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    The Life and Career of Greyhound Trainer Ger McKenna
The Life and Career of Greyhound Trainer Ger McKenna
GER MCKENNA (1930-2014). Source: Facebook

The Life and Career of Greyhound Trainer Ger McKenna

Gerard 'Ger' McKenna, widely regarded as the greatest Irish greyhound trainer of all time, had a storied career filled with remarkable achievements and memorable moments. Born in Borrisokane, County Tipperary, to Malachy McKenna, a successful cattle trader and greyhound trainer, and Agnes McKenna (née Gavin), Ger was introduced to greyhound racing by his father. His younger cousin, Gay McKenna, also shared a passion for the sport, creating a family legacy in greyhound racing.

Gerard 'Ger' McKenna. Source: Greyhound Star and AI
Gerard 'Ger' McKenna. Source: Greyhound Star and AI

First Major Success and Rapid Rise

Ger’s journey into greyhound racing began at an early age, inspired by his father's success. Malachy McKenna won the 1956 Irish Greyhound Derby with Keep Moving, a victory that left a lasting impression on young Ger. Eager to follow in his father’s footsteps, Ger dedicated himself to learning the intricacies of training greyhounds.

His first major success came in 1956 with Prince of Bermuda, who won the Irish St Leger. This victory marked the beginning of a career that saw McKenna dominate Irish greyhound racing. Over the span of 40 years, from 1956 to 1996, he secured 45 major competition wins, including three Irish Greyhound Derby titles and two English Greyhound Derby titles. Ger's ability to consistently produce top-tier greyhounds earned him a revered status in the racing community.

Dominance in the Irish and English Derbies

In 1969, Ger won his first Irish Greyhound Derby with Own Pride. Four years later, in 1973, he claimed his second Irish Derby title with Bashful Man, who was the first dog to break 29 seconds. By this time, McKenna had become the most prominent trainer in Irish racing. He began sending strong teams to the English Greyhound Derby, and in 1975, Ballymaclune became his first finalist in that prestigious event. The following year, he trained the runner-up, further establishing his prowess on an international stage.

Historic Victories and Unmatched Achievements

One of the defining moments of McKenna’s career came in 1981 when Parkdown Jet won the English Greyhound Derby, making McKenna the second trainer to win both the Irish and English Derbies, a feat first achieved by Paddy Keane. This victory was particularly sweet as it ended years of near-misses and close calls in England. McKenna’s second English Derby victory came in 1989 with Lartigue Note, solidifying his status as a legend in the sport.

Throughout his career, McKenna won twelve Irish St Legers, from his first with Prince of Bermuda in 1956 to his last with Moran’s Beef in 1984. He also won the Irish Laurels seven times, with notable victories including Knockrour Slave's second triumph, which McKenna considered one of his finest training achievements. His knack for preparing greyhounds for the big stage was unmatched, and his success rate in major finals was a testament to his skill and dedication.

Ger McKenna on Greyhounds. Source: P Commane Bookshop and AI
Ger McKenna on Greyhounds. Source: P Commane Bookshop and AI

Personal Stories and Dedication

Beyond the track, McKenna's life was filled with interesting anecdotes and personal stories. Known for his humble demeanour and unwavering commitment to his dogs, he often credited his greyhounds for his success, referring to them as his "partners" in the journey. His home in Borrisokane became a hub for greyhound enthusiasts, with many visiting to seek his advice or simply to witness his training methods.

One of the heartwarming stories from McKenna’s life involved a greyhound named Tubbertelly Queen. In 1984, she won the prestigious Waterloo Cup, bringing immense joy to McKenna and his family. The victory was celebrated with a grand feast at their home, where Tubbertelly Queen was treated like royalty, a testament to the deep bond McKenna shared with his dogs.

Continued Success and Influence

McKenna's accolades included victories in other prestigious races such as the Irish Oaks, two Produce Stakes, four Cesarewitch titles, and two National Sprints. His success extended to England, where he won an English Laurel with Concentration in 1990, and the Waterloo Cup in 1984 with Tubbertelly Queen. In 1979, Nameless Pixie won the track Oaks under his guidance.

Gerard McKenna retired in 1999, passing the reins of his training operation to his son, Owen McKenna. Owen continued the family legacy, winning the Irish Derby in 2004 with Like A Shot, a moment that made Ger immensely proud. Reflecting on his father's influence, Owen often mentioned how Ger's meticulous training methods and deep understanding of greyhound behaviour shaped his own career.

Legacy and Final Years

McKenna passed away in May 2014, leaving behind his wife Josie and three sons, Ger, John, and Owen. His legacy endures as he is celebrated as the greatest Irish greyhound trainer of all time. Reflecting on his remarkable career, McKenna’s achievements set a standard in the sport, inspiring future generations of trainers and greyhound racing enthusiasts. His life and career remain a source of inspiration and pride, not just for his family, but for the entire greyhound racing community.


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