On the 23rd of June 2022 many federations in Ireland were in St Malo France, the birds were released at 6.15 am with fanciers dreaming that they would be crowned the Miller Gold Cup winner and join the list of some of the most prestigious distance flyers in Ireland. As fanciers stood close by to their lofts, many were watching the facebook posts asking that golden question ' has anybody heard of any birds from St Malo'. Around 4.30pm a rumbling appeared on facebook that a pigeon had been clocked, with everyone asking who could it be, a picture appeared blue w/f cock with the words 'St Malo bird in New Ross'. Suddenly the feeling changed with most scrambling to calculate what time they would need to clock at to catch this pigeon.
Not long after these posts another report of a pigeon this time further up the country in Dublin by a very skilled channel flyer, and so began the calculations with many stating that the pigeon in Dublin would be well ahead, but when the final calculations were completed the velocities showed that the Gaffneys bird held the quickest velocity. On went the nervous wait for Tony and Oisin from their loft in New Ross Wexford as the french birds travelled up the country.
After many discussions with the Irish Homing Union President Mr Henry Byrne, I received confirmation from Mr Byrne that the Gaffneys had been confirmed as Miller Gold Cup winners. In my first year as press officer of the South Leinster Fed it was a wonderful moment for me to make the call to Tony to explain that they had been confirmed as Miller Gold Cup winners for 2022. A wonderful performance for the South Leinster Fed following on from the 2020 Miller Gold cup win for Cullen Burke and O'Reilly of Arklow.
I got a chance to sit down the 2022 Miller Gold Cup winners to chat about their win and their pigeons.
Gentlemen, first of all from all of the members of the South Leinster Fed congratulations on your Miller gold cup win.
We might go back to the beginning. Tony, you might let me how you started with racing pigeons?
I got my first pigeons back in the late 80s as a young lad, and had them on and off over the years. I first raced on the North Road with the NewRoss and District RPC before emigrating to England. My big influence in the early years was a fancier by the name of Tony Kehoe of NewRoss, I would sit with Tony and watch his birds come home from Scotland, and that's where my love for channel racing comes from. In 2013 I decided to start again racing young birds and so the bug of pigeon racing started again.
What club/fed do you currently race in?
We currently fly with the NewRoss Shamrock RPC, the South Leinster Fed, and we are members of the Irish Homing Union National Flying Club.
So tell me a little about your current loft set up?
Our racing loft is 18 foot long by 8 foot wide, with 3 sections 2 for cocks and 1 for hens, nothing fancy. A corridor runs the full length ,we also have a young bird loft and a stock loft. In the last year I built a loft with 5 individual breeding pens.
Is there anything you consider when designing your lofts?
Important part of the loft design is ventilation and ensuring its dry.
Tell me a little about your current line/strain of pigeons?
We don't particularly have breeds/strains, what we look for is a bird that can do the job that we need them to do, which is to fly the tough Irish sea,
The main pigeons at Ballyanne lofts at the moment were sourced from Tom Williams of Orpington England, he flys mostly up north combine winning pigeons 5/600 mile birds ,they would be busschearts based.
Since making contact with Tom a few years ago, we have become good friends and a lot of good birds and invaluable advice have come our way which we appreciate a lot.
Tom is an absolute gentleman, I've spoken to him many times over the last few years. He is fantastic long distance fancier and historically he was a brilliant sprint racer. When it comes to your stock birds, tell me a little about the feeding system?
Just good corn all year through.
What medication do you give to your birds and when?
We try to keep away from medication as much as possible and let the birds immune system do its job, however we do treat for the usual, canker, worms and cocci,this is done before pairing up.
When it comes to your old bird team, tell me a little about the system you use and the number of birds you currently race?
We race the widowhood system right through the season, we also race a few hens. Our number of birds usually around the 40 mark.
And your feeding system for them, what does that look like?
We feed versele-laga widowhood mixture from the beginning of the season to the end, and the cocks are not broken down. As for the water, it's just clean fresh water changed everyday, but I will add garlic cloves to it on Sunday to Wednesday.
It all seems so simple but its working for you, when it comes to your training schedule, what does that look like?
The cocks are brought to fitness by loft flying morning and evening, training starts 2/3 weeks before first race, and then as and when I think they need it,
I feel the number of birds of prey locally, is affecting the amount of road training they get.
Now onto the golden question, tell me a little about your Miller Gold cup winner, which I believe you have called 'Ballyanne Tom'?
The winner of the Miller Gold Cup, "Ballyanne Tom "was a June breed bird in 2019.
His Sire is a bird we call "Ballyanne Poitiers Cock" who flew Poitiers with the BICC in 2018 flying 525 miles,
(Out of race time).
His G-sire is a full brother to Tom Williams top racing and breeding cock Mr Reliable who flew Tarbes and Bergerac on the day plus many other prizes,
Tarbes is 562 miles to Tom's loft, As you can see his pedigree is stacked with top quality distance blood.
What was his preparation for this race?
"Ballyanne Tom" was raced on the widowhood system, he got 6 inland races plus a few private training tosses, he got his hen for a couple of hours before basketing.
Historically did he have any prizes?
He just had the 6 land races and wasn't across the water this year, but in 2020 he flew a very tough Penzance race with IHUNFC where he was 3rd sect and 35th open after 10 hours on the wing been clocked at 7pm doing a velocity of 473.
Wow, thats a clear sign he would have the potential for the longer distance. was there anything else in his breeding that made you think he was a suitable candidate for St Malo?
A sister to the miller gold cup winner was herself 4th club,4th sect, and 23rd open IHUNFC penzance in 2019,and also 3rd club 5th sect, and 18th open IHUNFC OB Nat St Malo 2020.
An Aunt of the miller gold cup winner was 1st club, 4th sect, and 13th open IHUNFC OB Nat St Malo 2020.
Amazing, that family of pigeons seems to be stacked with top quality channel performances. Once again I want to say congratulations on your miller gold cup win. Any final words?
I would like to finish by saying a big thank you to my family, my wife Breda, my children, Michaela, Oisin and Erin, who do a lot around the lofts, whether its feeding or changing the water and letting them in from a toss when I'm at work.
There you have it, an amazing team performance from all of the Gaffney Family, Let me present to you, the 2022 Miller Gold Cup Winners Tony and Oisin Gaffney
South Leinster Fed
Tony and Oisin outside their lofts
2022 Miller Gold Cup winner
Millar Gold Cup 2022 -
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