The annual greyhound coursing and horse racing festival that starts in Clonmel this weekend is worth an estimated €15 million to the local economy, according to the local Chamber of Commerce.
The festival provided a fantastic boost for the hospitality and retail trades and was a good bridge between Christmas and Easter for the local economy, said Brian Cleary, Chamber of Commerce CEO.
The centrepiece of the week is the National Coursing Meeting, which is staged at Powerstown Park from next Monday, January 31 until Wednesday, February 2. An estimated 25,000 coursing supporters are expected to pass through the turnstiles over the three days.
The week starts with the traditional open coursing curtain-raiser, hosted by the Clonmel and District Club in Ballyclerihan on Sunday morning, and concludes with the horse racing meeting next Thursday. Greyhound racing meetings are also held each night at the Davis Road track.
Mr Cleary said that Clonmel would prove even more attractive this year for visitors, especially families, with so many new retail premises open in the town.
D.J. Histon, the chief executive and secretary of the Irish Coursing Club, which hosts the meeting, said the recession had impacted on every business and many people found themselves in difficult circumstances.
But the unique element of the national meeting was that it was a once-in-a-year event, which presented the opportunity to see the best greyhounds in action.
People tended to make a holiday of the week and he hoped that tradition would continue. He said the meeting was insulated from the recession to some degree because of its unique nature.
Several locally-trained and owned greyhounds will compete for the top prizes, including the Oaks and the Derby, and will hope to be in the shake-up when the finals are held next Wednesday afternoon.