You have got to hand it to the army of volunteers who keep their GAA identity moving forward, sometimes when it would be easier to throw in the towel and walk away and find an easier way to fill their spare time, writes Barrie Henriques.
Many of them continuously show tremendous courage and determination in the face of difficulty, adversity, often times abuse, but still take their passion forward, and fight their cause, whilst planning a successful conclusion.
While the plaudits are generally generous, there are times I am sure when such plaudits are but a figment of an over- zealous imagination.
When one looks around you cannot help but wonder at the continuous developments in preparation mode, or rising from foundations of numerous sporting establishments around the county of Kilkenny.
They certainly add credence to the adage - to stand still is to die. Clubs, pressed by mounting interest, expansion of numbers, demands on space must come up with solutions to such dilemmas.
The enormous involvement of girls from very early has also stretched the demands on many clubs, and what could be wrong with that statement one is prompted to ask.
Doing their bit
We were down in Young Irelands, Gowran country recently where we met Eddie Power, Tom Carroll and Ann Phelan, three members of their Development Committee, who are currently doing their bit in the trudge through the workload of developing a brand new home for the club. The new site is situated behind the national school and opposite the parish church.
Not too long ago one remembers the development of a new playing facility on the outskirts of the village as you travel out the Goresbridge Road. At the time they had state of the art dressing facilities, shower units, sideline seating and even a scoreboard.
Young Irelands folk stuck their chests out then, and not with unwarranted pride and delight at their achievements. When we use state of the art facilities, it is a relative statement compared to the state of the art skeaugh bushes enjoyed by many clubs as a changing facility in those times.
Then the men of Gowran worked ceaselessly to turn a non-descript field, with poor drainage, plenty of furze bushes and a slope into a fine hurling arena that spawned three - at least - of the greatest hurling talents the country has ever seen.
The Goresbridge Road pitch was the training ground to the likes of Charlie Carter, Pat O’Neill and, of course, the great D.J. It produced many more proud wearers of the black and amber, but icons like the aforementioned trio don’t fall off bushes too often. What prompted this new phase in the development of the Young Irelands GAA club we fired at chairman of Development, Tom Carroll?
“There are a number of reasons for the move really,” he said. “Firstly, the safety factor very much dominated the agenda from the first day. This relocation idea didn’t start this year really. When the club started our own Club Lotto some seven years ago, the idea of moving shop was muted.
Lotto profits to help
“It was decided even at that stage that the Lotto profits would be ring-fenced for a new development, not if, but when it materialised. Over the ensuing years we made tentative moves to acquire land adjacent to our current abode, but our every effort proved unsuccessful.
“The present pitch is on the periphery of the village, and it is sited on the side of a very busy and consequently a very dangerous road. On Monday afternoons there are big numbers of youngsters going down the Goresbridge Road to play in the pitch.
“The numbers of cars dropping off and collecting kids are frightening. In its infinite wisdom, and in the interests in the safety of our children, the club decided that a physical stewardship of the in/out traffic was the only solution”.
As the game developed over the years, and interest probably exploded given the reflected honour, glory and acclaim from the star hurling qualities of your three icons, would your numbers have increased, we wondered?
“That really is another hugely important reason for the move, in addition to the safety issue,” explained secretary of the Development Committee, Ann Phelan. “The numbers in our schools have certainly increased, by a year-on-year percentage of at least 2%.
“We now have in excess of 150 youngsters affiliated to the club. The population factor is an issue, but additionally, and we are no different to any other club in this regard, we are now catering for youngsters who are starting at a much younger age than heretofore,” she told us.
“Another mitigating factor in our decision was the expansion of new homes and the consequent influx of new families into the village. That happened during the Celtic Tiger era, and we are now seeing the young children of those new, very welcome young families coming on stream.
Site behind the school
“Logistically it was nearly impossible to provide space, and time, for all of these youngsters. We are now moving to our new site, just behind the school, which is much safer, more amenable and much more satisfactory for all our needs,” insisted secretary of the Young Irelands club, Eddie Power.
Having made the decision to move, how difficult was it to get the land we wondered.
“To be brutally honest with you Barrie, it was extremely difficult. In Gowran land is king,” smiled Tom Carroll. “As you can appreciate, we are living in an area of prime land, where you will seldom even see land go on the market. We tried many options that we perceived as suitable, but to no avail.
“We would have to pay our appreciation to a great friend of the club, John Drea, who worked extremely hard on our behalf to acquire the land. It would be fair to say that without his intervention, and intercession, it is doubtful if we would have succeeded.”
Was there consensus among the members, and as a consequence, the population of the village, Eddie?
“I can say that the project has been embraced by members and the general population,” he assured without a moment’s hesitation. “Everybody was in tandem with the need of a new home. The parish has embraced the project, and to a man and woman, have shown solidarity and support.
“The people who do our Lotto week on week are invaluable in that regard. The people who buy our weekly tickets are equally so, and deserve a huge expression of gratitude, but they realise that their contributions, even in those trying times, are immensely encouraging and important,” he told us.
What development plans do you envisage in addition to the purchase and completion of the pitches?
“When completed, we hope to have two new pitches, clubhouse facilities incorporating four dressing areas complete with toilet/shower services, a Hurling Wall on an all-weather surface and a community walkway around the entire development,” Ann explained.
That is a sizeable agenda Tom, and an expensive one to boot?
“Undoubtedly, but we will not necessarily do it all at once. The overall development costs will hopefully come in at €800,000. Our Development Committee will assess the progress, our financial situation and will make recommendations to the club management. The final decisions will be theirs,” he answered.
What plans have you for your present playing area down the Goresbridge Road?
“Our final development will be contingent on the off-loading of that pitch which measures seven and a half acres,” Eddie explained. “We are moving up to a 10 acre field. As Tom said, we have no intention of putting our club into the poor house.
“Completion of the entire development has a life expectancy of 10 years. So it will be very much a case of will do when possible.”
Young Irelands are fortunate in one sense in that there is not a huge volume of work needed to prepare the ground surface for the installation of the pitches.
“It is pretty level,” said the Development chairman, Tom Carroll. “There is strong reading of sand content, and it is doubtful if we need to install any kind of a major drainage system. Some would have a preference for a sand-based surface, while others would have a liking for a natural surface.
Launched at racecourse
“Most of that work is completed as we speak, and I am delighted with the quality of the work,” he said.
The club launched the project on November 29 in the racetrack in Gowran, with Micheál O Muircheartaigh as the the special guest. What was the response, we wondered?
“It really was astonishing in that we had over 250 people present, all locals from the Gowran parish,” Ann recalled. “There was a tremendous sense of unity about the place. The racecourse is a smashing place for such a function. Micheál was in superb form and he had a word for everyone.
“Our club chairman Liam (Walsh) took the audience through the entire plans; the development; the siting and the servicing. He spoke of the need for the development, and the expectation for its usage when completed.
“Patrick Farrell outlined the phases of the project, where we hoped to go, and the costings, while Michael Pitt (fund-raising co-ordinator) outlined the fund-raising ambitions of the club, starting with a county-wide draw (more anon).
“Micheál regaled all with stories, observations and witticisms as Gaeilge agus Béarla, before officially launching the development plans,” she added. “The Young Irelands men are presently exploring the funds available route. Obviously that will include getting loans and grants from the tried and trusted sources like Croke Park, Leinster Council, Lotto, Sports Capital grants and so on, but there is still a long way to go for the payment of €800,000.”
Over to club secretary, Eddie Power.
“We are nearly complete in our plans for an all over county draw worth €16,000,” Eddie enlightened. “Our sales force has been primed, and is willing. The draw is very much on the lines of the Glenmore draw, and if we can get close to that, we will be delighted.
“The first prize is a Ford Ka motor car, with a second prize of €2,000 and a third prize of €1,000. There are 10 prizes in all with 42” TV, laptop and substantial money prizes. We have 100 sellers and the drive will get underway next week.
Support the club, please
“Our army of sellers have been asked to cover every area in the county because the end result will be very important in the overall development of our new home,” he explained.
So be warned, dear friend! The Gowran lads are on the road, and they are looking for your support.
We extolled about the majesty of Carey, Neill and Carter. We thrilled to their exploits and we boasted about them whenever hurling men gathered to debate the greats of the game.
No club in the land produced a better trio. Liam Walsh is chairman of the club with Eddie Power the secretary. Patrick Farrell keeps a tight hold on the purse strings.
On the Development Committee, Mary Holden is secretary; Tom Carroll is the Development Chairman with John Drea as an able footsoldier. There are many more, but space is of a premium.
Let the final word be with the lady in our company.
“This fund raiser is important, and knowing the GAA as we do, we are always very supportive of each other,” Ann Phelan reminded.
“The people of Gowran have never turned their backs on any deserving cause. You supported D.J., Pat and Charlie, now might be a good time to support the club that produced them for the overall good of our county.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!