Galway girl triumphs at best dressed lady competition

Aoife McCana wearing Ghost was the unanimous choice of the judges at Galway Races

“By the time you get to wear the outfit, you’re sick of it,” said the winner of the best dressed competition for Ladies’ Day at the Galway Races .

Aoife McCana from Spiddal was the unanimous choice of the judges on Thursday who were captivated by her blue-grey dress from Ghost with its echoes of 1950s film noir and especially the hat she made herself from an upturned fruit bowl.

Blood and sweat, literally and figuratively, went into its design and she has the calluses on her hands to prove it.

The hat's motifs were crafted using a soldering torch with help from a local artist, Julian Checkley. She also constructed a cage that holds the hat on her head. "Getting out of a taxi was quite entertaining," she said.


McCana works as a software project manager in a company based across the road from the Ballybrit course. Before returning to Galway, she lived in Southampton, Paris, Taiwan and then mainland China.

She sourced her shoes in Taiwan. The lure of the west of Ireland brought her home. "I was a Galway girl before the Galway girl became famous," she said.

Another finalist with a bespoke hat was Galway-based pharmacist Gabrielle Dunne. Wearing a hat made by her mother Marilyn Dunne to match a yellow and orange Asos dress , she described Ladies' Day as like a "second Christmas in our house".

As one of the early arrivals Dunne caught the sunshine. Where else would you want to be, she exclaimed, but in the “best city in Ireland on Ladies’ Day. What’s there not be happy about?”

But in that inimitable Galway way, the sunshine did not last and heavy showers swept across the course as the day progressed.

Winning best-dressed lady at the Galway Races in 2006 was a life-changing experience for Jill Macken from Slane, Co Meath. She wore a white and pink French chantilly lace and silk satin outfit from designer Caitríona Hanly.

When she won in 2006, she says, she was immediately offered a modelling contract. Last year, in the parade ring, she met her boyfriend Denis Hogan, the racing trainer. "Galway is my lucky spot."

The best hat contest, which like the best dressed competition was sponsored by the G Hotel, was won by Oniesa Owens who wore an impressive creation by Cavan milliner, Davina Lynch. It resembled the Sydney Opera House as if seen in a reflecting pool.

Biggest crowd

Ladies’ Day, as is traditional, attracted the biggest crowd of the week to Ballybrit though some observers say the crowds were not as big as last year, perhaps as a result of the capricious weather.

Identical twins Davinia and Dawn Knight (32) from Portarlington, Co Laois, were like a double ray of sunshine despite the clouds in their matching yellow, vintage-style dresses. Their dresses were sourced in Gorey, Co Wexford, the hats were by milliner Pamela Curtin and they had matching hair styles. "People mix us up so we go with it," said Davinia.

There was a look bordering on a uniform for the men who turned up for Ladies’ Day. Everywhere there were groups of teenagers and young men in their twenties wearing loud check suits, waistcoats, white shirts and clashing bow ties. Conor McGregor has a lot to answer for.

The Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap, the main race of the day, was won in a heartstopping finish by Tigris River who reeled in the frontrunner Swamp Fox on the line.

It was a great victory for the seemingly indestructible rider, Barry Geraghty who fractured his ribs in February and broke his left arm in April.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times