All the weather warnings of a wet and windy day for Sunday 19th July were proved wrong when a glorious day showed Carnlough at its best for the annual Dalriada Festival Beach Mounted Relay.
Luckily the storms came through earlier than predicted and although they left a pile of seaweed on the beach, this was quickly dealt with by Noel Fitzpatrick’s efficient team who built the fences for the event.
Due to too many other events happening that day there were not as many teams as usual, but those that took part provided the spectators with great entertainment, and there were plenty of thrills and spills.
The spectators may have been disappointed that there were no falls right in the sea for any competitors but most removed their coats just in case, or maybe because of the heat of the day.
There were a few dirty shirts but no damage except to pride.
There was a prize fund of £800 for the day with first prize of £400, second of £200, third of £100 and the best turned out prize of £100 was deservedly won by the immaculately turned out East Antrim team of Kerrie Knipe, John Jackson, Robert Gault and Sarah Kinnear.
The youngest team, aptly named Young Entry which is a hunting term for juvenile hounds, put up a great fight but were sadly not lucky enough to be in the money coming fourth after several closely fought rounds.
They were a very well turned out team consisting of Courtney Hamilton on Buddy, Jenny Morris on Conny, Sophie McPeake on Domino and Sara McConkey on Star.
Some of the horses were new to the game and were spooked by the waves and for the first rounds their riders had a struggle to get them into the sea but after a good contest and plenty of excitement for the spectators, the day ended up with a final round between The Tarmac Warriors and the team known as Under Pressure.
The Tarmac Warriors, consisting of Fiona Magill on her experienced team chasing campaigner Merrin, with Sean McCavana, Nicole Cameron and Fergal McClements, had probably chosen their name to reflect the all-Ireland travelling some of them have been doing recently for the Inter Hunt Chase Dublin qualifiers.
They had certainly put the mileage in over the weekend and were unlucky in the last round but they showed their competitive spirit on the beach.
Unfortunately things didn’t quite go their way with an involuntary dismount putting paid to their chances.
The Under Pressure team consisted of Beverley Caves on a lovely grey horse, Paul Caves on his father’s hunter Dancer, the very stylish Natalie Burns on her great little veteran Stallone, and Joe Hamilton on Davy Crawford’s King. This team proved impossible to beat and won the First Prize of £400.
The large crowd had a unique spectacle to watch as it is the only event of this sort to be held on a beach as far as we know, and Carnlough is a perfect choice with such a good safe surface, though hard enough for the unfortunate competitors who test it out, and a natural grandstand for the spectators who get such a good view from above.
As usual the teams gave them a great show, very much enhanced by the entertaining commentary from Clarke McCartney who, as always, did a great job.
Many thanks must go to him and also to Wilsons Auctions who sponsor the fences and provide the commentary box, to John Reid and family who provided the parking, and to Noel Fitzpatrick and his team who are so efficient and cheerful in their organisation of the course.
The organisers of this event are very grateful to the Dalriada Festival who, in association with UTV, and sponsored by P & O Ferries, provided the impetus for this event to start and continue to include it as part of the festival.
Thanks to the people of Carnlough who put up with their town being disrupted, and all those who helped on the day.
The organisers are especially grateful to Larne Borough Council for their support for this event and last but not least, all the competitors who were brave enough to have a go.
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