By Jimmy Rhatigan
THERE was a time in our country when a local Donkey Derby would arouse as much if not more interest than the Aintree Grand National.
We kid you not.
We are reeling in the years and roaming back to the 1950s and 1960s and when the aforementioned derbies, along with pongo, a predecessor of bingo, sheaf throwing and bottle stalls dominated the social life of rustic regions.
Put the latter lot together and add in a fancy dress, a skelp of Irish Dancing and a long puck and you had the ingredients for a bumper parish field day.
The Donkey Derby was a rural rodeo of sorts that attracted a collection of motley amateur jockeys, a clatter of equally wacky donkeys, piebalds and grey backs.
At stake was parish pride as passionate riders who believed they should have been in Aintree, encouraged their asses to gallop.
Ya boy ya
Go on ya boy ya was the cry as donkeys dillied, dallied and dawdled to the angst of the enthusiasts on board and the delight of excited denizens who roared, bawled or screamed with laughter, depending on the antics of runners and riders.
For a jockey to get his or her hands on the Parish Priest’s Cup or the Parson’s Plate sometimes proffered as the big prize was akin to captaining the black and amber to All-Ireland hurling glory.
Nothing has changed.
Fast forward to the present time, change the venue from a farmer’s field to Dáil Éireann and you find what we might call a modern day Donkey Derby being played out to a backdrop of what is arguably our country’s greatest catastrophe since the foundation of the State.
The big difference is that there are now two-legged and four-legged animals involved, the more cunning and conniving former still beating a donkey’s backside in order to wield a stick of power.
Gardening with Greens
Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are so desperate to be top dogs that they are prepared to go gardening with The Greens.
Plan no doubt is that a derby runner called Green Fingers, eventually to be owned by Leo Varadkar will romp to glory with Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin on board, decked out in a blue shirt.
Throw in some independents, whipped together for Derby Day, and you have a motley crew of Wild West-type hunters, Indians even, who will take our scalps, search our pockets and pile taxes on those who may survive the latter: just as FF and FG have been doing for over a century.
As a people we are suckers for punishment.
FF took a hammering in the last General Election. FG was savaged and Sinn Féin had a field day, probably their best election.
Yet, thanks to the wheeling and dealing of FF and FG, with a little help from their friends, the tried and often mistrusted, are set to ride to glory, financial and otherwise despite taking a whipping on Derby Day.
The mind boggles.
A post derby game of poker would suggest that FF and FG may hold the trump cards.
To win this one after leading her party to election utopia will mean that SF leader Mary Lou will have to come up with a royal flush to harness the three-card trick merchants.
Delaney’s Donkey or whatever animal that gives the reins of power to whoever has to be a clear favourite to land the spoils.
Only hope is that in past donkey derbies even the mighty have fallen.
The fear is that the mule-like sons and daughters of the bed pals of recent years, one time deadly enemies, will leave us sitting on our arses.
With our heads only to scratch!