The people's festival is back in Kildare

Countdown to Punchestown

Laura Coates


Laura Coates


OPINION: The people's festival is back in Kildare

Robyn Codd, Guy O'Callaghan, and Sarah Ann Madden at the launch of the new Grandstand and the Punchestown featival. Photo: Michael Chester

We hope you’ve enjoyed the bumper 40-page Punchestown Festival 2017 magazine that comes free with this week’s Leinster Leader as much as we enjoyed putting it together. It's still available in the shops if you haven't got your copy yet.

At the risk of blowing our own trumpets, we can safely say that you won’t get a better local overview of the five days of racing and craic ahead. It’s jam-packed with features and profiles, such as a great interview with Punchestown manager Richie Galway about his life on the turf, while Gold Cup winner Jessica Harrington talks about her memories of the festival.

Of course, we also look at the lighter side of the event, as celebrity judge Aisling O’Loughlin gives us the low-down on how to dress for Ladies Day.

Local historian Liam Kenny tells the story of how Punchestown and high style have always gone hand-in-hand, right back to the pre-World War I days of “hooray Henries” chasing the eligible daughters of the country gentry around the racecourse.

All this is, of course, thanks to the Leinster Leader’s renowned sports editor Tommy Callaghan, a man who has scarcely missed a day’s racing at the Punchestown National Hunt Festival in half a century of covering the sporting life of County Kildare.

Indeed, we remember the consternation in the Leader office one day some years back when word got back that torrential rainfall had deterred Tommy from heading to the track.

But, of course, he was still at the heart of where it was really happening that day — like most of Naas, he was safely, and drily, ensconced in front of a television in one of the town’s bars, taking in the atmosphere as if he was at the track.

Racing is in the blood in Kildare, whether or not you consider yourself a ‘horsey’ person.

In the magazine, our own Colm Schwer recalls the magic of his first trip to Cheltenham earlier this year, his love of racing instilled by his attendance at Punchestown since he was small.

Theresa Murray also has a lovely interview with Gerry and Maureen Loughlin of Millbrook, Naas, who share their memories of the racing

For the Punchestown Festival, above all of Kildare’s great racing days,
belongs to the people of Naas and its surrounding towns and villages.

The visitors, and the craic and money they bring with them, are welcome, and we hope they have a great time next week.

But we know that this is truly one for us, a people’s festival for local people.