We’ve been on the show scene for over 40 years, but horses aren’t how Kilcahill started out. My grandad Tom had always kept cattle and sheep but that wasn’t long changing when the first pony arrived as the livestock was sold and the Kilcahill bloodline began. Grandad decided to go to a show with the first foal he bred, she won her class and everything went from there.

Showing bug

Brendan, my dad, inherited the showing bug and of course, this was passed on to me. Some of my earliest memories are of going to shows, I always had a great interest in watching the All-Ireland finals and I always said that someday I would be in there, showing.

Our first big winner was the eye-catching Triggerero mare Madonna Hill with her pitch-black coat and trademark white socks. My dad showed her throughout the country where she was highly successful. Her first foal, Kilcahill Naomi (Clover Brigade) has been an incredibly good servant to us, producing three All-Ireland filly foal champions at Moate Show.

One of these was Kilcahill Diamond (Colin Diamond). Not only a prolific winner in her own right, she has also proved herself as a broodmare by producing six All-Ireland champions. Her most recent champion was Kilcahill Ruby in 2023. All of our successes have come from the same six-generation breeding lines that us three generations of Newells are very proud of.

I feel we have continued to show and breed for all these years, not only because of the results we’ve been lucky enough to get but also the satisfaction of seeing a young foal thrive into a wonderful horse.

Matthew and his brother Grof with Kilcahill Ruby, the 2023 All Ireland filly foal champion at Moate Show \ Susan Finnerty

All Ireland double

The 2023 season was incredibly special for us – not only winning two All-Ireland titles but to win both in the same weekend was just amazing. On Saturday, we headed to Ballygarvan in Cork for the All-Ireland show hunter pony youngstock final with Furnish Finn (Inis Slé Quattroporte).

It was my first time showing in an All-Ireland without Dad and I was lucky enough to win, an immensely proud moment. Having bought Rockie, bred by Patsy Joyce, as a foal and now seeing him through to an All-Ireland win was something special.

Then, we headed to Moate Show for the All-Ireland filly foal final on Sunday. Moate has always been a lucky final for us, having won it on three prior occasions. Kilcahill Ruby (Financial Reward), on only her second outing, was initially pulled in third and much to my delight, was moved to the top of the line. This win was incredibly special as Ruby’s dam – Kilcahill Diamond – had won the same final 13 years before her.

We will soon have foals due and then the real fun starts as it’s time to prepare for the season ahead which I’m really looking forward to. I have two young ponies for the ridden classes and I’m looking forward to getting some miles on the clock with them. I’ll also be showing Kilcahill Ruby this summer, my first year showing in young horse classes.

Whilst winning is great, the best thing about the shows is the people and the friendships you make. But, for me, more than anything else, the priority is having happy and healthy horses.

Fittest family

Showing is not the only thing in Kilcahill, all of my cousins are very involved with many different sports. I found my love for sports through athletics, firstly at local level and then, after watching Rob Heffernan on TV, I found racewalking and thought I’d give it a go.

I’ve been lucky enough since to win 10 national titles over a variety of distances, as well as cross-country running. One of my proudest moments was winning the Schools International in Scotland. This was made even better as three of my clubmates were also competing.

It was a very proud day for my club Tuam A.C, my coach Pierce O’Callaghan and of course, my parents, Brendan and Anne Marie. I’m grateful to them for supporting me to compete at this level and Dad obviously enjoys it as he has recently started training for his first race.

This summer, I hope to compete at the European Under-18s championships in Slovakia, and I’m looking forward to watching the action from the Paris Olympics.

Of course, it’s hard to balance it all, between being a student at Colaiste Bhaile Chláir and then athletics and horses. Both take up a lot of time and effort. Some weeks I’ll cover up to 50 kilometres in training and then a few more miles getting foals walking for the shows!

It can be challenging being involved in both worlds but if you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s very easy.