Fears have been expressed that the Brandywell’s historic greyhound racing track may be facing closure.
Derry City Council has told the Journal that plans to create a new race track at the Brandywell are ‘currently’ still part of the overall masterplan.
But greyhound breeders and racers are now seeking meetings with council officials and the track’s lease holders amid concerns that this may never come to fruition once the current track is shut down.
New investment, it has been argued, could reinvigorate the long-standing sporting and cultural tradition of racing in Derry and spark interest among more local people and greater attendance from existing dog owners and trainers.
Last month it emerged that work on a new multi-million pound redevelopment at the Brandywell stadium will begin in May. At the time it was said that work on the dog track was scheduled for October.
A spokeswoman for Derry City Council told the Journal this week that the dog track was still ‘currently’ part of the plans. She said: “Council is committed to progressing with its redevelopment plans for the Brandywell site, which currently includes plans to move the Greyhound Track to a new location around the Showgrounds’ pitch and replacing the existing grass pitch with a synthetic surface to allow year-round use for games and training.
“The Council regularly meets, consults and communicates with all stakeholders involved in the project, including the greyhound fraternity to consider the best long-term options,” she added.
Among those raising concerns is Eunan McBride from Convoy in Co Donegal, who has been breeding greyhounds and racing them for over 40 years.
Mr McBride said he never heard tell of any meetings to which the ‘doggie men’, as they are known locally, were invited to attend.
He added: “Everybody that is around Derry wants the track. It has been part of people’s lives for so many years.
“What I would want is a meeting with the lease holders as a first step and a meeting with the council.
“It’s a huge place, Derry, and surely it can support a track.”
A spokesman for the lease holders of the track said they were still in discussions with the council.
He added that the council were committed to progressing the track provided all parties in the talks were in agreement.
Race nights have traditionally been held at the Brandywell every Monday and Thursday, with public and private trials afterwards and on a Saturday morning.