Racecourse Manager Micheal clears hurdles with confidence

Racecourse Manager Micheal  clears hurdles with confidence It’s Tuesday morning at 9 am. I arrive at Roscommon Racecourse to interview Micheal Finneran, the manager of the facility. The Athleague man has been the part-time manager of Roscommon Racecourse for almost a decade.   Roscommon racecourse is one of the finest and most successful provincial tracks in the country. It brings tens of thousands of visitors into the town and millions of euro are turned over every year at the track.   It’s a beautiful morning. The place looks in fantastic shape. The newly-cut track is ready for the busiest meeting of the year which will take place this Sunday and Monday.   Micheal Finneran is at the farthest point away from his office. He is at the very bottom of the track with a man called Val O’Connell who is the inspector of racetracks in Ireland. He had travelled all the way from Limerick that morning. The two men are walking the track to make sure all is in readinesss for the weekend.   There are beads of sweat on Micheal Finneran’s brow when he eventually climbs the three furlongs past the winning post to where I am waiting at his office. We sit in the sunshine and talk.   ‘I’m nine years or so here now’ he says,   ‘and it’s getting busier all the time.   ‘A lot of people do not realise it but there are a lot of long hours associated with this job. We have to ensure that everything is  right for the public, for the trainers, for the jockeys and for the bookmakers who all make up the day’s racing here in Roscommon and it’s getting more demanding as the years go by’ he said.    The secret to the success is that a little more work is being done to improve facilities every year. I asked him was he happy with the support of Horseracing Ireland for the improvements that are needed at the track.    ‘Well, the situation is that everything is treated on a 50/50 basis in that regard’ he says. ‘ If we want to spend €200,000 for example, the HRI will give us €100,000 and we will have to get a loan for the other €100,000 and that’s the way we work it. When we have one loan paid then we start on something else’ he told me.   A disastrous year in 2002 was a major setback and it took the racecourse a lot time to recover, as Micheal explains.      ‘You’ll remember yourself that in 2002 we had no racing here until August because of the terrible weather which was a disaster. It set us back a good bit and we are only really recovering from that now’ he says.    However there are major developments in the pipeline for later this year. ‘We are going to totally re-develop the buildings at the road end of the course. We are planning new offices, new weigh room, new jockeys changing rooms for men and women, new toilets, new press room and a new entrance including new turnstiles. That development wil start at the end of this year please God’ he says.    Micheal Finneran says that he is always greatly encouraged by the support of local businesses. ‘We have fantastic and very loyal sponsors and the support of the local business community is growing all the time. Without them it would be impossible to run this racecourse and I’m very thankful to them’ he said.    When I pressed him about further development and the management of the racecourse he told me that it was coming towards the time when a full-time manager was needed. ‘It’s a huge job now. There are nine meetings a year and the responsibility is huge. I receive literally hundreds of letters every month and they have all to be dealt with. It’s a huge business. Remember that there was €883,000 bet here at the May meeting alone. That’s an idea of just how big this business is now.’   Micheal Finneran says that the local race committee works well. ‘I have a good relationship with the committee who are working hard to make sure that this racecourse has a future’ he tells me.  This weekend there is a big two-day meeting. ‘The weather is beautiful now and we should have a huge crowd here especially on Sunday when it’s family day. We have a special entry for families and there are special features such as circus performers, face-painting, balloon design and other attractions and on Monday we have music in the marquee with Brendan Keeley so it’s all systems go’.     Micheal Finneran is very proud of Roscommon racecourse. ‘We have made great strides here in Roscommon. Three years ago we were voted the most improved racecourse in the country and over the past two years we have been shortlisted in the final five for the best racecourse in the country which is a brilliant compliment to everyone here and our facilities’ he said.    ‘We also have a great band of local workers who come here and help us out at every meeting and without them we would be in trouble’ he said.    The racecourse inspector Val O’Connell was getting ready to leave after his inspection. There was a bonus for Michael and for the course as I spoke to him briefly. I asked him to rate Roscommon racecourse in the context of the national scene. His reply was instant: ‘This is a fantastic track, one of the best I travel to. It’s a pleasure coming here. Anything I ever want done here – it’s done – and that’s the end of it. The people of Roscommon should be very proud of this facility, it’s one of the best in the country.’ High praise indeed from the Limerick man before he headed off.   It was time to go. Micheal Finneran had no more time for talking. There was a mountain of correspondance to be opened and dealt with and there were marquees to be erected and a track to get ready for the thousands that will flood into Lenabane this weekend. Everything will be top clas on the day as usual but there is a hell of a lot of work into getting ready and Micheal Finneran does a lot of that and we never hear from him either.   Despite the hard slog I always get the impression that Micheal Finneran likes his  job and is very proud of the facility and what he has achieved there. Long may it continue.