THERE was a palpable air of enthusiasm and expectation at the ongoing development of Bandon Athletic Club’s new all-weather facility at Clancool Beg on the Kilbrittain road, some two kilometres outside the town.
A large attendance welcomed Jack Chambers, Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht, to view progress of the €1.7 million project that could be completed in the final quarter of 2024.
Bandon AC doesn’t have to go outside the realms of their own club to find role models. The success of the likes of Phil Healy, Nicola Tuthill, Shane Howard and Carmel Crowley are inspirational figures to the next generation of athletes, who will have the real benefit of this game-changing new facility.
‘It will have a transformative impact,’ stated Minister Chambers.
‘Speaking to many of the young people and to see the excitement of the community around what it brings in terms of participation. To see the progress being made on site today, it’s a really exciting project for the local community. It will make a big difference to build that grassroots participation and give opportunities to athletics.’
Bandon AC Chairperson Adrian O’Flynn showcased the facility to Minister Chambers along with Deputy Christopher O’Sullivan, Senator Tim Lombard and Cllrs Gillian Coughlan, Marie O’Sullivan and Sean O’Donovan.
Speaking about the development, Adrian O’Flynn told The Southern Star: ‘The idea of having a track goes back around 15 years when a committee was formed to identify potential sites and the late Billy Good was the key driver.’
The nine-acre site was purchased from local landowner Liam Crowley of whom Adrian O’Flynn praised for his great sense of community.
‘He’s been fantastic and all the neighbours have been very supportive of the development as well,’ O’Flynn said.
Although the club continues to fundraise through their gofundme page and other events, the financial support through the sports capital funding continues to be a key player in the project.
‘It shows the real strength in the partnership between government and the local community where the huge volunteer effort of people that give of their time and energy to have a vision for young people and all generations and that we can support them.' Minister Chambers commented.
While it is well within the commuter belt, the idyllic location will ensure that the young athletes will have no distractions and can focus on training and coaching.
It’s envisaged that the current phase – land acquisition, development of the land and foundations for the track, that has cost some €500,000 – will be completed within the next three weeks. Indeed, the dry weather of the last few months was ideal for Kilbrittain-based Chris O’Leary Plant and Civil Engineering team to carry out the works. It is planned to let it settle over the winter before implementing the next phase that includes the laying of the track.
With over 500 members, Adrian O’Flynn commented, ‘We have a very strong group of volunteers that support the club in different ways, be it through coaching or administration.
‘We are very involved with the Special Olympics, Fit for Life and Fit4 Youth. Our politicians have also bought into the vision that we have, it’s not just about the club, it’s about the community, we bring athletes from all over the Bandon hinterland and this facility can open that up further.’
Given how well they interact with other sporting organisations, the progressive Bandon Athletic Club is shaping its own future and that of West Cork’s next generation of athletes with admirable ambition and are certainly on the right track.