Northern Ireland greyhounds legend Dessie Gilroy pursued passion for decades
Northern Ireland greyhound racing has lost one of its top stalwarts with the passing of Belfast's Dessie Gilroy.
The Andersonstown man, an optician by profession, died peacefully at home, aged 87, leaving the greyhound fraternity deeply shocked and saddened.
A regular at Drumbo Park where he loved nothing more than studying the form and winning regularly on the Tote, he was an owner for over six decades and ploughed countless thousands of pounds into supporting track racing and coursing. In his earlier days Dessie was attached to the late Pat McCloskey's kennels before joining up with Banbridge trainer Michael Taggart, with whom he enjoyed a further 17 successful years.
"I couldn't believe it when I heard the news. I will miss him greatly and only at the weekend he was telling me to buy a couple of new dogs and a sapling to replace others," said Michael.
"He was very good to me down the years and his loss will be deeply felt by his family and friends."
Dessie had success at various tracks throughout Ireland but his most cherished moment came at Drumbo in November 2014 with Divis View's victory in the £10,000 Caledonia Smooth Gold Cup. The black dog clocked a very fast 28.27 seconds, beating Teapot Hill by two lengths.
Dessie said at the time: "This rates as my best achievement as it was a top class race at my local track, and I hate to hear people knocking the track. They don't realise how lucky we are to have Drumbo and the contribution it makes to the sport."
Renowned for the prefix 'Sheepwalk' - the name Dessie gave to all pups he bred - he won Dundalk's prestigious Bar One Irish Sprint Cup with Sheepwalk Mac in 2010 and also saw the dog voted the top Irish sprinter for that year.
Dessie had a great knowledge of the 'long tail' and always enjoyed reminiscing or arguing the toss about the great dogs he had seen down the years. A man of the highest integrity and forthright principle, he enjoyed a good 'punt' and treated success and failure with the same calm composure and good grace.
The thoughts and prayers from all those in the sport, and especially the staff at Drumbo Park, go out to his family.