In true patriotic fashion we immediately launched an aggressive counter bid in an effort to secure the future of the revered tree stump offering €6,200 (twice the Canadian’s original bid) for the stump. Unsurprisingly Rathkeale Parish Priest, Canon Joseph Dempsey, told us both where to go. Undeterred by our lack of success we instead opened a book on where the next sighting of the Blessed Virgin will take place in Ireland. The Blessed Virgin’s usual haunt, Knock Shrine, is the bookies 5/1 favourite followed by holy mountain, Crough Patrick, at 12/1. Less likely locations include the moving statues venue of Ballinspittle at 33/1 and Galway Races at 100/1.
In May we got out our corporate cheque book and boldly entered the Australian online and telephone betting market through the acquisition of 51% of Sportsbet, the fastest growing bookie Down Under. With hardly enough time to throw a shrimp on the barbie, the following month Sportsbet acquired IAS, one of its leading competitors which consolidated its position as Australia’s biggest corporate bookie. Fair dinkum!
One of our more bizarre partnerships of 2009 took place in June with the organisers of Ireland’s biggest ever skinny dip. The original event had been abandoned due to concerns over Peeping Toms infiltrating the female-only naked swim. The location of the new beach was kept a closely guarded secret which prompted us to offer odds on which beach will host the charity swim in aid of Action Breast Cancer. 180 women took part in the eventual skinny-dip and the event generated both national and international coverage and raised over €55,000 for the breast cancer charity.
In July we were the proud sponsor of the 2009 Irish Wife Carrying Championship which was the highlight of the Sneem Family Festival in the picturesque village of Sneem in Co. Kerry. The race attracted a record number of entrants with couples across Ireland taking part. The race was eventually won by defending champions John O’Shea and Aoife Desmond from Kerry in a time of 1 minute 04 seconds which was enough to book their place representing Ireland in the World Wife Carrying Championship in Finland next year.
It takes a special kind of dimwit to turn what should have been our best ever golf result into our worst but that’s exactly what we did with the USPGA in August. For some very questionable reason we took the unprecedented step of paying out over €1m to backers of Tiger Woods before the world number one teed off for round three of the USPGA. At that time of Tiger was four shots clear at the top of the leader board and was the bookies red-hot 1/5 favourite to win the final Major of the year. Unfortunately for us, Tiger failed to produce his trademark magic in the final two rounds resulting in our record breaking seven-figure cock-up, the biggest ever mistake of its kind.