Mark Pierrepont in in conversation with Damien Matthews

The name Matthews has been synonymous with greyhound racing in Ireland for many years. Headed by the legend, who is Brendan, much of the travelling these days is left to his son Damien. I caught up with Damien to see what his plans were with regards the forthcoming Star Sports, LPS and ARC English Derby and started off with a recap.

Damien said:”As you know we had the old lad Ribchester involved at Nottingham last year. I was initially very disappointed with his first trial at the track, 30.53 (+30) simply wasn’t good enough, he’d not handled the bend at all well.

“I was very close to the bend and commented that he’d run just about as wide as any dog could do. I was in two minds about coming back for another look. But I was glad we did as the next week he trapped much better and run the bend a lot better too, recording 30.24 (+10).

“I still expected more but it was enough to warrant his entry. Come first round night I expected him to come on again and he did so, not perfect away but paced up well and led early to win in 29.98 (+20).

“I was a bit disappointed come the second round as I knew he’d keep improving but he didn’t trap, got involved in crowding and that was that. He’s since been kept to Shelbourne, was eliminated from our Derby at the first hurdle and then ran down the field in a race on final night.

“He’s been off the card since but I give him a spin at Shelbourne last week and he really pleased me, doing 18.57 (+10) for the 350yrd trip. He should be heading over for another crack this year.

“O have a number of young pups that could be ‘possibles’ however the calendar for us is looking really condensed and we’ve got some decisions to make with regards which dogs go to which meetings. “We have a lot on, the National Coursing meeting at Clonmel is to be staged mid February, so we’ll be busy with that

“Then the Con and Annie Kirby Memorial competition is quickly upon us. We’ll likely enter a few into that competition and see how they go. Any that are eliminated at an early stage will still have time to head to Nottingham. Though obviously we’d be hoping they progress to the latter stages which would automatically rule them out of heading to England.

“We’ve a nice young bitch there named Love Island, she’s out of Toms Delight who has thrown no end of top class greyhounds, Cable Bay, Innocent Times, Jaytee Taylor and of course Ribchester to name just a few.

“Droopys Sydney is producing some nice types and he’s the father of this latest litter. Love Island is only a May 2018 pup but she’s won two from her first four races including 28.71 (+20) last time out at Shelbourne in an A2.

“She’ll be heading to the Con and Annie Kirby without doubt but if she were eliminated early then I’d give her a trial at Nottingham and see how she goes.

“I think a lot of her and there’s plenty to come. We’ve a sister to her there as well who I think a great deal of, but she’s as yet unraced. Her name is Unlock Unlock

“John Bercow the ex speaker in Parliament would forever be saying ‘unlock unlock’, it just stuck in my head and that’s where the name comes from.

“There is no doubting she’s very nice bitch who will go on to compete at a very high level, she’s already got a 18.76 (+10) trial on her card over the 350yd trip at Shelbourne and her first target will be a forthcoming unraced competition at Newbridge.

“Hopefully she’ll go as well as I hope and then she’ll head to Nottingham for a trial. That’s just a couple, we’ve a few who fall into the same category and no doubt we’ll have a few on the van for trials and take it from there.

“I was glad to see that Nottingham are amending the traps, I do think this will help.”


Looking away from Damien’s own greyhounds I asked was there anything he felt punters should be keeping on the right side of?

He said: “Liam Dowlings Ballymac Anton was superb at Shelbourne this weekend gone in winning the final of the Best Car Parks Gold Cup. He’s been in brilliant form for a good while now and if he can maintain that kind of level then he’s a serious contender for any race he lines up in.

“He obviously gained good experience of Nottingham last year and I’d not be surprised if he were to put that to good use this time around. “I’d say the same for Ballydoyle Valor trained by Graham Holland. He was really impressive when winning a trial stakes around Nottingham last year and the Holland team must have been disappointed to see him go out in the first round.

“He’s a better dog than his form might suggest in my opinion and though he’s not been out since Night Of Stars he looks to have come back from his break well

“An 18.41 (+10) 350yrd trial at Shelbourne a couple of weeks back is flying and his 28.31 (+20) beating Lenson Austin wasn’t too bad an effort either considering he’d have needed the run.

“He could have a big year this time around. Another of Graham’s dogs Wolfe is definitely of interest. He’s got huge pace and stays well, he is an ideal type for Nottingham but you just always have that doubt in your head about what happened with him at the third bend in the second round last year.

“He couldn’t have failed to have qualified from where he lay in second, I guess we’ll never truly know what went through his mind.

“He finished third in the St Leger here at Limerick behind ‘Anton’ and though he’s not run since finishing second behind Ballymac Cooper on Night Of Stars he’s another who has trialled very well at Shelbourne in the last couple of weeks.

“He recorded 28.11 (+20) when beating Newinn Lester by 9 lengths over 525yrds last week, he’s obviously in great shape. We’ve a busy few months ahead that’s for sure but we’re looking forward to it all”.