This weekend sees the official opening of the new Curragh Racecourse. To those who have seen it rise from the rubble of the old grandstand over the past two years, it is a special moment. Indeed for all of Irish sport, it should be too.
Often those within other sports dismiss horse racing as being ‘different’ and industry as much as a sport. Both of those are true but that does not lessen the importance it has or the impact it carries on Ireland’s sporting reputation around the world.
Only in Gaelic Games could we be considered to be anything like as strong a force on the global stage.
Our jockeys, our trainers and our horses, as well as our breeders and our racehorse owners, from Michael O’Leary all the way to the increasing number of syndicates being created by Horse Racing Ireland Ownership Initiatives, have us at the top of the table on so many metrics.
Now we have a venue to match that lofty position and a facility for the humans who follow the sport as good as is the case for the horses.
Leopardstown is a brilliant venue, close to Dublin and catering for a sporting as well as a social audience but The Curragh is the Headquarters of the flat racing scene and home to all five of the Classic horse races that are recognised as the testing ground for the best of the best.
The fabric of the stand had faded badly though and challenges with planning and funding through the darker days of recession had pushed the redevelopment back.
This weekend though sees the end of a project that raised over €70 million from individuals and within the sport to create something that would stand out as among the very best in the world.
It is a modern venue for a traditional sport and a marker of confidence in the sport.
The experience that racegoers will enjoy this evening, tomorrow and Sunday is different to anything they will have enjoyed on an Irish racecourse and for the most part at any Irish sporting venue.
Getting that message across to the wider sporting population is a job at hand and Off The Ball hosted a popular roadshow there last night which is an important part of bringing the Curragh and the sport to as wide an audience as possible.
If you are at a loose end this weekend in between the myriad of other sporting opportunities that are also taking place, this is one stop on the M7 that will truly open your eyes in awe.