DOG racing is to return to Lifford following the purchase by a business syndicate of the local greyhound stadium.
Made up of buyers from England and Ireland, the group says it hopes to have the track open again by the end of the summer.
The surprise announcement comes 18 months after the stadium was shut by long-time owner Hugh Duffy and his family.
The Duffys ran the Lifford track for 19 years and in its heyday it drew ‘doggy men’ from all over the UK and Ireland.
That came to an end in August 2019 though with the owners blaming dwindling prize money and a lack of support from the Irish Greyhound Board.
Speaking yesterday, spokesperson for the business syndicate, Gary Boyle, confirmed plans for the stadium’s reopening.
“The Duffys gave us a very fair price and have been fantastic to deal with. It is mainly down to their desire to keep it as a greyhound racing venue that we managed to get the deal done. We can’t thank them enough for making it happen.”
Mr Boyle said the buyers felt purchasing Lifford stadium was a good idea as it is “the best dog track in the UK and Ireland”.
“In fact some people will tell you it’s the best running track in the world. If you ask the top ten trainers in Ireland the question, nine of them will point to Lifford and one will say Shelbourne,” Mr Boyle said.
The inner workings of the dog racing industry involves the Irish Greyhound Board supplying prize money to each of the tracks in the Republic of Ireland. But the new owners of Lifford stadium plan to move away from that model.
“We are not going to be asking for taxpayers’ money. We will make it absolutely clear, we are not asking for any financial assistance from the Irish taxpayer. This is an entirely independently financed project.”
The syndicate is aiming for two meetings per week in Lifford including bringing back a Sunday card, traditionally a big day for the town in racing terms.
How many jobs will be created by the reopening has yet to be firmed up but the plans are to reopen the stadium and all its associated facilities.
A target date of late July or early August has been set but that will depend on discussions with the Irish Greyhound Board.
Gary Boyle added, “For us it is all about greyhounds and Lifford is a real greyhound part of the world.
“There is still the right amount of dogs in the area to make this work and we felt that if we left it much longer that might not be the case. So we feel now is the right time.”
The development was welcomed by Strabane independent councillor Raymond Barr, who added, “This is fantastic for greyhound enthusiasts in the north west.
“News that Lifford greyhound track may soon be up and running again will be a shot in the arm for the long suffering greyhound community here. The economic benefits with job creation, increase in visitors to the Lifford/Strabane area and of course providing a social outlet are all positive outcomes of a resurgent dog track. I hope all relevant statutory bodies and local government representatives on both sides of the border will get behind this project and help the industry return to its glory days in the north west.”