The vision and vitality of Kinsale’s community gave an ambitious project a sporting chance of success, writes Aisling Meath
A massive community effort, helped by an anonymous donation of €100,000, has helped to finally get an 18-year Kinsale project over the line.
Work started on Sáile Sports & Leisure Centre in Kinsale back in 2000, and the development has just recently completed its final stages and is now a fully wheelchair accessible, state-of-the art building.
Virgil Horgan, a solicitor, founding member and original chairperson of the organising committee recalls how the idea started.
‘Sáile, originally known as Kinsale Community Association, was formed following an initial meeting at Acton’s Hotel in 1998. In 2000 we attended a meeting with Cork County Council who explained that the Department of the Environment was funding the construction of a sewerage plant in Kinsale and there was a buffer zone of circa 10 acres between the proposed treatment plant and housing, which was offered free of charge to the Community Association as the site had not cost Cork County Council anything.
‘There was a major covenant imposed in respect of the transfer deeds, namely that the community association would undertake to construct a community and sports hall on the site. The Community Association was delighted and I indicated to the County Council members present that we would be happy to accept the onerous responsibility that was being put upon our shoulders.’
The committee, he said, was strengthened by Lorraine Stanley, branch manager of AIB in Kinsale as honorary treasurer, and Cairde Sáile a group of prominent business educational people in Kinsale who gave of their valuable time to share ideas and suggestions.
‘They consisted of Courtney Good, Alan Crosbie, Gerry Wrixon, president of UCC, Sister Mary, principal of Kinsale Community School, and Heidi Roche. We also employed Bronwyn Connelly as project co-coordinator.’
The voluntary committee still comprises Virgil, Gerry and Lorraine, along with current chair Kieran Greenway, Pat Hegarty, Harry Keating, Enda O’Halloran, Cllr Kevin Murphy, Derry Coughlan, Tony Cierans, Anne Murphy and Siobhan Green marketing and fundraising. Together they have achieved their goal of providing Kinsale with adequate sporting facilities for their population which has grown by 38% in the last 10 years.
A five-a-side floodlit all-weather pitch, tennis court and basketball court was opened by former President Mary McAleese in 2010 which is used for rugby, soccer, GAA, and camogie.
In September 2012 the first ever hockey club in Kinsale was set up at Sáile, which now has over 100 boys and girls as members.
In September 2015 a spacious indoor hall with a Junkers spring floor, which is ideal for sports, was installed where various classes from zumba to pilates, badminton and basketball take place.
Sáile also hosted the Munster Open Table Tennis Championships and the Cork County Badminton Championships.
As well as enviable sports facilities, there’s also a community meeting room with a fully integrated kitchen, as well as a multi-use studio, which are both wheelchair-accessible thanks to a new lift which was partially funded by the Leader programme.
Tony Cierans is a teacher at the nearby Kinsale Community School and he explained the benefits of Sáile to KCS pupils:
‘KCS has 1,070 pupils and we have built a close relationship with Sáile as the facilities allow us to run several PE classes at one time. The 500m proximity is key to this,’ he said.
Siobhan Green, marketing manager, said: ‘We are very grateful to the local community who have fundraised tirelessly over the years. From duck races to masquerade balls, gala concerts, buy a brick, zombie flash dance mobs and a draw for a car, we have tried everything over the years to keep this project moving forward.
‘We are also very grateful to local businesses, in particular Lilly, who have been supporters of this project right from the early years. We have also been awarded grants, including the Government Sports Capital Grant, Leader funding, Cork County Council amenity grants, as well as funding from the former Kinsale Town Council, in order to achieve our goal of having a fully inclusive centre,’ she said.
Chairperson Kieran Greenway added: ‘We are very grateful to all in the community who supported this project, and to the many kind donors, including some who wish to remain anonymous, and the person who gave a generous donation of €100,000 to the project.’
Gerry Wrixon, former chair was a main driver of the project during the development years when they had to wait for the access road to the site to be constructed before they could commence. In the end, the committee took the decision to build the access road themselves and Gerry said he was delighted to see the project’s completion.
Virgil concluded: ‘I have given 20 years of my life to Sáile. I am delighted to see the project at its completed stage. It’s a fantastic facility for all the people of Kinsale. It is called giving back to the community.
‘Kinsale has been good to me and I know the people of Kinsale appreciate the facility that is Sáile. Of course, the facility will have to be improved and developed as the years go on. Hopefully the next generation of Kinsale people will continue to develop it into the future.’
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