Coursing festival finals day may move to Sunday

Conor Kane

Conor Kane

Final tallies from this year’s attendances at the National Coursing Meeting in Clonmel indicated that crowds were up by 30pc on last year’s event - but more changes might be on the way.

The move to weekend coursing was generally deemed a success and contributed to the surge in gate receipts at Powerstown Park for the 2013 national meeting.

However, Monday’s crowd was down on the bumper number of people who turned up for Sunday coursing so now Irish Coursing Club bosses are set to consider tinkering with the schedule and moving to a Friday/Saturday/Sunday slot in next year’s calendar.

“The All-Ireland final is played on a Sunday and this is our All-Ireland final,” club chief-executive DJ Histon explained this week.

“It’s a day when people are off and can come to events like the coursing. If we did see a fall-off in the opening day on a Friday it would be more than compensated for on the Sunday.”

A decision is likely to be made at the next committee meeting in March but it seems certain, at any rate, there is no appetite for a return to Monday-Wednesday coursing and the weekend billing is here to stay.

“The debate now is not so to go back to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but to look at Friday to Sunday,” Mr Histon said. “The break in tradition this year was to try the weekend slot and that certainly worked for us.”

He pointed out that, when coursing takes place at the weekend it makes it easier for working people to attend for at least one of the days. “If you’ve never been to a coursing meeting before you’re certainly not going to take a day off work to go for the first time. We had a lot of people this year who had never been at a coursing meeting and people who might not have been fully aware of what it’s all about had the chance to see it at first hand.”

Overall, ticket sales for the three days totalled 35,000 - up by almost a third on 2012 - with the highlight being the Sunday. “Sunday was definitely the big day and it certainly adds to the debate about having the finals on Sunday.”

The big events were won by Thomas the Tank (Boylesports Derby) and Smart Ali (Greyhound and Pet World Oaks) along with Hopes and Dreams (Champion Stakes) and Bossa Nova Babe (Champion Bitch Stakes).

Hotel, restaurant and B&B bookings were “very strong” throughout the town, he said.

Another innovation tried this year was a bus service run in partnership with Dublin Bus, with three routes covering the west, Munster and the north/Leinster.

At €10 each way for a fare, and with the buses dropping passengers “at the door” so preventing some of the traditional traffic congestion, it’s a service that proved popular and is likely to continue.

“It was the first time we tried it and it’s something we can build on. We can develop it further now that people see how easy it is to come by bus.”