FESTIVAL TAKES OVER FROM NIGHT OF STARS

Ian Fortune

After eight incredible years, the Night of Stars has come to a natural end.

The committee made the decision in recent weeks with a view to handing the reigns back to Greyhound Racing Ireland. Of course, there was no Night of Stars in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic with the GRI filling the gap with the inaugural RCÉ Winter Racing Festival.

At the time it was believed the Night of Stars would return in 2021 as life returned to normal but the prolonged nature of the pandemic and the difficulties involved with organizing such a big night left the committee with no choice but to call time.

Thankfully, Greyhound Racing Ireland have no intention of letting the night of celebration disappear and this year’s Winter Racing Festival should be bigger and better than the 2020 renewal.

The Night of Stars was first run in 2012 and it was clear from the very start it was going to be a real success. Said Pat O’Donovan, long time chairperson of the Night of Stars Committee, in his 2019 welcome letter, The Night of Stars story began almost nine years ago [2011]. It was at the annual Bookmakers Christmas Dinner in Dobbins Restaurant that the concept was first laid out for the then IGB chairman Phil Meaney and, thankfully, he was receptive to the idea.

“Within a month the project had received the green light from the Irish Greyhound Board and the rest is history. To this day we remain grateful to Phil and to his colleagues on the Irish Greyhound Board for their continued support of the meeting.”

The original format was the brainchild of the late Michael Fortune and, following his passing in July, 2019, the last ever Night of Stars, held later that year, was named in his honour.

Said O’Donovan of the original concept, “Michael always believed greyhound racing needed an annual night of celebration and we urge you to embrace the occasion for what it is meant to be, an opportunity to showcase and celebrate all that is good in our sport.

“We were very fortunate over the eight years to receive massive support from within the sport and we’d particularly like to thank our sponsors, some of which have been with us since the start. We’d also like to thank each and every member Night of Stars Club member. Without your help this night couldn’t be possible.

“Sponsorship has been harder to come across in recent years but, following the passing of Michael, we were amazed by the response.”

It really was a very special Night of Stars but sadly it was to be the last. In the eight years of the Night of Stars, almost €1,000,000 was handed out in prizemoney and so many great memories were formed. From a personal point of view, it was a true honour to involved in the night. I’d like to thank each and every committee member through the years, the wonderful sponsors, every supporter and a special word to those from the UK that journeyed over. Hopefully you will continue to do so for the Winter Racing Festival.

And now focus turns to the 2021 Winter Racing Festival which promises to be a bit special. The details of the weekend of celebration are in a separate story (see below).