Lalor’s and ran a loop for about three miles over ditches and drains with many casualties. In Newtownallen, hounds were busy again finding seven foxes and marking five to ground which was a brilliant day of hound work.

With so little hunting in the last two years, foxes are congregating in large numbers in specific coverts, so when hounds hit a line in one, there could be a brace or even two afoot.

The huntsman had 12½ couple of athletic bitches as he drew The Commons which is better known for snipe shooting with trappy drains in wild grasses. So it demanded the followers’ full concentration as it is a difficult place to get out of fast when hounds found.

There were some great jumping performances by field-master Mary Healy and hunt organiser Billy Flood. Evie Holohan (10) was up there with top jockeys Rory Cleary and Shane Foley. There was nobody at home in Tom Kelly’s wood or in the sugar beet. Followers got a nice spin through Pat Duggan’s covert over Niall O’Grady into Corrigan’s covert. The huntsman crossed the road into Tommy Connolly’s covert and then crossed country over Al Dunne’s, Thomas Doyle’s and Tom Conway’s to get to Paul Behan’s covert.

The old derelict house and yard in Jackson’s of Racefield usually holds. The racehorse One Eye Gunner, winner of two races in the same week at Punchestown, came from this farm.

One road follower said to me, ‘You should have been here last week, it was alive with foxes’, but his comment was a bit premature as the huntsman immediately found further down through Jackson’s Wood in David Cook’s, and we were treated to powerful hound music up and down the wood which stretches for over a mile. Eventually he broke cover and ran in the open with hounds marking him on the other side of a stream in Thomas O’Donnell’s.

Drawing Jackson’s again, this time two brace were on the move. It is a perfect cover for foxes, really an onsite larder stocked with plenty of plump pheasants, as confirmed by Brendan Fagan. Hounds settled on one fox pressing him hard, but wisely he eventually chose safety underground.

The next draw was off the Gordon Bennett Classic Car route in Bobby Hutton’s covert which took them on a spin into Samuel Hendy’s across the road from former National Hunt jockey Ruby Walsh’s farm, and then The Rath before the huntsman blew for home after a busy day, and more hospitality in The Well Inn.

Well done meet organiser Billy Flood and huntsman Peter Cahill for a really enjoyable day.


The Kildare Foxhounds are one of the oldest packs in Ireland, dating back to 1766.


The Kildare Foxhounds

Chairman: Charles O’Reilly

Masters: Mary Healy, Paul Doyle, Richard Sutton and Gavin Nangle

Huntsman: Peter Cahill

Whipper-in: Eoghan McCabe (professional) and Mark Murtagh (amateur)

Field-master: The Masters

Honorary secretary: John Dillon

Honorary treasurer: Simon Holohan