FAI chief, John Delaney, cuts the tape to mark the official opening of the all weather playing facility at Freebooters grounds at the Fair Green
Football Association of Ireland CEO and UEFA Executive Committee member, John Delaney, came bearing gifts on what was a celebration day for Freebooters AFC.
The Kilkenny City based outfit invited the FAI CEO to their headquarters at the Fair Green to mark the completion of Phases 1 and 2 of the Freebooters Community Project, which included the official opening by Mr Delaney of a new 25x45 metre astro turf playing area.
Mr Delaney surprised the club by making a €5,000 contribution to the development project to go with a similar amount made by the FAI last year.
On top of that, he extended an invitation to 100 children from the club to attend the senior international game of their choice from the planned ties against Northern Ireland, Wales or Denmark.
“The boys here, the people who are driving this project, are the real heroes,” Mr Delaney said when lauding the efforts of Freebooters to develop the Fair Green as a community area after cutting the ribbon to offically open the astro turf area.
“Like building a house, it is important to have strong foundations in place and that is what Freebooters are doing here.”
Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government, John Paul Phelan was among the invited special guests at the function on Sunday, and he confirmed his commitment to help in every way he could.
Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness TD and Deputy Mayor, Joe Malone were also among the dignitaries present.
Local business man, Fran Grincell, who heads up the committee driving the Freebooters Community Project, explained that Phases 1 and 2 of the five year development plan were completed on time and within budget.
Phase 1 included the development a 350 metre concrete walkway, complete with lighting, at the Fair Green, plus the erection of fencing around what is a full size grass pitch area and additional fencing on the perimeter of the grounds.
Phase 2 involved the completion of the astro turf playing area, measuring 25x40 metres, which is also fully floodlit.
“We are debt free having spent over €200,000. Next we are going for grant application to upgrade the existing lights on the main playing pitch,” Mr Grincell explained.
The club hopes to tackle the lighting project next year while gathering funding to build a 60 seater stand on the Corporation Yard side of the grounds.
“We have outline planning to develop and upgrade the existing dressing-room facilities,” he continued.
“We will upgrade the old ones and put additions on to them, plus we intent to provide a toilet for wheelchair users.”
The overall spend on the Freebooters Community Project is expected to be in the region of €450,000.
And the hope is that the project can be completed debt free, according to the development committee chairman.
“On track in every way, time wise and money wise,” Mr Grincell assured.
Minister John Paul Phelan recognised what was being done in the centre of the city and he felt the project would be of huge benefits to the area.
The grass playing pitch and astro turf facilities are already being used by the Mother of Fair Love, Kilkenny CBS primary school and the Presentation primary pupils.
“You don’t have to be involved in the club or soccer to use the walkway,” Mr Grincell insisted. “It is a facility for everyone. This is a community project.”
Kilkenny County Council has assisted the project at every turn, as have a number of Government agencies.
The Development Committee is made up by Fran Grincell, Lee O’Sullivan, Cathal O’Neill and P.J. O’Neill
The club has over 400 children as members and fields 24 teams, including two at junior level.
“We are lucky with the support we have received from the the Local Authorities, the Minister, the FAI and others,” Mr Grincell said. “We are providing facilities for everyone.
“It has gone from three or four teams in action here on any given weekend to the area being constantly used. It secures the area. There are people around all the time, which helps make the area safer.”
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.