Sunday 19 November 2017

Despair as historic Harold's Cross closes its gates

The IGB statement has stated that all 12 full-time staff members will be redeployed, and obviously some will be absorbed into the Shelbourne team Stock photo: Sportsfile
The IGB statement has stated that all 12 full-time staff members will be redeployed, and obviously some will be absorbed into the Shelbourne team Stock photo: Sportsfile
Michael Fortune

Michael Fortune

Harold's Cross Stadium has been a sporting landmark in Dublin since it was first opened back in 1928 - but unfortunately it is no more.

While the closure of the track - even temporarily - was widely anticipated, especially since last Wednesday's meeting of the Irish Greyhound Board, the locks on the gate and the presence of diggers on the track came as a hefty shock to greyhound followers worldwide yesterday.

The arguments will rage and unfortunately the industry will suffer from considerable unrest, certainly in the short term, but the facts are that the greyhounds will race no more around the circuit and Dublin's only track will be Shelbourne Park - which is, of course, one of the greatest tracks in the sport worldwide.

The current plan is that Shelbourne Park will stage the traditional Tuesday and Friday fixtures, and this programme will start from Friday.

The Ringsend venue will, for the moment at least, race on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The IGB statement has stated that all 12 full-time staff members will be redeployed, and obviously some will be absorbed into the Shelbourne team.

One presumes that in the longer term Shelbourne Park will stage the traditional Harold's Cross majors such as the Puppy Derby, the Corn Cuchulainn, the 1,010 yards Marathon and the Islandbridge Sprint.

We can envisage considerable opposition from the Dublin Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation, who were due to discuss the matter last night. There is also a meeting scheduled for tonight with the National Federation.

But it will take a fair bit of marketing to entice the traditional Harold's Cross clientele to start making the journey "across the city" to Shelbourne.

Older greyhound followers will reflect on the great days at Harold's Cross. It staged the National Derby, the forerunner of the Irish Derby, for three years before the staging of the traditional Derby in 1932.

It was the track where the great Spanish Battleship won two of his three history-breaking Irish Derbys in 1953 and '55.

The last dog to win an Irish Derby there was Own Pride in 1969.

But it wasn't all about greyhounds. We remember watching George Best playing football there. Sadly we won't see anything like that again!

Irish Independent

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