BY JJ HURLEY
WITH a stunning view of Kinsale's historic harbour, Kinsale AFC's new clubhouse and dressing-rooms are a strong statement for a club full of ambition.
Resurrected in 1971 by club legend, the late Paddy Madden, the club had long played second fiddle to the town's other sporting codes. Before securing its current home at the Fort Hill, Kinsale AFC depended on local farmers' generosity to provide playing facilities, with the side traipsing between five separate venues before securing the site of the town's former dump, with Cork County Council's help.
Donie Searls, who along with Paddy Madden and Mossie O'Leary negotiated the deal, remarked, 'Only for the council looking after us, then we would never have our ground as property in Kinsale is far too expensive.'
Almost 30 years after setting up shop at Fort Hill, not only does the club host two full-size pitches, but it also boasts 25 teams, which includes an impressive youth section for both genders. The club's growth can be attributed to the success of the men's senior side, now playing in the First Division of the Munster Senior League.
Indeed, the club is considered one of the most successful in the history of the AUL, with seven First Division titles, four collected in as many years, between 2003 and 2009, and two Mossie Lehane Cups and two AOH Cups for good measure.
Climbing the ladder of success, it became apparent that the existing facilities were inadequate for the growing number of teams participating. As a result, the club sought planning permission to replace what was only a temporary structure.
Securing planning for a site near the road, one of the key figures in developing the new facilities, Frank Hill, argued the development should be located at the other end of the pitches, facing the harbour. Having spent many years trying to obtain the permission, with the help of Cllr Kevin Murphy, the consensus in the club wanted not to risk the secured planning permission. But Hill persisted, and many in the club are now glad he did so, with Donie Searls remarking, 'I disagreed with him, but in fairness to Frank he did an amount of work to get this here, and I can see now it was the wrong place for so many reasons.’ Other contributions acknowledged include Brendan Fehilly and Ben Ryan.
Facing a substantial price tag of somewhere north of €750 000, the club secured funding from several sources, including a sports capital grant, Cork County Council Council, Secad, the FAI, and Eli Lilly, as well as its own activities with club president Michael McCarthy and club chairperson Trina Jones spearheading the effort. For club stalwart Ger Foran the key plank for its fundraising activities was its involvement with a draw to 'WinaGaff', describing it as 'immensely brave' while crediting Derek Nash with bringing the initiative to the club.
With its four spacious dressing rooms and its ample community space, capable of hosting community functions, Ger Foran said, 'I never thought in my lifetime, I'd see something as good as that.'
It certainly promises to be the envy of visiting teams and supporters, as a beacon for others to follow, with Donie Searls remarking, 'The mix of local people and people who came into the town has worked brilliantly on the project's success.'
As for future plans, the club is currently developing a pitch for pre-and post-match applications and examining the possibility of constructing a full astroturf pitch to facilitate the entire sporting community of Kinsale.