Emerald Park

21st May 2024

As a long-term enthusiast I’m always thrilled to be invited to the opening of a new anything in a theme park. It’s not often that one gets the chance to try something in person before it gets thoroughly dissected by social media, and it’s even less often that one gets to do that in a location less than an hour away from home.

Today I was one of sixty-eight members of the European Coaster Club invited to the preview of Tír na nÓg, a brand new €22 million expansion of Emerald Park located in a previously unused field at the north-eastern edge of the park adjacent to the Hurley River. The new space has been developed in conjunction with Jora Vision, and while it is not quite finished yet the completed portions raise the bar for overall presentation within the park. (Work is ongoing as of this writing, though I’m told that some sections will have to wait until the off-season.)

Tir na nOg

The anchor tenant for the new land is Fianna Force (#3128), a custom-designed Vekoma Suspended Thrill Coaster. The ride is the second of its type, premiering just shy of four years after the first version opened at Tripsdrill. It has a handful of visual similarities with its predecessor, particularly around the station area and lift hill, but it is to all intents and purposes a completely different experience – and a radically upgraded one, thanks to an improved build process that results in flawlessly smooth tracking from start to end.

The guest experience begins with a landscaped queue that routes around roughly half the layout. The track comes within a few meters of those in line in several places, helping to build anticipation for what is to come. In the interests of fairness there are a few rows of cattle grid immediately prior to the station, though these serve a purpose – they’re perfectly placed to allow viewing time for a short pre-show that runs continuously on loop. In common with 99.7% of guests I paid precisely no attention to it, so I can't say anything about the content except to note that it featured some pretty colours.

Dispatch leads to a thirty-two meter high lift and a twisted layout that (officially) contains either three or five inversions depending on which piece of marketing copy you read. I’d suggest that the actual number is two, potentially stretching to three if you’re willing to be generous with an over-banked turn immediately after the first drop. It hardly matters, mind, as the design is fantastic. Much of the track stays close to ground level, with the overall sense of speed amplified by well-placed trenches and landscaping. The result is forceful and thrilling, with a particular highlight being some unexpected airtime moments – something virtually unheard of on coasters with trains located below the track. It’s no exaggeration to describe it as one of the best rides of its type anywhere in the world.

Over the course of the day I enjoyed five laps, including front and back. I could easily have done twice that number had I not found myself chatting to a representative from Vekoma. I don’t remember exactly how the conversation started, but in due course we pivoted towards designs that are geared a little too far towards thrill seekers, which is a pet peeve of mine. I described a relatively recent coaster from the Dutch manufacturer as making me feel ill, and was intrigued when he said “yes, me too” – before explaining what he thought to be the sweet spot in design (Fønix at Farup Sommerland, which I hope I'll get to ride some day). We also discussed a few Vekoma rides that were designed for parks that for whatever reason never took them up. In many cases these have appeared elsewhere with no modifications; if you ever see a layout that routes around a non-existent obstacle this may well be why.

The one observation I can repeat in unfiltered form is the fact that Fianna Force has an official track length of 750 meters, but that is only what the wheel bogies cover; passengers invariably travel further. I’d not thought about this before, but he was and is absolutely correct; if you traverse any coaster element on the outside of the track (as opposed to the inside, as you might on a sit-down coaster) then the distance travelled by your posterior can actually be more than five percent longer than official measurements might suggest. Who knew?


A second coaster in the new area is Quest (#3129), a Vekoma Family Boomerang that passes through the middle of Fianna Force. The layout is almost the same as the Spirit design introduced at Fårup Sommerland in 2020 and cloned a year later at Energylandia; the only difference is the removal of the step-up on the spike at the end of the layout. This change was necessary in order to avoid an area that was unavailable for construction, and in all honesty it makes no real difference to the experience. The ride is pleasant enough and perfect for its target audience, but for me at least it is definitely a filler when compared to the main attraction. I rode twice, both times in the back seat, and that was plenty.

The final attraction in the new land (for the moment at least) is Celtic Dreamer, a Zierer Wave Swinger 56. There were about ten people on board for my ride, forcing the operator to keep us separated for weight and balance reasons. It was fun to do a traditional swing ride without a sixty meter support tower, though it's not likely to be a staple of future visits unless I've got children in tow – but then I'm definitely not the target audience.

The only other ride open for the preview event today was Cú Chulainn, and it would be have been rude not to take a token lap. The comfort level in the back row was pretty good today, if a little down on what it had been when I rode it last August. There was some noticeable shuffling in places, something I expected in the over-banked turn but was surprised by on the double-down. Hopefully this was a temporary blip that will be sorted out in the not too distant future.