Tralee has never seen the likes of it before. Just one person per greyhound allowed in on what should have been the biggest night of the year, it being the final of the Greyhound and Petworld Juvenile Classic (winner, €12,000), and that is the way it is likely to be for quite a while to come - unless the dreaded coronavirus ordains otherwise for the better.
The general public, it has to be said, missed out on a great night's racing and none other than the Ballymac maestro himself, Liam Dowling, supplied the winner of the juvenile classic in the brilliant Ballymac Wild, a July '16 son of Vulturi and Ballymac Breeze, which may now be aimed at the upcoming €80,000-to-the-winner Kirby sweepstake at Limerick.
Normally, greyhounds from Dowling's kennels are short enough in the betting market, such is the reputation of the man, but Ballymac Wild was very much an outsider at 6/1 with the two bookmakers who were allowed in to frame the odds, Patsy Browne and Kieran Bourke.
There was a good reason why Ballymac Wild was at such big odds, chief amongst them being the fact that his best time up to this had been 28.60 - which was quite a bit behind the 28.32 recorded by 5/4 favourite, Glengar Bale, and the 28.33 recorded by 7/4 second favourite, Jaytee Japan.
However, Dowling has proven time and again that he is capable of overcoming the greatest of obstacles (will we ever forget the way he won the Champion Stakes at Powerstown Park last month with Boylesports Magic?) and Ballymac Wild actually won last Friday's final like a long odds-on shot, which had to be seen to be believed.
Yes, there was massive first-bend trouble, completely killing the chances of the more fancied greyhounds, but nothing was going to beat Ballymac Wild anyway once he blew out of trap 5 and swept around the opening bend in the lead.
A magnificent winning time of 28.23, the best in the event, made sure of that and it also enabled Ballymac Wild to come home very much on his own, seven lengths ahead of 8/1 shot, Dualla Prince, and a further two lengths ahead of Jaytee Japan.
It was a second victory in the classic for Dowling, who was previously successful in 2018 with Ballymac Bolger, and he admitted afterwards that he threw on a few euro at 6/1, such was his optimism that Ballymac Wild could emerge victorious.
"He has very good early gears and I did think that there would be trouble on the inside," said Liam. "It was marvellous to see him break so well from trap 5 and dominate the way he did.
"This was a sweepstake full of class and it is fantastic to win it again. We will think about the Kirby sweepstake for him now."
Liam's bother, Declan, who is Sales and Operations Manager at the Oakview venue, regretted that the final had to be run behind closed doors. "It has been a fantastic sweepstake, with the quality so high, and the important thing is that we were able to bring it to a conclusion tonight," he said.
"Hopefully, things will get back to normal in the not too distant future, not just for ourselves but for the whole country."
Kathleen Murphy, representing Greyhound and Petworld, said it was disappointing that the general public weren't able to be present for the climax of such a great classic. "It's for the benefit of everyone, though, so what can we do," she said.
Asked about a possible continuation of the sponsorship by Greyhound and Petworld, she simply said: "Ah, sure that would be telling, wouldn't it."
For bookmakers Patsy Browne and Kieran Bourke, business was slack, to say the least. "Would you believe, I laid only one bet in the final of the classic and that was on Ballymac Wild," said Patsy. "It was great, though, that the night went ahead."
Despite the fact that admission was restricted to one person per greyhound, the bar and fast food outlets on the ground floor operated as normal (the upstairs area was closed) and tote betting was also available.
Yes, the strangest of nights at the Oakview venue, crowd-wise anyway, but a great juvenile classic ended with the most magnificent of local victories. Is there anything beyond that man, Liam Dowling?
The entire programme on the night, comprising eleven races and including four supporting sweepstake finals (with lovely trophies for all the winners), was sponsored by Greyhound and Petworld, and particular interest focused on a 750yds race (DD0 class) which saw a re-match between Brendan Maunsell's history-maker, Redzer Ardfert, and his recent Limerick conqueror, Jerry Griffin's Sporting Pat.
The two were joint favourites at 5/4, but Redzer Ardfert was to emerge as a very decisive winner. Cosard Jet (trap 1) cut out a very strong pace to the fifth bend, but Redzer Ardfert simply cruised to the front after that and he finished six and a half lengths ahead of Cosard Jet in a quite brilliant 41.66, with five lengths back to Sporting Pat.
That 41.66 was only six spots outside the record of 41.60, set in July 2009 by Zulu Ella.
The winners of the supporting sweepstake finals were Cashen Maffeo (29.49), Labana Sky (28.95), Pennys Apollo (31.49) and Paradise McIlroy (28.44), while the other winners were: Clounamon Angel (18.21), Going To Port (17.81), Lemon Boris (28.45), Ballyard Ricki (28.40) and Whistling Rover (29.29).