Finn McCool and Punchestown

Finn McCool The Winner at Punchestown, (Author unknown)

This poem was a great favourite of one of my colleagues in Scoil Choca Naofa, Kilcock. There were many rousing deliveries for school concerts, fleadhs, etc. Interestingly when I found it on the web, it turns out it was also the party piece of Kevin Burke, Captain of the successful 1953 Ballymore Eustace Senior GAA Football Team

‘Twas Martin McDonagh who bought him, from a man at the Fair in Naas
And never an uglier object, was seen in a farmer’s place.

He was long and lanky and bony, with a head like a tinker’s mule
Yet he had such a style of stepping, that we called him Finn McCool.

But never a word said Martin, for he was the knowing one,
He foddered his colt all winter, and he cantered him here and yon.
A feather would knocked me over, when I heard one day in the town
That Finn McCool had been entered, for the Races at Punchestown.

Taking a drop to brace me up, I started into Maynooth,
There was twenty there before me, all anxious to know the truth.
And there sat deluded Martin, joking and playing the fool,
Telling stories about this and that, but nothing of Finn McCool.

Tipping a wink for myself to stay, he soon got rid of the lot,
And the missus came calling him to “come while the tay is hot.”
A cup was there for myself of course, and a plate of pancakes brown,
But what cared I for pancakes, when my thoughts were on Punchestown.

Martin went on to tell me, the pedigree of both grand sires of Finn
He was a bay descendant of all his famous kin
“The horse has his point” says Martin, “though his runs like a circus clown
But he stands to make me or break me at the Races of Punchestown.”

O Lord, it’s a terrible feeling, when every shilling you own,
Is bet on an ordinary animal that’s skin where he isn’t bone.
I couldn’t sleep a wink at night and the wife says “Felim O’Toole,
It’s below in the Carlow Asylum, you’ll finish with Finn McCool.

The day of the Races came, and Martin, meself and the horse
And Davy Lacy to ride him, were early upon the course.
“How much against Finn McCool” says I, and the bookie says with a grin
“Arrah 50 to 1 and the fun you’ll have, watching another one win.”

The horses came from the paddock, went down and got into a line
And burst like shots from a rifle, when the starter gave the sign
And lagging along behind them, came Finn McCool at a pace
That would shame any dacent donkey, for sale at the Fair in Naas.

“Go on ye devil ” I yelled at him, “go on and lift your feet
For all the horses that ever were born, I’ll shoot you this day if you’re beat.”
And Martin himself was yelling, and cursing him dead and blind
And the crowd were roaring and shouting “look at the one behind”

He heard us, by all the Gods above, for he shot like a frightened deer
When Davy Lacy the jockey digged him, from tail to ear.
Rearing and snorting and kicking, he clattered past horse by horse
You’d think the end of the world had come, with the roaring on the course.

With his big feet trashing like paddle wheels and his tail like a dory mast
He leapt over the wall and the double ditch till first in the field was past.
“He’s winning” I heard someone saying, the crowd all going wild
And Martin McDermott beside me, was crying like a child.

“Winning, of course he’s winning” says I and “there take that from O’Toole”
As I threw my hat in the bookies face that had laughed at Finn McCool.
“Faith Finn doesn’t know when to stop” says Kelly the vet from Clane
For having near jumped the judges box, Finn made for the hill again.

We followed him into the paddock, where the horses were weighing in
The devil the hair was turned, on the hide of the warrior Finn
As cool as his mighty name sake, who had never known defeat
He seemed to be winking “that Fenian lad is a mighty hard thing to beat”

The bookies paid us our money and the crowning joy of the race
Was counting my bag of money from the lad I hit in the face.
“Be careful” says I “me bucko, whenever your money is down
A lesson from Finn McCool you have, the winner at Punchestown”