Sports

End Game In Sight As 90,000 Raised For Offaly GAA's Faithful Fields Project

Thursday, 23 March 2017

End Game In Sight As 90,000 Raised For Offaly GAA's Faithful Fields Project thumbnailThe seven All Ireland Winning Offaly Captains pictured with Shane Lowry at the Faithful Fields Gala Dinner held at Tullamore Court Hotel

A PHENOMENALLY successful fundraising day for the Offaly GAA's new training grounds in Kilcormac, the Faithful Fields, took place last Saturday, raising approximately €90,000 and bringing the end game in sight for the project.

The €90,000 brings the fundraising committee within sight of their €750,000 target and with a major sponsorship deal imminent and a big fundraiser planned for New York in June, that should wind it up.

The Faithful Fields project is the biggest one undertaken by the Offaly GAA County Board since the redevelopment of O'Connor Park in the mid 2000s. It was made possible when a long term lease was signed with Offaly County Council for land at the old 'Cowpark' on the Tullamore road out of Kilcormac and will consists of four full sized floodlit playing pitches, and a complex that includes six dressing rooms, gym, kitchen and meeting facilities - the success of the fundraising campaign has enabled the project to proceed as planned with all pitches floodlit and the dressing rooms fully kitted out.

The development has really taken shape since the start of the year when Leamore Construction began work on the dressing room complex and the grass began to grow on the playing pitches and it is expected that it will be ready for use in May.

With a large percentage of funding coming from Croke Park, Leinster Council, the Government and other agencies, a local contribution of €750,000 was necessary to complete the project debt free - providing it without a loan was necessary as the County Board still have a hefty debt on O'Connor Park - and intensive fundraising took place over the past year with businesses asked to make donations and sponsorship sought for naming rights etc.

Last Saturday's event was a major fundraiser with a golf classic taking place in Tullamore and Esker Hills Golf Clubs and a big gala dinner winding down the night in the Tullamore Court Hotel.

With top professional golfer, Shane Lowry backing the golf classic and gala dinner, the event surpassed expectations and main organiser, former Offaly hurler Michael Duignan told the Tribune on Sunday that he expects around €90,000 will have been raised.

Seventy teams paid €1,000 each to enter the golf classic, though only sixty could compete with thirty each going out to a shot gun start on Saturday morning in Tullamore and Esker Hills. This brought in €70,000, and tickets at ?100 each were also sold for the gala dinner - the golf price included the dinner - and with a very successful raffle and auction taking place on the night, the overall profit headed up towards the €100,000 mark.

The auction on the night saw Shane Lowry himself and Tullamore man, Brian Digan pay €1,000 each for two All-Ireland hurling (Lowry) and football (Digan) final tickets with overnight accomodation in the Jury's Croke Park Hotel while €2,800 each was fetched for two Shane Lowry tour golf bags - initially one bag was auctioned but after Tullamore business woman, Dympna Kealey and Doon man, Padraig Egan went head to head with it, Lowry responded positively to a prompt from Michael Duignan to put up a second bag and both bidders agreed to pay €2,800 for each.

Tullamore Dew came on board as main sponsors of the golf classic, giving €5,000 as well as providing the pre-meal drinks reception while Axe Forestry (owned by Padraig Egan) provided €5,000 sponsorship for the dinner as well as buying a golf bag on the night. The Tullamore Court Hotel gave a donation of €5,000 for the event and Michael Duignan expressed his thanks to all of them as well as everyone who supported it.

Michael Duignan was thrilled with the success of the event. 'It has been an intensive few weeks,' he said, adding: 'The whole event seemed to galvanise people. Everyone put their shoulder to the wheel, whether it was putting in teams, sponsoring tee boxes, buying dinner tickets. It was absolutely brilliant.'

He was very grateful to Shane Lowry for his input. 'I didn't really know Shane Lowry before this but I have got to know him well now. He is a great person. He is so grounded and down to earth. He is a very bright, intelligent young man. He is hugely determined and I have seen a different side of him through this. He couldn't do enough for us. He organised all the golf and raffle prizes, he put in a few teams and he also bought the All-Ireland hurling tickets on the night. All he wanted to know was what could he do for us and he went and did it.'

Duignan hoped that the event would have a positive spin off for Offaly teams in all codes and grades and they would be able to tap into the goodwill that is so present in the county for the GAA. 'We all know where Offaly is at the moment but we also have to be optimistic for the future. This event shows what the GAA means to the people of Offaly. We all want to do well and give our young people every chance and we know they want to succeed. Hopefully they can tap into this spirit.'

He was keen to praise former Offaly GAA official, Tony Murphy, former secretary Christy Todd and Banagher business man, Kieran Keenaghan for their contribution.

'Tony has given incredible commitment to Offaly hurling. He arrived in so many mornings with cheques from sponsors when we were getting going. Christy is very unassuming and likes to work in the background but his organisational skills are so good and he did so much.'

He was particularly effusive in his praise for Banagher business man, Kieran Keenaghan. 'When he contacted me and said we need your help, I was not jumping up and down. He initially told me they needed €500,000, then it went to €750,000 and now we might be trying to hit €850,000 as there will be running costs and we don't want to leave anything hanging over it. Kieran is a huge Offaly GAA man. He was also very sick while this was going on but he drove it on. It wouldn't have happened without him.

'I am so happy I got involved. It was a brilliant journey and so many people got involved. It is not easy to make this sort of money. We got great craic and enjoyment out of it. '

He also thanked his partner, Aisling Fennin for her work in helping to organise the event while he revealed that they hope to be able to announce a major sponsorship deal with a business for naming rights of the Kilcormac facility in the coming weeks. The New York fundraiser will also be a major event and he expects that this will bring them up over their outstanding target of €60,000.

The Faithful Fields Development Committee consists of Kieran Keenaghan, Colm Cummins, Brendan Mahon, Christy Todd and Dominic Doheny.

The fundraising committee included Kieran Keenaghan, Michael Duignan, Seamus Dolan, Ciaran Daly, John Flanagan jnr, Brian Cowen, Tony Murphy, Paul Bell, Dominic Doheny, Christy Todd and Dervill Dolan while Ray Molloy, Brendan Lowry, Liam Mooney, Rory Clarke and Martin Darcy made up a committee to oversee arrangements for the golf classic.

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