Sports

Lowry Puts Shoulder To The Wheel As Major Golf Classic Planned For Offaly GAA Training Grounds

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Lowry Puts Shoulder To The Wheel As Major Golf Classic Planned For Offaly GAA Training Grounds thumbnailShane Lowry and Michael Duignan getting into the swing of things at Faithful Fields in Kilcormac.

SHANE Lowry is putting his shoulder to the wheel as a major golf classic has been planned in a bid to bring the curtain down on the initial fundraising campaign for the new Offaly GAA training grounds, the 'Faithful Fields' in Kilcormac.

A member of one of Offaly's iconic GAA families and a man whose exploits in the golfing world are providing a great lift during a challenging era for football and hurling in the county, Shane Lowry is hosting, promoting and assisting with the golf classic in Esker Hills and Tullamore Golf Clubs on Saturday, March 18.

While the organising committee are not setting specific targets, Lowry stated last week that he hopes the classic will raise between €60,000 to €100,000. A fundraising committee headed up by Banagher business man, Kieran Keenagan and former Offaly hurler and footballer, Michael Duignan have raised or sourced €600,000 of a €750,000 target to date and Lowry commented at the training ground in Kilcormac:

'Hopefully they will be down to €100,000 by the time the golf classic comes about. It would be great to be able to announce that evening with a room full of Offaly people that the whole fundraising has been completed and they have raised the full amount. That is the goal.'

The development of the Faithful Fields is the most ambitious undertaking by the Offaly GAA County Board since the decision to lease O'Connor Park from Tullamore GAA Club and it's subsequent redevelopment.

The need for a specific county training ground has long been identified as a priority for the county and work began on the Kilcormac development after negotiations for a long term lease on the former Cowpark on the Tullamore Road out of the town were completed between the County Board, Offaly County Council and the Kilcormac Development Association, who had to relinquish their rights to the land.

It is a major development, comprising three full size pitches with floodlights, six dressing rooms, a modern gym and kitchen and meeting facilities, long with a walk way around the perimetre that will be available for use by the local community.

Work has really taken shape on it in recent months and the Faithful Fields now provide an attractive and impressive sight on the way into Kilcormac, To fully finish off the development with all three pitches floodlit and all six dressing rooms fully kitted out and finished, they need to meet the target of €750,000.

Between grant aid from the GAA's Central and Leinster Councils and the Government, along with a successful corporate fundraising campaign, they have raised a very significant €600,000 and the golf classic is the major event to bring in the balance - it is also hoped to organise an event in New York later in the year that will bring in additional money.

The golf classic will take place with a shot gun start in both Esker Hills and Tullamore Golf Clubs and it is hoped that there will be fifty teams between both venues. Teams of four cost €1,000 and there will be very impressive prizes for both venues.

The cost will include refreshments on arrival, a goodie bag for the round, soup and sandwiches afterwards and a gala dinner that night in the Tullamore Court Hotel, where a highlight will be a questions and answers session with Shane Lowry, conducted by Michael Duignan, a successful and prominent RTE hurling analyst.

Tickets for the gala dinner are available outside of the golf and cost €100 per person.

Michael Duignan stated last week that the facility must be provided debt free and while he acknowledged that there will be considerable yearly running costs in its maintenance and operation, he stated that these can be met by other fundraising events down the road and that if they exceed their target, it will go towards this.

Shane Lowry was delighted to come on board and give his support to the development. His father, Brendan is one of Offaly's most celebrated footballing figures, a lethal forward who was a key member of the Offaly team that won the 1982 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship, a team that included his uncles, Sean (also a member of the Offaly squad that won the 1971 and 1972 All-Ireland senior football titles) and Mick Lowry. His mother Brigid is a member of the Scanlon family that is steeped in GAA, sporting and cultural life in Clara.

Shane played underage football and hurling with Clara before golf became his passion, eventually leading him into professional ranks after winning the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009. Since then, he has won the Portugese Masters and one of golf's biggest events, the Bridgestone Invitational while he was agonisingly close to one of the majors last year, the US Open when he led by four shots going into the final round before being overhauled by Dustin Johnson.

He remains a passionate Offaly GAA supporter, he attended the home O'Byrne Cup games against Carlow IT and Kildare in recent weeks and last week, he stressed his determination to help bring this project to a conclusion.

'Michael (Duignan) came to me a year and a half ago and asked me would I get involved or was there anything I could do to help. Last year was a very busy year and I didn't get a chance to do anything. Towards the end of the year, we decided to go along with a golf day. It makes perfect sense. We are not charging that much. I will be there all day. I will do my best to promote it and hopefully we will fill the time sheet and the Court Hotel for dinner. The main goal is to try and raise as much money as possible.

'I am away the next while but I will be back for the three weeks leading into it. I will be doing what I can on social media and will try and interact with as many people as possible on the day to make it as enjoyable a day as possible for everyone.

'Anyone who knows me knows that GAA is a big part of my life. I go to as many games as I can. I love going down watching Offaly playing. Things are not going great at the minute but this is a big help. We are starting from the ground up, we need a facility like this and it will definitely help the cause. This is my way of helping as much as I can.'

Michael Duignan remarked: 'It will be a real celebration of Offaly. We are hoping there will be a huge turnout of former players, supporters and business people. Offaly has had huge success in the past and we hope this facility will help us to have that again in the future. For a small county, we have produced some great sports people. Outside of the GAA, we have Shane Lowry and a champion jockey in Pat Smullen.

'I know Kilcormac is a physical development but it could be the catalyst for real change and people may take inspiration from it.'

He urged people to support the event. 'The one thing we can't do is leave any residual debt. We have no option of a shortfall. The Faithful Fields are available for use for everyone from county U-14 development squads up, and ladies football and camogie teams.'

The two times All-Ireland hurling medal winner stated that the event will provide a huge social day with so many people present, the golf, Ireland v England in rugby on television afterwards and the gala dinner that night.

Information on the golf classic, gala dinner or the development in general and other ways of supporting it can be obtained from the Faithful Fields Fundraising Group at: 087/2729811, info@faithfulfields.com or Michael Duignan at michael@mdproperties.ie.

 

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