Kilkenny’s version of ‘The Village People’ are singing from the one hymn sheet and in harmony, and they produced what is sure to be a smash hit.
All can now hail a victory for community pride and support. People power, The Village people power, helped turn an ambitious dream into a multimillion euro development for James Stephens GAA club.
They did so by co-operating and digging deep for the cause.
“This is a gift from everyone in the parish to the next generation,” was how chairman, Tommy Lanigan, summed up the effort which will help shape the future of the club for decades to come.
The official opening of James Stephens new €3.4-million club development and grounds on the Kells Road will be on Sunday week. It will marked by a high profile senior hurling challenge between champions, Clare (All-Ireland) and National League, Kilkenny (6.30pm).
“The new grounds is a monument to cooperation by all in the parish,” Mr Lanigan insisted.
In October 2007 the club ended a near three year search for new grounds when it purchased the 37 acre Kells Road site at auction for €2.2 million. Since, in the region of €1.2-million has been spent on development work - with a drop of eight metres from front to back levelling alone was a huge job - to create four sand based Croke Park size pitches, complete with ball nets; dressing-room complex (€400,000) that includes four major changing areas complete with referees room, showers and toilets; a warm up pitch; 1.2 kilometre walking track and ancillary facilities.
“People are enthralled by what they see,” insisted Michael Moore, chairman of the Development Committee. “Hopefully this facility will secure the future of the club for the next 127 years.”
The spiritual home of The Village will remain in its current base in Larchfield in the heart of the city, where club rooms and a bar will remain. The Kells Road grounds will be the main base for training and games.
“We couldn’t fund this without the massive commitment from the people of the parish,” Mr Lanigan explained.
Fr Dan Carroll PP and the Parish Team were approached for help after the land was acquired. As they had the finance in place for a number of their projects, they handed over the running of the successful parish draw to the club.
’Stephens helped develop the draw, and the backing of people in the parish was instantly forthcoming. Four years on, thanks to the constant support of the 1,400 or so monthly subscribers, it is hoped that in April 2015 the debt on the Kells Road development work will be cleared.
“People were very helpful and generous, especially Fr Dan and the Parish Team,” Mr Lanigan continued. “When people found out what we were doing, the word kept coming back to us that they wanted the thing done well. We didn’t cut corners.
“This is where sports clubs are now. Our club is a big operation. Over €200,000 plus goes through our club each year.”
The demands of an ever growing membership, plus 26 hurling, football, camogie and ladies Gaelic football teams mean physical resources were stretched to breaking point.
“It was a serious undertaking, but we had no option,” Mr Lanigan said. “What we had to do up to this was bring together the trainers of all the teams at the end of the third week of every month and work out a training schedule and location for all the teams. It was a nightmare. Very few games are played in Larchfield because it is in use all the time.”
Funding was secured from all quarters, with the GAA weighting in with strong support. The Leinster Council was very good, and ’Stephens hope the grounds will be used for schools games.
“Kilkenny is a great centre in that regard,” the chairman felt. “The Leinster Council have the grounds booked for two weekends in June for Feile hurling and football. Kilkenny County Board can use the area for Development Squads too.
“We have to be looking five years and more ahead. That was the strength of the lads when they started looking for ground 15 years ago.
“We are ready for the future. The maintenance costs will be high in the initial stages, but they will drop. For instances, the pitches have to be fed and spikes in the early stages. After a few years when the land settles that will become less.
“We have invested in solar heating, which will keep the bills down for the dressing-rooms. The specification for the complex allows for a massive extension to be put on to it if needed in the future. We are equipped to meet all future challenges.”
Michael Moore said there hasn’t been one dissenting voice in the club, and when people see how things are shaping up at the Kells Road venue, the comments are overwhelmingly positive.
“Getting to this point might have been slow, but it is a magnificent facility,” he said as he surveyed the area. “The world has moved on. If you stand still you are going backwards. We had to provide the facilities. The numbers are in the club.
“One of the things we emphasised in negotiations with Croke Park and so on is that Kilkenny is unique,” he continued. “There are three very strong clubs in the city, which is unique for a city or town of its size. We are competing against each other.
“It is a healthy process. It is a process that forces us all to be five star performers to keep up with each other, if you like.
“The one things we can say with a degree of pleasure is that we have laid the foundations for the next 127 years of the club. There can be no complaints about facilities. This is a 5-star facility in every sense. We never thought it would be easy, and it wasn’t.”
There were many contributors to the success of the project, which was driven by the dynamic Development Committee which consisted of Mr Moore, Liam Tyrrell, Jimmy O’Brien, Tom Keane (treasurer), Kieran McQuillan, Tommy Lanigan and the late Billy Walton.