IT’S time for celebrations to begin as Clonakilty GAA members, their families and the community as a whole gather to remember their journey to their state-of-the-art facility in Ahamilla.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the move to what is widely regarded throughout West Cork as ‘spectacular’ purpose built grounds.
The club’s history stretches back to 1887, and in fact it was one of the first clubs set up in Munster and is the only club in Cork that has fielded a senior football team for 87 years.
Secretary Ger McCarthy explains the origins of their move to Ahamilla: ‘Our old grounds in the town was just getting too small for the growing club with ladies football, camogie and the underage membership growing all the time.
‘So it was decided that we needed to move, and the club started to look at the options back in 2002. Then in 2004 we took the first steps and spoke to Cork County Council about where we could search for a new home.’
Planning permission followed in 2008 and the first sod was turned in September 2009.
‘While it was a momentous day for the club, the day was also filled with sadness when our then president, Thady O’Regan, died on site soon after he turned the first sod. It was also Thady’s 90th birthday and all his family were present on the day. As you can imagine this was a huge shock for us all and Thady’s last words were, “now lads, it’s over to ye,”’ Ger said.
With such a sad start to the construction of the new grounds the club members were determined to honour Thady’s memory and complete the project and the gates opened a year and a half later.
‘It cost over €8 million to complete the site and all the members, their families and friends walked from our old grounds to our new home,’ Ger said.
The new facility was designed to cater for far more than just Clonakilty GAA.
‘We always wanted the facility here to have a commercial aspect and today we have five clients who operate their businesses from here. We also have sports rooms that we lease out which is very much part of our financial funding model,’ Ger said.
Today, the club has almost 1000 underage members across all codes and even though the complex consists of 22 acres, the club had need for more space as the membership continues to grow.
‘We have leased another eight adjoining acres, which we use for playing and parking facilities,’ Ger said.
‘We are a growing organisation with our membership increasing year-on year but while we have a fantastic facility here for new members, it’s the members who would have played at the old grounds who really appreciate what we have to offer the youngsters here today.’
However, Clonakilty GAA is much more than just a members only club.
Ger insists they are not just a local sporting organisation.
‘We value people and we work hard to be more inclusive and to reflect the changing society we have today. Our vision for the club is to provide the wider community with the use of our facilities to help improve their own quality of life and we strive to be more inclusive for the community as a whole, including those with different requirements and capabilities.’
Clonakilty GAA club has also been certified as an Autism Friendly club and there is a sensory area set aside for parents and children on the spectrum.
The facilities at the club are used by COPE, CoAction and Cancer Connect and a host of other charities, including local senior citizens organisations.
‘The club works closely with the Clonakilty Tidy Towns as we strive to be more sustainable for the future but the club is also an important addition to the community as the facilities are available for hire to local clubs, businesses and individuals. Being a key part of the community is very important to us.’
Ahamilla GAA club is looking forward to a bright future as an integral part of the local community in Clonakilty.