Underage GAA club 'devastated' over pitch sale
UNDERAGE members of a Dublin GAA club have been left "devastated" after one of their main training grounds has been sold for development.
Clontarf GAA club uses pitches adjacent to St Paul's GAA club in Raheny to train their youngest players - some of whom are just four years old.
The 15-acre site has been sold to New Generation Homes in a deal worth more than €25m.
The club invested approximately €300,000 into one of the pitches just six years ago. The upgrade was not paid for by grant money but through funds raised by the club itself, club treasurer Tom McCabe said.
The investment was made on the premise that the club would have long-term use of the pitch.
It is now a first-class pitch that has been used on occasion by the Dublin county hurlers, he added.
He told the Herald that the club was shocked by the news of the sale.
"It's a huge blow to the community for all sports," he commented.
Club chairman Kieran McMahon said that discussions were ongoing with those involved about the future of the training ground.
Clontarf GAA have contingency plans in place if their contract to use the grounds is not to be renewed.
However, club officials have pointed out that it may be difficult to find somewhere big enough to accommodate such huge numbers.
The Vincentians, who own St Paul's and the land around it, have said that money raised from the sale is needed for reinvestment into the college.
Part of the funds raised through the deal will be used to develop a new sports hall, an artificial 3G multi-purpose pitch and to upgrade the existing astro pitch.
Belgrove football club and local rugby teams also use the ground, which is bordered on one side by St Anne's Park.
On Saturday mornings, the pitches are used by more than 400 children who are members of Clontarf GAA, including one of the largest nurseries in the capital.
There are several groups learning to play football and hurling with the help of dozens of volunteers as their parents watch on every weekend.
"The emphasis is very much on fun on a Saturday," Mr McCabe added.
With only one gate out of the grounds parents said that it is one of the safest environments for their youngsters, as well as being a top-class facility.
Mum Fiona Vernon has two children who are involved with the club - her daughter Ella who is seven and son Donal (11).
"The pitch is used every day of the week. It's wonderful the pitch is really well developed," she said. "It'd be horrendous to see it go, it'd be a real shame."
Other parents watching agreed. "It's not just GAA, it's a real place for the community to mix. It would be devastating [to have to move], it would be sorely missed," Geraldine Moore said.
Her son, Liam Mancini (5), is in junior infants and has been training since he was four.
"There are lots of boys from his school here too so it's a great chance for them to mix," she added.