The Spring of 2016 started well as FTCh Gortinreagh Eppie continued her winning ways with a 1st place win at Glarryford in February under local judges Andy Law and Mark Adams. Doug Collins qualified his young ESB Gortinreagh Imp by winning the Novice Stake at Amulree on 24 March. My own ESB Gortinreagh Faith had a good Spring in Scotland winning 1st at the Pointer Club of Scotland’s Novice at Cawdor on 29 March, taking a 4th place behind Gortinreagh Imp’s Novice Stake win in the Scottish Gundog Association’s Novice on 31 March and finishing the week with another 1st at the Scottish Field Trials Association Novice Stake on 2 April under Wilson Young and Susan Stone. Gortinreagh Gala took 4th place in the SFTA Open with Ballyellen Colleen securing a CoM.
In the Summer of 2016 I concentrated on preparing 8 dogs for Open Stakes, 1 Novice dog and 3 Puppies, 2 of which also competed in Novice stakes – the 3rd already being qualified having won a puppy stake at 11 months in the Summer of 2015.
The Gortinreagh-Ballyellen team had a very successful Summer in 2016. Gortinreagh Inca opened the account by winning 1st at the Scottish Gundog Association’s Puppy Stake at Glenlivet, which she followed up by winning 1st in the Northern Counties Puppy Stake a couple of days later at Cawdor. Ballyellen Tango – took 1st the SGA Novice Stake and completed the Scottish week by claiming 1st in the prestigious Kennel Club Puppy Derby at Tollishill under the judges Billy Darragh and Colin Forde which earned him a run in the Champion Stake next day. Gortinreagh Faith claimed her first Open Stake 1st at the lovely Tillypronie under judges Richard MacNicol and Laurence McAlister with FTCh Gortinreagh Eppie taking 4th spot in the North of Scotland Gundog Association Open. It was great for FTCh Ballyellen Colleen to achieve her title by winning 1st in the Northern Counties Pointer and Setter Society Open Stake on the 2 August under Steve Robinson and Nicky Ackerley-Kemp, thus allowing her to join her more celebrated brother and sister as a titled performer. Her first Open win had been on the pheasants at Glarryford in Co Antrim and having her second win on the grouse moor just confirmed what a versatile game finder this lovely ESB is. 2 days later it was FTCh Gortinreagh Excel who again led the field to take 1st on one of the wettest days I have ever been out on a grouse moor. FTCh Gortinreagh Eppie and FTCh Ballyellen Cara took CoMs as well in the Pointer Club of Scotland’s Open Stake at Dorback.
However the highlight of the trip will have to be the supreme performance put in by FTCh Ballyellen Cara to secure the 1st place in the UK Champion Stake at Byrecleugh on the 10 and 11 August. Michael Houston, one of the judges, told me afterwards that her kennel mate FTCh Gortinreagh Excel was sitting really high until the end of the trial until I stepped out to pick him up at the end of his final run and the untimely appearance of a dropped in cheeper eliminated him from the Trial! However, the professional that is FTCh Ballyellen Cara held it all together, having produced game with ease and style and having run in her signature graceful manner, was pronounced the winner at the end of the 2 days. It was very pleasing to have her breeder and owner Bill Connolly in attendance over those 2 days and of course, the man who had done so much to establish English Setters as a major force in Ireland, Johnny Geoghegan was also there to witness her triumph.
Back in Ireland, the winning ways continued as FTCh Gortinreagh Excel took 1st place at the NI Pointer Club Open at Glenwherry. A few weeks later Gortinreagh Gala secured 1st place the Strabane & District Setter and Pointer Club’s Open Stake at Slieveanorra just pipping the puppy Ballyellen Tango into 2nd spot. A visit to Glennoo in October saw IntFTCh Ballyellen Cody taking 3rd spot with no less than 9 perfect finds across 3 rounds on partridge. The Senior judge in his summation said the dog had been dropped to 3rd as he had had no running – not surprising, given the density of game. The first 2 places had run much further out into the mountain and had clean ground. For the 3rd round run-off the senior judge had requested ‘birdy’ ground from the game-keeper, so Cody recorded his eighth and ninth finds with provocation – but was denied any opportunity to show off his paces.
A final visit to Craig’s Moss for the year saw FTCh Gortinreagh Excel take 1st spot and with his kennel mate Gortinreagh Faith taking 3rd spot.
The last trial of the year saw FTCh Gortinreagh Excel pip his father IntFTCh Ballyellen Cody to 1st spot, with Cody having to settle for 2nd. I was equally pleased with both dogs, but might have given the win to Cody for his clever bird work. However, I was just happy to have the talent of both recognised by the judges.
So ended another very successful year.
Click below to see the list of awards gained by the Kennel in 2016: