Over the years a club develops a soft spot for particular events. They become embedded in the general consciousness of the members, like birthdays and Christmas and First Communions. We arrange our calendars around them; they become focal points for the year.
Letterkenny Riding Club was formed in 2006 and we first had competitors at Flowerhill in 2007. Marina and Libby are veterans of that first expedition — Marina on Teldel and Libby on Shank’s Mare. Both will head down the long road to Portumna on Saturday morning with as much anticipation and excitement as the first time. More, in fact. Flowerhill’s attraction grows as familiarity with the place and the people is established. It’s a magnet for Donegal riders. The extended family of friends from our own club, Donegal Gaeltacht and Tirconaill grows more important with every year.
Camping, craic, camaraderie: you can’t beat it. The cross country course is almost a side show but it’s a hell of a side show.
Ten members will be riding on Sunday. Enda and Pauric are both first-timers, riding at Advanced Primary level. Anne, last year’s Advanced Primary Champion, now moves up to Intermediate where she is joined by another seven club mates. Francis and Millie are both making maiden trips, Damien rides Nadine’s Flowerhill pro, Molly. Rachel is on another Flowerhill pro, Dante, and he’ll be showing Fenway the ropes as he finally, after five years, seems set to reach the greatest destination of them all. Keary rides Arthur, Marina takes Jenny around for the first time, and Leo completes the crew riding one of last year’s heroes, Cool.
But it’s not just about the competitors. Orla, Annette, Christopher and Louise are the club’s anchors amongst three carloads of supporters from Glenleary. They’re making the journey to Flowerhill to cheer on their clubmates and help out with fence stewarding. Leo’s daughter Geraldine is travelling from Kilkenny to join the party. And messages of support have been flowing in all week — the Cuffes, Sally, and even Erica and Dave in Wales have sent their best wishes and look forward to hearing how things go.
Good luck everybody, enjoy yourselves and come home safe.