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Mardyke track closure highlights importance of Bandon AC’s game-changing development

March 14th, 2024 7:45 AM

By Kieran McCarthy

Mardyke track closure highlights importance of Bandon AC’s game-changing development Image
Bandon AC are waiting for funding before they can lay the track at their new development.

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THE sudden closure of the Mardyke track this week has highlighted the urgency to complete Bandon Athletic Club’s game-changing development at Clancool Beg.

Cork athletics was rocked by the unexpected decision to close UCC's Sonia O'Sullivan Mardyke Track on Monday morning ‘for health and safety reasons’ due to a ‘rapid and significant deterioration’ of the track surface in the last month.

With MTU’s track, which has been out of action for the past year, not expected to reopen until the summer, Cork athletes now have no track in the county to train on – and Ballineen sprinter Joan Healy has warned this development has ‘the potential to shut down a lot of Cork clubs.’

‘There are 58 clubs in Cork and over 8000 athletes,’ she explained, ‘and now we have no track to train on.

‘We’re the biggest county in the country and we have had to share two tracks (MTU and UCC) and now we are down to nothing. Even with the lack of facilities that we have, Cork has still managed to produce incredible athletes that compete regularly on the international stage, but we have always been struggling for facilities. 

‘Whatever happens with the Mardyke track it will be a short-term solution, but there is a bigger issue here, the fact that clubs are at the mercy of universities in terms of track use.’

Bandon Athletic Club – home to a number of the country’s top athletes, including Olympian Phil Healy – was ‘shocked and saddened’ by the sudden closure this week, adding this has highlighted the importance of their ongoing development at their eight-acre site at Clancool Beg, just outside Bandon town. 

This exciting project will include a 400-metre all-weather track, a field events area and an indoor training facility. Bandon AC is now waiting on funding to lay the track, but can’t put a timescale on when this will happen; the events of this week highlight the importance of their development.

‘As one of Ireland largest athletics clubs, Bandon AC were shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden closure of the UCC Mardyke Track this week,’ the club said in a statement.

‘This leaves high-performance athletes with no Cork-based track to train for regional, national and international competitions and further compounds the existing lack of facilities for other events (e.g. high jump, javelin) in the county. The planning for the Cork County Championships now becomes a huge challenge with no Cork-based track.

‘This news highlights the urgency of completing the Bandon AC tartan all-weather track. Excellent progress has been made thanks to the funding from Sports Capital and Cork County Council grants, coupled with great financial support from sponsors and the broader community. 

‘Work is already underway on the field event construction, with the only barrier to completing the track in 2024 being funding to lay the track itself. 

‘With clubs all over Cork now frantically trying to source suitable training facilities for their athletes, this funding would accelerate the availability of a Cork track this year, within 20 minutes of the city, accessible to the 8,600 Cork athletes abandoned by this announcement.’

Ballineen sprinter Joan Healy has warned of the impact the closure of the Mardyke track will have on Cork athletics.


Irish sprinter Joan Healy, who is training for the European Athletics Championships in June, is hopeful a planned meeting on Thursday between UCC and Athletics Ireland CEO Hamish Adams might result in a partial opening of the Mardyke track.

‘The best-case scenario for us is that the really damaged section, which is the straight along the river, remains closed, but keep the two bends and the straight along the arena open. If we had 250 metres of the track we would be able to make that work, especially for sprinters,’ Healy explained.

‘We have the European championships closing in, there is an Olympic Games too, so if we can’t get the work done on the track, we are saying goodbye to our season. 

‘There needs to be some way around this. We were running on the track last week to now being told it’s shut with zero consultation. 

‘The bigger issue here is that we need to have more access to tracks in Cork.’

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