Often referred to as the ‘Cultural Heart of Ireland’ thanks to the roughly 7000 Gaelic speakers who live there, Galway is the birthplace of much-loved actor, Peter O’Toole. The Republic of Ireland’s third largest city might be best known for its proximity to the Aran Islands, but it’s also home to Galway Sportsground.
We know Galway Sportsground better as Galway Greyhound Stadium, but it’s dual title comes from the fact that it’s actually a multi-purpose venue. When it opened in 1927, it was actually a football ground. It’s hosted a number of different sports over the years and greyhound racing didn’t take place for the first time here until 1935. The racing is very much part of the stadium’s raison-d’être nowadays, however, so let’s tell you more about it.
Galway Greyhound Stadium
Race Days & Times
Owing to the fact that stadium is shared with Connacht Rugby Club, race meetings can sometimes be moved or cancelled altogether if they clash with a rugby match. In general though, you can see greyhound racing twice a week, every week. It’s all about giving people a chance to let their hair down on a weekend, so head to the venue on Fridays or Saturdays if you want to see some racing.
Again, timing can be slightly tricky because of the rugby and other things that take place at Galway Greyhound Stadium. Presuming everything is as it’s supposed to be, however, you’ll be able to get into the grounds from 6.30pm on both Friday and Saturday evenings. The first race normally gets underway at the enjoyably random time of 7.52pm. Don’t worry if you’re there early though, as there are snack areas, a restaurant and bars where you can while away your time choosing your winners.
- Ticket Prices: If you pre-book to go into the main restaurant then you’ll be presented with any number of deals for the occasion. Equally, there are often offers on throughout the year, but if you simply want to head along and get in to watch some racing then it will cost you €10, including your Race Card.
- Getting There: The stadium is not far from the centre of Galway and is just next to Lough Atalia. If you’re driving, then it’s between the R339 and the R336. When it comes to public transport, buses 402, 403, 404, 405, 409, 425 and 425A all stop right next to the venue. Galway Train Station is just a ten minute walk away.
- Parking: There’s a good-sized car park where you can leave your vehicle if you’re driving to the ground.
There are essentially two different histories to speak of when it comes to this venue. There’s the history of Galway Sportsground – the multi-purpose sports arena – and there’s the history of Galway Greyhound Stadium. We’ll start by talking about the former, partly because that has influenced the latter to some extent.
Despite originally opening as a football stadium, the sport hasn’t actually had as much to do with the venue as you might expect. In fact, one of the most notable things to happen during Galway Sportsground’s early years was the hosting of the All-Ireland Senior Camogie Gaelic Games Championship Final in 1932. Ten years later, the final of the Galway County Hurling Championship was also held there.
That’s not to say that there have been no noteworthy football games held in the stadium over the years. In the 1985-1986 season, Galway United played in the European Cup Winner’s Cup for the first time and their match was played in the venue. Seven years later, their home ground of Terryland Park was renovated and so the club played their home matches there for the season.
It’s rugby that has made the biggest difference to the way the stadium looks, however. Connacht Rugby Club call the venue their home and play their rugby union matches there. Thanks to the club’s success over the years they have been able to develop it and in 2011 and 2016 the capacity was gradually increased from 5,500 to 8,100. Prior to that, the biggest change came in 1978 when the entire venue needed a facelift.
That is where we enter the history of greyhound racing at the stadium. It was decided by the management of the ground that they wouldn’t be able to make the necessary changes without closing the greyhound track, so that’s exactly what they did. Whilst it was closed, they built a new stand and re-laid the surface of the track, increasing the camber at the same time. After £500,000 worth of investment, the track re-opened on the 25th of May, 1979. It stayed in much the same way until the Bord na gCon invested €6 million in a major renovation project in 2003.