The massive windfall earned by the GAA through the playing of soccer and rugby in Croke Park is set to help gift Kilkenny a major sporting facility.
The GAA earned in the region of 33-million euro when it rented Croker to the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Rugby Football Union for the playing of internationals between 2007 and 2010.
This county’s share of that ‘rugby and soccer money’ has been ploughed into the development of the high class Kilkenny GAA Training Facility at Dunmore, which will be completed with little or no strain on the finances of the County Board.
The training facility, which will include two floodlit, full size, sand based all weather pitches, four dressing-rooms and parking area, is adjacent to the Recycling Centre at Dunmore. The site has been cleared, levelled and the pitches have been sown, and all going well the facility could be open for use in late 2014 or early 2015.
“We are confident we can handle our share of the project,” explained County Board chairman, Ned Quinn, when giving an update on work completed. “We are happy with our financial situation in relation to the money we have set aside for the project.”
Similar developments in other areas have been called Centres of Excellence. Kilkenny weren’t interested in such a grand sounding name, and instead opted for the simple title of Training Facility.
The Kilkenny development will cost 1.3-million euro to complete. The county’s share of the soccer and rugby money amounted to 250,000 euro, all of which will be spent on the project.
The rest will be made up by grants from Croke Park (500,000 euro), the Leinster Council (250,000 euro) and Lottery funding (sanctioned) while the ’Board will make up any shortfall.
“The County Board gave the green light to the project,” Mr Quinn explained. “To take on a project of this magnitude we would have to receive permission from clubs. We don’t envisage this being a major financial burden on the County Board at all.”
He acknowledged the great help and cooperation received from County Manager, Joe Crockett and Engineer Simon Walton, while former Kilkenny hurling manager, Pat Henderson, did Trojan work on behalf of the ’Board. The Local Authority provided the 12.5 acres site on a long term lease for a nominal rent.
“The Local Authority were wonderful,” Mr Quinn continued. “This is a fine example of two organisations cooperating for the greater good. From day one the ’Authority were very positive towards what we were aiming to achieve. Kilkenny realised long ago that they needed additional ground in or near the city. After a number of false dawns the Dunmore site was identified as a potential location.”
The rugby/soccer cash flow began during the Presidential reign of Kilkenny’s Nickey Brennan. Counties were given the option to either spend their share of the money on one major project or else to divide it between 10 sanctioned club developments.
Kilkenny opted for the former.
“Kilkenny County Board took the long term view that we keep the money for one major project, which now turns out to be the training facility in Dunmore,” Mr Quinn explained. “It will be a very beneficial development going forward. It will remove what I call an infrastructure deficit. We didn’t have a floodlit training facility.”
The grass is sprouting. The ball nets behind the goals have been erected on the site which backs on to the main Kilkenny/Castlecomer Road. The preparatory work for the erection of floodlights has been completed.
“The pitches must be given time to mature,” Mr Quinn explained.
Nature had its say during the development work to date. Last year’s awful rain in early autumn drowned out the seeding process. This year the recent heat wave caused some concern too.
“The monsoon rains last year highlighted the need to look again at the amount of drainage we had intended to put in,” Mr Quinn continued. “The drainage scheme is extensive now and should be fine.”
The ’Board also intend to sink a well at the site so there will always be a plentiful supply for the watering of the pitches.
When the Training Facility is opened, all Kilkenny teams will train there, including the seniors up to late spring when they will move into Nowlan Park. The Facility will be available to all teams on a planned and structured basis. It will also be used for colleges’ matches and some club games, perhaps not senior championship ties because facilities for spectators and parking may be not be large enough.
Both pitches will be used for clubs games, particularly under-age games. This is a project that has been seven years in progress, and in the meantime, Nowlan Park was developed extensively with the use of money like that earned through the Bruce Springsteen concerts.
“This is a really exciting development,” Mr Quinn said, “and it won’t place a heavy financial burden on the ’Board.”