THIS week Curraheen Park Greyhound Stadium celebrated its 20th birthday.
In 2000, greyhound racing in Cork made the switch from the Western Road to Curraheen Park.
The very last meeting at the Western Road Track took place on Saturday, April 1, 2000. Eglinton Price winning the final race for Elma Roche.
Just a week later, the opening meeting at the new Curraheen Park venue took place. The very first race at the new Curraheen Park Stadium was won by the John Duggan-trained Churchfield Sue, with the Pat Muldoon-owned runner winning in 29.57.
Greyhound racing is full of characters and we lost one of our own at the back end of last year when well-known bookmaker Edward Donnelly sadly passed away. Edward was a great character and a bookmaker at the Cork track for many, many years.
Terry Donnelly, another familiar face at the Cork track and Edward's brother said: "I remember the early days at Curraheen Park very well, you just couldn't believe it, there were around 20 bookmakers and a waiting list to get in.
"When Curraheen Park opened, there were a lot of people who returned to the betting ring. If you fancied one, you would get fortunes on. The first-ever Laurels at Curraheen Park stands out for me, we actually broke even on the night, but if the favourite (Moyne Rebel) had won, we would have lost 20 grand."
Kilkenny-based trainer Paul Hennessy landed the first Laurels at Curraheen Park, as Barefoot Ridge, a 6-1 chance in the ring, beat Moyne Rebel, by half a length, in 28.69.
Brian Collins is the current racing manager at Curraheen Park after he took over from Noel Holland back in 2004.
"There have been so many highlights over the years. Last years Laurels was very special, the people really got behind it and local greyhound Rockybay Foley made it back to back wins, the first greyhound to do so since 1998.
"In recent years, Cork greyhounds have enjoyed some great success in the Laurels, the likes of Sevenheads Bay (2007), Knockglass Billy (2012), Rockybay Foley (2018, 2019), all very special nights. Cork people really get behind there local dogs.
"We are very lucky here in Curraheen Park, we have seen so many great all-round dogs. From sprinters to stayers. We have great sponsors and the greyhound people in Cork are great."
There are so many fabulous events over the course of the year at Curraheen Park and some of the quickest greyhounds in the country have performed at the Cork venue.
Every year millions of euro are raised for clubs, organisations, schools and charities at local Greyhound Stadia right across Ireland. Curraheen Park has played a huge part in this.
"It's a tough time right now but it's important we follow all the guidelines which are in place. Hopefully, we will be back greyhound racing soon, once it's safe to do so."
We are all looking forward to greyhound racing returning. No doubt, there will be many more special nights at Curraheen Park.
Until then, take care.