If you build it they will come. And they did - in droves - to mark the opening of Drumbo Park.
Around 1,500 patrons made the journey to the track which last saw greyhound action back in October 2005 and came away with nothing but praise for what was Northern Ireland’s new night out.
Young and old, men and women, from all parts of Ireland and further afield, had a ball and actually enjoyed racing from two tracks as a multitude of plasma screens allowed them to tune into Shelbourne Park and bet into the Dublin tote pool.
Lesley Clarke from Glasgow who is a regular at Shawffield, was in the company of Ian Faul’s family from Comber and said, “We don’t have anything like this at home - I just wish we had. It is simply superb and should prove a big success.”
Faces that had not been seen since the demise of Dunmore Stadium seven years ago were back, greeting each other like long lost cousins.
They were just delighted to have this exciting sport that crosses all divides, back in the heart of the province.
But it’s back with a difference. The facilities are second to none both on and off the track and 300 people packed the new restaurant with its panoramic view of the track, to be treated like lords as they were waited on hand and foot.
They never had to move, either for a drink or a bet. It was all provided for them by attendants which brought the humourous comment from bubbly Larne trainer Mabel Blair, “All I need now is a commode to make everything complete.”
Mabel’s husband Joe who played a part in the redesign of the track, also had every reason to be pleased. There will be few complaints about the surface or the bends which allow for fair racing, giving every dog the chance to use its ability.
History was made by Bangor’s Beatrice Anderson when her black and white Have a Wit became Drumbo’s first winner.
Fast away from trap four in the 335-yard sprint, he lead from the ‘lift’ to hold off Lively Rossa, trained by Hillsborough’s Ronnie McKeown, by a length in a time of 18.41 seconds.
A proud moment for Beatrice but for the record, the first dog seen winning at Drumbo was in fact a smart novice called Sarahs Blue owned and trained by Armagh’s Gerry Daly.
The blue dog won an unraced 525 at Shelbourne which went off before Drumbo’s opening race.
However, the night belonged to Drumbo and the three men who made it possible, namely John McCollum, Michael McAdam and Tommy Anderson.
They are not just talkers, they are dooers and the trio are a fine example of entrepreneurial tal
ent that not only have ambition but the know in bringing dreams into the realms of reality.
It has taken them the best part of six years to provide a venue which stands comparison with the best there is to offer south of the border.
On the greyhound front - without the dogs there would be reason to enjoy the plush surroundings and haute cuisine - the betting ring was packed.
One bookmaker got carried away when shouting 1-10 in a photo finish and had one punter diving in for 10 50s only to be knocked back by the cry that someone had been laid “10 ponies” and the offer was no longer there.
The air was blue as the angry punter walked away and no wonder. The dog won by a length, proving that the bookie was seeing things in a different light from everyone else!
Great stuff. The greyhound buzz is back in the greater Belfast area and how.
Long may it reign.
First night’s results:
335: HAVE A WIT (9-4) 1; Lively Rossa (9-2) 2. 1; 18.41.Detagh Bully (4-5 Fav).
525: STAGHALL BLUES (3-1) 1; Malta Gale (2-1 Fav) 2. 1; 29.68.
525: BALLINABOLA BABS (2-1 Fav) 1; Ina Daze (5-2) 2. 3.1/2. 29.08.
335: DALUKEM (4-1) 1; Donard View (2-1 Jt Fav) 2. 1.1/2. 18.33. Belgrave Cash (2-1 Jt Fav).
525: DRUMCROW DILEMMA (6-4 Fav) 1; Bradford Tootsie (5-2) 2. 4. 29.12.
525: DETAGH HENRY (5-2) 1; Ulster Hero (2-1 Fav) 2. Sh; 29.15.
525: HEY YOU SIR (4-5 Fav) 1; Quinns Jet (2-1) 2. 5; 28.88.
525: CROWN ROCK (4-1) 1; Tullymurry Spice (6-1) 2. 4.1/2. 28.94. Ballycanal rose (5-4 Fav).
575: WELL BRAY MAGGIE (9-4) 1; Dunaman Tootsie (5-1) 2. 2; 32.51. Weather Damsel (7-4 Fav).
335: DRUMCROW SNOWY (6-4 Fav) 1; Heard the Story (5-2) 2. Nk. 18.23.