WATCH: Football fetching dog proves to be a lucky mascot for NI club
Meet Beau – the four-legged friend who is keeping ball boys out of a job at Knockbreda FC by returning any footballs that go out play.
The ball-retrieving Labrador will be called into action once again on Saturday when the second-tier Belfast club play Crusaders in the last 16 of the Irish Cup.
Beau’s owner, who did not want to be named, told how he first became aware of Beau’s talent for returning footballs: “In the mornings he doesn’t come over to see you unless he lifts something, it’s just a trait that’s in them.
“I thought, he can lift a ball at home so he can lift a ball at the club. He’s a great nose on him, he can sniff out the ball, even the ones that are buried in the big shuck at the back.
“We haven’t lost a ball and he hasn’t burst a ball since he started about seven or eight years ago.”
Beau’s owner, who has been with the club for nearly 40 years, said his pet is very gentle with the ball: “He can’t get his mouth right round it.
“He can just about grab it and that’s it, so he doesn’t damage them.
“He used to fly off like the hammers but he’s like myself now, too slow. He jogs round, maybe stops for a pee, but he gets to the ball eventually.”
He added: “He’s a very sociable dog. I’d have been taking him up to the club when things were normal and he’d be sitting about watching people having sandwiches and getting some of his own.
“I remember one time I was getting a coke and bag of crisps at the bar and I said to the wee lad, ‘give me a bag of crisps for the dog’. He says, ‘what sort does he want?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I’ve never asked him – sure just give him the box and he’ll pick his own’.
“He handed me the box and the dog stuck his head in the box, rummaged about and came out with a packet of roast chicken.”
The club was paid a visit by the IFA’s social media team ahead of last weekend’s Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Cup tie against Newington FC to capture on film Beau’s exploits. He proved to be the lucky mascot as they won 2-1 to set up a game against recent Irish Premier League winners Crusaders.
Looking ahead to the tie against Crusaders on Saturday at 3pm, secretary of the NIFL Championship club Colin Russell said: “We got to the quarter finals about four or five years ago and we hosted Glentoran. This would be on a par with that.
“It’s tinged with a wee bit of sadness. Had we not been in Covid times it would have been a huge, huge tie.
“With the gate receipts, the bar takings, the ballots – it could have been a five-figure lift for us.
“It’s to the point now where it will actually cost us money on Saturday with all the time and effort and Covid work that has gone on.”