In the mid 90’s the club carried out a number of in depth reviews and evaluations of its facilities. At that time the club was located at Clareabbey with only one playing pitch to cater for an ever growing number of teams. Strenuous efforts were made to acquire some neighbouring land to no avail. Plans were drawn up to improve the existing facilities and the club was successful in leasing a field from the Roughan family at the rear of the church and school.
As it happened the upgrading of Clareabbey did not take place (in hindsight a good decision) and the focus turned towards developing a new greenfield site. This was encouraged when the Roughan family offered to sell the area held in lease by the club followed by an offer from the Ryan family to make some land available. Later a small area was purchased from the Vaughan family to complete the jigsaw. This led to the putting together of a Development Committee in late 1997 and so began the long and arduous journey that led us to where we are today.
By this time approximately twenty eight acres of land had been secured. The Development Committee then set about drawing up plans to provide facilities for a growing membership and an increasing community population. The property at Clareabbey was sold to Ennis UDC who later sold it to Clare GAA Co. Board and thereby continued to be available for Gaelic games.
A leading agronomist, Michael J. O’Shea, a Kerryman with vast experience of pitch development was hired as a consultant and with his expertise plans to construct two full size sand based pitches were put together. Work commenced on site on 29th July 1999 and both pitches were available for use in late autumn 2000. A few statistics to note -: 4,000 tonnes of pea gravel and 7,000 tonnes of sand were used. The sand and gravel which had to comply to a specification was sourced from a quarry near Dundrum in Tipperary which necessitated approximately 400 lorry loads arriving on site over an 8 week period! Approximately 20 miles of drainage was struck including 2 miles of land drainage pipes laid.
While this work was progressing the area known as Ryan’s field was developed for use as a training area and some competitive games were played.- Clare senior football panel trained there when Clareabbey was occupied. Later the junior field originally a very rough and craggy area was prepared and seeded.
CLUBHOUSE DRESSING ROOMS AND UTILITIES
The next challenge was to provide clubhouse facilities. Plans were sought from a number of architects and a decision was taken to go with plans submitted by Leahy and Conway Architects, Ennis. Planning permission was eventually secured. Following a bidding process to which five contractors participated the contract was awarded to MBN Construction, Darragh, Ennis and work commenced in November 2001.The majority of the work was completed by late Autumn 2002.
The building consists of four dressing rooms on the ground floor complete with shower and toilet facilities. The home dressing room is larger than the others as its in use more often. Upstairs consists of a large function room, committee meeting room, administrative office, kitchen and toilet facilities. Heating and hot water is provided by gas. The building is constructed modular style which allows for extension with minimum inconvenience. At the same time a utilities building was constructed, a requirement to house machinery, tractors etc. A referee’s room is contained in this building together with toilet facilities for spectators. At a later stage a gantry area was constructed for indoor training in the off season.
We now had facilities up and running to allow for training and games to be played in comfort. However a lot done more to do! The checklist indicated we needed to provide fencing, boundary walls, gates, roadways, car parking, public and security lighting etc. Costing of these projects was a reality check eg. fencing, gates, boundary walls alone cost Euro 105,000.00! But it had to be done even though it took longer than planned, we had to cut our cloth to suit.
Approximately 1.5 acres of the new school grounds was part of the lands purchased earlier by the GAA club. When the new school was being planned extra space was a requirement and the club “donated” the site free of charge. It seemed the right thing to do at the time, otherwise the school board would have to find a new location. It was also felt that the school and the club were joined at the hip as it were and long term would be of mutual benefit. Now that the new school is up and running the club has allowed it use of the junior pitch during school hours.
CLARE GAA CO BOARD
In 2006 the club entered into a partnership with Clare Co Board with regard to the development and usage of the area known as Ryan’s field. At the time the Board were endeavouring to maximise training facilities in the county and the arrangment was seen as of mutual benefit. It resulted in transferring 50% ownership to the Co Board for which the club was compensated. The Board undertook the development of the grounds now almost complete. The club will have exclusive use of the pitches for summer/autumn months and the Co Board will use for training in winter/spring.
The club negotiated a deal with Clare Co Council for the development of a People’s Park and agreed a consideration to provide approximately four acres at rear of the church and St. Michael’s Villas. This area was surplus to club requirements. It has taken a considerable length of time for this area to be developed and is now close to being a finished product. Recent press reports suggest it will soon be handed over to a community committee to control and manage. The initiative for the park came from the Development Committee with the approval of the Executive and when complete will greatly enhance the environment of the area.
A sum in advance of two million euro has been expended by the club in the development so far. It was partly funded by the sale of Clareabbey and also the site for the People’s Park. A very generous contribution was made by Roche Ireland for which the club is extremely grateful. Grants of 90,000.00 Euro from Munster Council GAA and 157,000.00 from Lotto Sports Programme was also received. You will note that these grants are a very small percentage of the total cost!
A summary of main expenditure items-:
Land acquisition: €621,000.00
Pitches(3) Development: €290,000.00
Boundary Walls, Gates and Fencing: €105,000.00
Goalposts and Ballcatch Nettings: €27,000.00
Roadways, Footpaths, Carparking etc: €75,000.00
The development has mainly progressed through an agreed funding structure with Bank of Ireland. The current and probably the main phases are near completion – if one can say that development is ever complete. We are working on a short term loan Euro 200,000.00 which is due for repayment end of current year. All through the 12+ years of development the club made no approach to the community for financial support and managed its finances prudently. One could point out that the club made a contribution to the community by providing the site for the school extension and by providing a play area for the students. At this stage all funding options have been exhausted and maybe there is a need to ask the community for some support to clear the debt.
One could say that we now have a finished product or close to it. Lots of visitors and interested parties from other clubs have come to view and left very impressed. The full Executive Committee Munster Council GAA paid us a visit in 2006. We now have a facility that the club and community can be proud of. It was put together for the benefit of the community. It is a source of pride and satisfaction to those of us involved in its planning and implementation to view the activities on summer evenings when every square meter of grass seems to be in use. It makes the numerous early Saturday morning meetings (almost every Saturday 1997/8/9) seem worthwhile.
Inagrual Development Committee -: Gerard Lynch (Chairman) John Callinan, John Normoyle, Paschal Russell, Bernie Ryan, Michael Slattery,Michael Vaughan.