Coursing event set to attract 25,000 punters

UP to 25,000 visitors are expected to pour into Clonmel, Co Tipperary, this week for the biggest coursing event of the year but tomorrow they will be met by anti-blood sports protesters.

The 86th national coursing meeting began yesterday at Powerstown Park after a two-hour delay to allow the turf thaw out after a night of hard frost and temperatures of -4C.

An economic boost of about €15 million is predicted by the Clonmel Chamber of Commerce thanks to the town’s hosting of the three-day meeting which is followed on Thursday by horse racing at the same venue — featuring the €26,500 Surehaul Mercedez-Benz Novice Hurdle.

The nearby greyhound track on Davis Road will also host nightly racing.

Local hotels and B&Bs are traditionally booked out for the duration of the festival while pubs, restaurants and shops in the area also benefit from the coursing fans’ money.

Meanwhile, those visiting the town will get the chance to see the Liam MacCarthy Cup when it visits Bernie Mac’s pub in Old Bridge on Thursday night.

DJ Histon, chief executive of the Irish Coursing Club, said yesterday that numbers appeared comparable to last year. “I’d say the recession hasn’t hit our gate. People are still coming and part of that is it’s a once-a-year event,” he said. With the weather expected to veer towards wetter conditions in the coming days, organisers are not expecting any further scheduling problems.

The coursing itself culminates in finals’ day tomorrow, when the destination of the Derby and Oaks trophies will be decided. That date has again been chosen by anti-blood sports campaigners for a picket outside Powerstown Park.

Protests have been intermittent since muzzling of the greyhounds was introduced in 1993, with recent years seeing just a few dozen people turning up. Organisers are hoping for a bigger turnout this year for their protest, which will run from noon until 2pm tomorrow.

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports and the Animal Rights Action Network are hoping to run buses from Dublin and Cork to Clonmel for the planned peaceful demonstration.

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