Whelan and Yates lead strong panel over Cheltenham marathon

Paul Healy  The third annual Roscommon Lions Club Cheltenham Preview, held in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon on Monday night, was a resounding success. An approximate 500 guests attended the event, at which a panel of racing experts previewed the most eagerly-awaited races over the course of next week’s Cheltenham Festival.    The proceeds from the gala night will go towards Roscommon Lions Club’s Youth Centre and Suicide Awareness projects.    Monday night’s panel consisted of jockeys Robert Power, Ken Whelan and Paddy Flood, trainer Tony Mullins, senior handicapper Noel O’Brien, broadcaster Robert Cooper and bookmaker Ivan Yates. The panel was chaired by RTE’s Tracy Piggott who retired during the break due to illness. Mr. Yates took over as chairperson.       Before Monday night’s racing extravaganza began, the huge audience was addressed by Mr. John F. Hanley, President, Roscommon Lions Club, organisers of the event.    Mr. Hanley welcomed all present and thanked sponsors and the general public for their generous support of the event. He welcomed Ms. Piggott and the panel members.    Outlining details of the Lions Club’s major projects, he said these related to the provision of a youth centre, the ongoing suicide awareness campaign and fund-raising for the Sacred Heart Hospital in Roscommon. He praised his Lions Club colleagues for their ongoing work on these projects.    Mr. Pat Connolly, District Governor (Lions Clubs of Ireland) outlined details of the Lions Club movement in Ireland. Lions Clubs relied on the goodwill of communities and it was his view that the community in Roscommon should be very proud of the contribution it was making. Lions clubs had raised about €5m in Ireland in 2007 and the suicide prevention project spearheaded in Roscommon was now a model for the Lions movement nationwide.    Acknowledging that Mr. John F. Hanley’s term as President of Roscommon Lions Club ends later this year (he will be succeeded by Mr. Ciaran Mullooly) Mr. Connolly presented the outgoing President with the prestigious Melvin Jones Fellowship Award (in honour of the man who started the Lions’ movement in Chicago in 1917).    Mr. Ciaran Mullooly, Master of Ceremonies, then introduced the night’s gala panel and a very enjoyable three-hour Preview ensued. Discussion on the various races was introduced with dvd footage of the leading contenders (on giant screens).    At the close of proceedings local auctioneer Mr. John Earley conducted a successful auction, while there were also a number of raffles on the night. Details of same in future issues.    Just after midnight Ciaran Mullooly returned to the podium to thank the panel – and the attendance – for combining to make the 2008 Cheltenham Preview a memorable and very enjoyable night.