WHAT seems just a very short time ago at this point we were down in Glenmore talking to people like Noel Doherty, Frank Kirwan and Donal Cody about a green field site that the GAA club had purchased and what they were going to do with it.
It certainly made good copy for a hack like myself, but I remember on my return journey thinking about their courage, their positivity and yet doubting their sanity, if only a little.
They had grabbed - well paid for in sorts - 30 acres of good land just up the road behind Murphy Motors. They had a vision. They were very positive about their plans for those 30 acres.
They had plans to raffle a car, with funds being raised through tickets costing some €20.
Well, I thought, a raffle is only as good as the interest people take in it and the drive of the people promoting it. People looked with scepticism on the car raffle, and with a perfunctory smirk, enquired as to what other earth-shattering idea (s) Glenmore had.
The raffle was no ordinary raffle. The Glenmore people turned it into an Aladdin’s cave of riches. It is doubtful if any other club in the entire country pushed the boat of opportunity into the widening waters as far, or as methodically rewarding as the Glenmore people we were talking to.
I remember ’People photographer, Charlie Maher taking a picture of a sheet of plywood with the Glenmore livery on it; the name of the contractor and a group of people on the periphery, plus a few under-age players. The November evening had closed about us, and the cold was close to Arctic-like. A field of dreams how are you!
We returned on Sunday week to see what has happened since — a sort of progress report. Glenmore were blessing their new home, which is ready for competition now.
It is not complete. How could it be? Sure it was only started a few short months ago.
The Parish Priest of Glenmore, Fr O’Connor was on hand to do the traditional job of “God Bless all who sail in her”.
I arrived to a truly amazing - given the time factor involved - scene as practically half the Glenmore parish seemed to be in the new playing field.
It was great to see such dedicated GAA people as the Fitzgeralds’ (Paul and Mikey), Martin Cass, Tom Ryan and the great Seamus Dunphy, the man who kept the “whole yoke” going as secretary from 1949 until 1971, among the throng. We met the Kerryman, most revered by many generations of Glenmore youth, Mick Lynch, the schoolteacher still looking hale and hearty in his autumnal years.
Michael Duggan welcomed us with a great fáilte. Mickey and Seamus Phelan, Martin Forristal, Seamus Boyle and Mickey Barron too were most generous hosts. There were the Heffernans’, O’Connors’, Murphys’, Kirwans’, Aylwards’, Dollards’, Phelans’, Walshes’, Mullallys’ and many more there too.
I bumped into Claire Mullally, wife of former Kilkenny star, Richie. She was the architect on the project. Was she pleased with the progress thus far?
“Absolutely”, she smiled. “ It was a huge undertaking by all concerned. We now have two brand new full-length playing pitches with two juvenile pitches on the site as well.”
The pitches are 140x86 metres wide (training pitch) and the main pitch is 14 x 90meters, which makes it a little larger than Croke Park, Claire explained. The perimeter walking track is almost one kilometer in distance around the 10 acre site, and along with the indoor handball alley and squash court will provide a valuable amenity for the locality in addition to the GAA club facilities.
Claire was just setting up her own Architecture Practice in Glenmore when the opportunity to work on a project close to her heart popped up. She was delighted when two of the main instigators of the development, Noel Doherty and Victor Mullally approached her to design the project.
At that stage Glenmore were trying to expand the facilities at their existing grounds at Graiguenakill. That was found to be unfeasible. The move to the new site has proved to be the best option all round.
The old club grounds stretched to just over six acres and they were situated on the opposite side of the N25. The new site at Ballynaraha is closer to the majority of the Glenmore inhabitants.
“The building was originally designed to be constructed, if necessary, in three phases over a 10 year period during earling planning meetings in a careful cost control and planning endeavour,” Claire explained.
The building of two changing rooms and the provision of two pitches more or less made up Phase I, with an outdoor hurling wall created on one side. Phase II then would involved the development of an indoor handball alley and squash court 12x6 meters wide.
Phase III would follow and would involve enclosing the hurling wall in a 40x20 meter wide building.
“With the fantastic level of fund-raising and great support, the building is now being constructed as one unit, which is the most cost effective way to achieve do it,” Claire continued. “It is a simple building designed in two parts, a large portal frame structure with a side lean-to wing housing the clubhouse facilities.”
Full on treatment
Apparently it will appear from a distance like large agricultural sheds, until the large sign for ‘Glenmore GAA Club’ proudly emblazoned on the structure comes into view.
Locals took the selling of the tickets to competitive levels. The commitment to some day jobs was waterered down. The Glenmore project got the full on treatment.
The club was thrilled with the response and support it received from people from all over Kilkenny and beyond. Each sale offered encouragement. It was easy to charge into the next night of selling when you finished a beat on a high.
“It has been a long time coming to this,” said the venerable Seamus Dunphy. “ People give out a lot about the youngsters of today, but when you look around here and see what they have made from a bare field you would have to admire their courage. I’m delighted to be here, to be alive to see it all. Hopefully when it is finally completed, I hope and pray that I’m still here.”
The chairman of the club, Frank Kirwan was an excellent fear a’ tí.
In his address, Fr O’Connor said that the afternoon was a celebration of the efforts of all of the people who rendered any element of help. He said that it was a testament to community spirit and determination.
“This is a commitment to the future of the GAA in our parish, and its survival will reflect local support of the community for our parish,” said Fr O’Connor. “May this be a new beginning for Glenmore GAA, and may God continue to bless the seed that has been sewn here. May it bring much fruit.”
The chairman of the County Board, Paul Kinsella was glowing in his approval and admiration of the work being done in Glenmore.
“Whenever I attend similar functions in other locations,” he said, “I have no hesitation in quoting the Glenmore experience as the greatest template that I know of how so many people can come together to work for the common good. You have been an outstanding example to all who feel that they would love to emulate what you have done here in your parish, but might not have the courage to do so.
Super fund raisers
“The leadership qualities and the expertise of so many was certainly responsible for one of the very best fund-raising expeditions that I can remember. To generate the income you did is quite astonishing,” said Paul Kinsella.
One of the great Glenmore and Kilkenny hurlers of the present era, Richie Mullally introduced us to his lovely wife, “We are very pleased with the end result, and in addition to the many volunteers who are working away, we are hugely fortunate that we have local Construction Contractor, Brendan Maher as our Project Manager,” Claire Mullally told us.
She gave us a rundown on the work that was involved in levelling the playing areas.
“To the naked eye, it was difficult to ascertain the slopes on the field, but there was vast earth resiting work performed to get the pitches to the levels you now see them at,” she explained. “We brought in the Kehoe brothers from Wexford who brought their considered expertise in drainage and levelling of playing pitches to bear on our field. They did a magnificent job for us.”
Was she looking forward to the day when it opens its doors to a finished article?
“Most certainly,” she enthused. “Hopefully we will be in full swing within the next two years. I hope the entire community will get involved in the centre, as we hope to have flood-lit walkways, a fine gym and other facilities available for parishioners who might not have too much of an interest in the games side of things.”
The other major attraction about Pairc na Ratha is of course that it is now on the same side of the main road as the Glenmore village. No longer will people have to run the horrendous traffic gauntlet to get children across one of the most dangerous roads in Ireland to a pitch.
The chairman of the Kilkenny County Board was right when he said that the Glenmore template was beyond criticism. I cannot wait to see the completed job.