Closure of Mardyke Track Leaves Cork Athletics in Shock

March 12, 2024

Cork's vibrant athletics community was dealt a devastating blow on Monday, March 11th, 2024, with the abrupt closure of the Sonia O'Sullivan Mardyke Track. Operated by University College Cork (UCC), the track's closure was announced due to urgent health and safety concerns, leaving Cork Athletics and County Cork without a functioning track facility.

The closure of the Mardyke Track comes at a particularly challenging time for the region's athletics scene. With the MTU Track out of commission for over a year, there is now a significant void in training and competition facilities for Cork's 8,600 registered athletes, spread across 58 clubs and 3 divisions. This leaves track and field competitions in the county hanging in a precarious balance.

The decision to close the Mardyke Track was conveyed in a statement released by UCC on March 11th, citing an alarming deterioration in track conditions. The university had been undertaking ongoing repairs over the past two years, but recent weeks saw an escalation in damage, with over 15 full rips and extensive bubbling observed across the surface. The scale of necessary repairs, including the need to potentially replace the entire track, rendered it unsafe for further use.

Expressing regret over the closure, UCC acknowledged the pivotal role the Mardyke Track played in the athletic pursuits of the community. Recognising the broader impact, UCC officials vowed to explore options in collaboration with Athletics Ireland to mitigate the repercussions of the closure.

Meanwhile, the MTU Track, which has been closed for more than 12 months, remains in limbo. Although partial relaying has been undertaken, the final surfacing and additional works are pending. However, progress has been hindered by inclement weather conditions, with hopes pinned on track contractors resuming work in mid-April, aiming for completion by late May.

The timing of these repairs poses challenges for upcoming championships, as qualification events require participation in county championships. With the possibility of track availability in May, discussions are underway to adapt competition schedules, potentially postponing non-qualification events until June or later.

Reflecting on the past four years, characterised by both the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic and track closures, the outlook for athletics in Cork appears bleak. The absence of adequate facilities not only impedes athlete training but also dampens the spirit of competition, posing a significant setback for the region's aspirations.

As the athletics community navigates through this challenging period, there is a collective hope for swift resolutions and the eventual restoration of vibrant track and field activities in Cork. Until then, athletes, coaches, and supporters remain resilient, rallying behind initiatives aimed at revitalising the local sporting landscape.

Featured Image: Mardyke Track, on left, and MTU Track - Courtesy of Cork Athletics.

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