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No Listowel races for Donie for the first time in over 80 years

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NOT AT THE RACES: Donie Sheahan studying the form at his Lewis Road home. He is missing Listowel Races for the first time in over 80 years. Photo: Sean Moriarty

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For 80 consecutive years much loved Killarney pharmacist and horse racing enthusiast Donie Sheahan hasn't missed the Listowel Races - until this year came around due to the current pandemic restrictions.

Journalist Sean Moriarty took some time out to chat to Donie to find out how the 94-year-old felt about not being there, having instead no choice but to resign to the fact that he had to watch it from the comfort of his own home.

The traditional September Harvest Festival meeting comes to a close tomorrow (Saturday) but, as it is run behind closed doors, Donie has been forced to watch proceedings on television and not trackside.

It is the first time since he was a little boy that Donie, who turned 94 in April, could not be there in person to see the action unfold.

Instead he sits at home and watches the action unfold on racing channels like At the Races and TG4.

“I would much rather be there,” he told the Killarney Advertiser.

The Lewis Road man’s family are steeped in the history of Listowel Races. His parents William and Lena ran a pub and boarding house in the town.

The pub had six livery stables to its rear, at a time when there were no stables at the island racecourse so jockeys and racehorses lodged with the Sheahan family for the duration of the meeting. The family would collect horses off the train ahead of the meeting.

“I have memories from when I was no more than six or seven-years-old,” he recalled. “We would walk the horses down to the Island, sometimes over the bridge and other times across the river. I got to know a lot of people.”

And this is how Donie and his late brother Tommy developed their lifelong love affair with horse racing.

Tommy went on to serve as chair of the Listowel Race Committee and his daughter, Donie’s niece, Dr Helen Lynch from Tralee, currently sits at the table.

“There is a huge family connection there,” he added.

On qualifying as a pharmacist Donie moved to Killarney in 1950, and after a spell with the medical department of Kerry County Council and the Southern Health Board he set up a thriving pharmacy in the town centre.

This allowed him to follow his true passions, which also includes Dr Crokes GAA Club and Kerry football, and he became a successful racehorse owner.

He has had a lot of success over the years including several Listowel winners, but the big one - The Kerry National - escaped him as he recorded two second-places with ‘For William’.

“I had three or four winners in Listowel but for two years in a row the Kerry National escaped me,” he added.

Other fond memories include winning the Fairyhouse Easter Festival in 2010 with ‘For Bill’, and jockey Davy Russell.

‘For Bill’ was named after a close friend Bill Murphy, a Garda Superintendent in Killarney, after he passed away.

In more recent years Donie has represented the European Breeders Association at Listowel.
If that organisation sponsored a race he would be called upon to hand out the trophies.

“It is funny but people always remember you when you give them a prize!"

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Develop skills and improve employability

By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors Traineeships are developed and delivered on an ongoing basis by Education and Training Boards (ETBs) nationwide and are open to potential participants of all ages and backgrounds including school leavers, mature learners and those in or seeking employment. Developed in partnership with industry representatives […]

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

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Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant – For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Return to work courses

Answer: Springboard+ provides free higher education courses for people who are unemployed (or were self-employed) and those looking to return to the workforce. Courses are offered in different areas including Information and Communications Technology (ICT), medical technologies, cybersecurity, sustainable energy and financial services. The courses range from certificate to master’s degree level – Levels 6 […]

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Answer: Springboard+ provides free higher education courses for people who are unemployed (or were self-employed) and those looking to return to the workforce.

Courses are offered in different areas including Information and Communications Technology (ICT), medical technologies, cybersecurity, sustainable energy and financial services.

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During COVID-19, you can find comprehensive integrated information online at citizensinformation.ie/covid19/ and you can get daily updates on what’s changed on Twitter at @citizensinfo. You can also get information and advice from:

Tralee on Tel: Call 0761 07 7860, Monday – Friday (10am-4pm)
The Citizens Information Phone Service: Call 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm
Our national call back service: Visit citizensinformation.ie/callback to request a phone call from an information officer

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