The whiff of autumn air is enough to send the Irish hunting folk into a frenzy at the onset of the season, and these past few weeks the air of excitement has been building as cubbing begins across the country. Gone are the bikes as horses are shod for early morning starts to get hounds, horses and their riders hunting fit for the opening meets which kick off here early November.
While cubbing here may not attract the same mounted numbers as in the UK, it the nevertheless an important part of preparation, and foot followers are just as plentiful, particularly with some of the bigger packs.
The National Hound Show in July was a great opportunity to meet some of the new hunt staff which had been appointed on May 1st. Some had moved on from Ireland, others have moved in, and there were several who had simply changed allegiences and moved up the ladder from whips to hunstmen.
The Co Limerick Foxhounds were among those who underwent some changes and the departure of huntsman Graham Bustin to hunt the Bear Creek Hounds in the States left a void which was to be later filled by young James Bradley. Formerly huntsman of the North Herefordshire, he was quick to get settled in and introduced himself at the Hound Show by placing in several classes with his new charges. He will be chiefly assisted this year by Fergus Stokes, who is in his second season as whip having come from the Duhallow Foxhounds.
The Kildare Foxhounds also have a new staff member in Mikey Moran, who took up the position as whip to huntsman Chris Francis. Mikey leaves his post as whip with the Killick Harriers to replace his brother Ado, who was delighted to be offered the position of huntsman of the Carlow Farmers Hunt. One of the most dedicated whips in Ireland, he will no doubt prove a capable huntsman in new country.
Now in his second season, Sam Staniland is enjoying his post as huntsman to the Kilkenny Foxhounds, who also have new masters this season. Among them is trainer Paul Deegan and Aidan Fogarty, who runs the Sport of Kings tack shop in Cashel, not far from Coolmore Stud.