Thus far the 21st century has not been kind to the greyhound racing industry, with various factors, including a fall in average attendance, seeing many tracks forced into closure on both sides of the Irish Sea. The industry was hardly thriving but then the events of 2020 and beyond made things so much harder. Turning our attention to the Emerald Isle, the Republic of Ireland now boasts just 14 officially licenced stadiums.
In addition to that 14, there are a handful of tracks that remain in a state of limbo, neither open, nor closed on a permanent basis. Included amongst the ranks of those temporarily closed venues with something of an uncertain future, is that which lies in the county town of Longford. Only a 10-minute walk from the town centre, Longford Greyhound Stadium is one of the most centrally located in the whole of Ireland, and first opened for business back in 1939. A small, but popular track, the stadium operated continuously until running into trouble in 2020.
Former Greyhound Racing at Longford
A local businessman by the name of M.J. Lyons was the man behind the opening of the track, which staged its first meeting all the way back in May 1939. Situated on the south side of Longford, the proximity of the track to the town centre quickly made it a popular destination for the locals.
Early highlights at the stadium included the Padian Cup and Smithwicks 550 which, whilst a big deal locally, didn’t make much of an impact on a national scale or in the UK. It was the later additions of the Longford Derby and Longford Puppy Derby that really began to put the track on the map, certainly within Irish dog racing.
Ticking along relatively smoothly for the first two decades of operation, the track began to face some financial difficulties during the 1960s, which were exacerbated when Longford was forced to take a winter break in 1966. Things became so bleak it seemed that the track would not reopen at all. The venue was, however, to be rescued when owner Thomas Packenham sold the entire operation to Longford Sports Ltd.
The situation remained largely unchanged at the track until 2014 when Longford Sports Ltd opted to offload the facility, with Scottish greyhound owner Howard Wallace stepping in as the new owner. It seems that Longford Sports Ltd may well gave gotten out at the right time, as just five years later the track would close down.
What Happened to Longford Greyhound Stadium?
Unable to hold back a combination of falling attendances and the funding issues which have proved to be a problem for the industry as a whole, it was announced that the track would be closed in March of 2020. In what was something of a sad end for the track, the final meeting took place on the 23rd of March, 2020 in the midst of the global health crisis, meaning that a strict policy of one person per dog was in operation.
Track Up for Sale
Any hopes that this closure may prove to be temporary were dealt a blow when the track was put up for sale in July of 2020, with an asking price of €750,000 – much to the disappointment of owners, trainers, and fans alike, some of whom had established an online fundraising page in an effort to save the stadium.
Deal with the Council
Hopes were however revived to an extent when it was pointed out that the track lay on a patch of land designated as a sports and recreational zone, allaying fears that the stadium may ultimately fall into the hands of housing developers. In November of 2021 rumours began to circulate that Longford Council would purchase the site. Rumours which came to fruition in January of 2022 when the deal with the council was confirmed.
Will Longford Reopen?
What exactly will become of the track remains to be seen, with the council’s “ambitious plans” for the land remaining a little vague as of September 2022. The council confirm that the site will continue to be used for recreational purposes, but whether or not this will include a greyhound track seems a little doubtful, with various alternatives including a skate park being touted. However, whilst the track itself and attached facilities remain standing, there is still hope that the life of Longford Greyhound Stadium may yet extend beyond 80 years.