Famous for its 12th-century castle, the city of Kilkenny in southwest Ireland is among the most popular tourist destinations on the Emerald Isle. In addition to its historical appeal, Kilkenny is also something of a sporting hotspot, boasting a range of sports teams, and an excellent horse racing track at Gowran Park. Adding further to the sporting mix is this small but charming greyhound track which lies in the northwest of the city in St James Park.
First opening for business back in 1946, the track has experienced its ups and downs over the years but is once again providing locals with a steady stream of action. Racing every Wednesday morning and Friday evening, the track is home to several prestigious events, headlined by the historic McCalmont Cup that takes place in March each year. Never likely to be described as the flashiest track in the land, Kilkenny nevertheless provides food, drink, quality racing, and an excellent atmosphere.
What’s On Offer at Kilkenny?
One of 17 tracks officially affiliated with Greyhound Racing Ireland, the venue stages regular meetings on Wednesday mornings and a Friday evenings. The Wednesday morning card is a fixture for the early birds, with the first of 10 races getting underway shortly after 8 am, and the last finishing a little before 11 am.
For obvious reasons, it is the Friday evening fixture which attracts the bigger crowds, with many locals heading to the track to get their weekend underway. Also consisting of 10 races, the first race on Friday begins at around 7:30 pm, with the hare set in motion for the last at around 9:30 pm.
The track at Kilkenny has the somewhat contradictory characteristics of being both an excellent galloping track, and also a little too tight, featuring long straight sections but sharper than average bends.
- Sprint Distance – 300y
- Middle Distance – 525y (standard) – 550y
- Stayers Distance – 700y – 725y – 745y
- Marathon Distance – 970y
What Can You Expect?
General admission at Kilkenny costs €10 for adults. Whilst there are no discounts for OAPs, students get in for only €4 and all under 16’s go free. Doors open around an hour before the first race, giving racegoers plenty of time to get settled in and grab a drink.
Standard entry is where the pricing structure begins and ends. Racegoers can purchase food and drink via a small selection of catering outlets and the track bar, but this is not the place to expect a three-course slap-up meal in a glass-fronted restaurant. Simple but comfortable, the tiered terraces provide excellent views of the action, whilst the covered stands provide refuge should the heavens open.
St James Park
Sports fans making the trip to Kilkenny may wish to investigate the area in and around the stadium either before or after racing, as the St James Park site stages a range of other events, including football and a selection of Gaelic sports.
How to Get There
The stadium address is Kilkenny Greyhound Stadium, St James Park, Kilkenny, Ireland. For those driving to the course, the major roads of the N10, N76 and N77 all lead to Kilkenny city centre, from where the N10 continues directly to the track. Upon arrival at the stadium, motorists will find ample free parking available.
Kilkenny (MacDonagh) Train Station sits within the city centre, around a 20-minute walk, or a short drive from the track. An alternative option is to take the KK2 bus service, which stops only a few minutes from the stadium.
How to Get in Touch
- Tel: – 056 772 1214
- Email: – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Twitter: – @KilkennyStadium
What Else Do I Need to Know?
The first meeting at Kilkenny took place on the 5th of June 1946, with the track proving an immediate hit with the locals. Keen to boost the profile of the venue, officials introduced the McCalmont Cup in 1947 in an effort to attract a better class of animal to the track and put Kilkenny in the national spotlight.
That plan paid off, with early winners of the race including three-time Irish Greyhound Derby winner, Spanish Battleship, who came home in front in both 1954 and 1955; and 1957 champ Prairie Champion who went on to win the 1958 English Greyhound Derby under his new name of Pigalle Wonder. Building on this success, the high-profile Hurst Cup and Great Whistler Cup were added to the program, creating additional targets for the more talented dogs.
Kilkenny is a track which certainly seems to inspire dedication in its management team. Original manager, Jimmy Kinahan, remained in the hot seat from the track’s 1946 opening right up until he died in 1978. Successor, John O’Flynn, didn’t last quite so long but still put in a solid 20-year shift before heading into retirement.
St James Park
St James Park in which the track resides has traditionally been wholly owned by the Irish Agricultural Society which uses the land around the track for activities such as bull sales and show jumping. This remained the case until the Irish greyhound organising body, Bord na gCon, purchased a stake in the land with plans to massively upgrade the site. Pledging €8 million towards the building of a new grandstand and track improvements, things appeared to be looking up for Kilkenny.
That excitement, however, was rather short-lived. In 2008, it was decided that Kilkenny wasn’t a viable project for such investment after all, and just one year later, in early 2009, Kilkenny Greyhound Stadium ceased to operate at all. Quite a turnaround in fortunes! Thankfully for local racing fans, that closure proved to be very brief. By May of 2009, the track was once again up and running, backed by a consortium of local owners, breeders and fans going under the name of the Kilkenny Track Supporters Club.
Beloved by Locals
Whilst not quite managing to erect a new modern grandstand, the new owners were quick to put their stamp on the track by completely re-laying the course, improving the safety rails, and modernising the hare system.
Now firmly back on its feet, the track received a further boost when major greyhound supporters, Red Mills, lent their backing to events at the venue. Now home to the Red Mills Unraced, Red Mills Juvenile, Langton Derby, and McCalmont Cup which continues to run, this track may be small, but remains beloved by locals, and crams a lot of quality into the schedule.