ST Oliver Plunkett’s new GAA ground development has made a positive impact in the local community.
Community is a word often repeated when interviewing some of the people that helped complete the Carbery GAA club’s magnificent new playing pitch and walkway at their complex in Ahiohill.
Derry Crowley first got involved back in 2010 as part of a committee including Tom O’Dwyer and Jim O’Sullivan to secure funding for the purchase of the field opposite their existing pitch. The club financed the purchase through a combination of loans, grants and people in the local community getting involved.
‘I have been involved since the start and was part of the club’s pitch development committee where we appointed a contractor to undertake the necessary design and work in 2016,’ Crowley told The Southern Star.
‘The development was completed in 2019 before opening this past year. Quite a bit of the development was financed by sports grants, national lottery grants and a huge fundraising effort within the local community.’
The reason behind undertaking such a lengthy development of the club’s existing complex was straightforward. Plunkett’s needed to expand due to growing playing numbers including the formation of the Keelnameela ladies’ football set-up.
‘More teams meant a bigger demand for pitches so we had to begin the development to meet that demand,’ Crowley explained.
‘We reached the stage where one pitch was no longer sufficient. Aside from that, there was always a desire and drive from within the club itself to develop our own facilities.
‘We now have a marvellous pitch but the one feature that stands out for me is the one-kilmotre walkway around our grounds. That was put in by JJ McCarthy and RCM Tarmacadam who contributed time, effort and money towards it. That walkway has proven a blessing because of Covid and is being used extensively.’
Having secured the necessary financing, it was time to start building the new pitch. Appointed contractor TJ O’Driscoll and his O’Driscoll Plant and Agri company began work just over five years ago.
‘I was thrilled the club gave me the opportunity to undertake such a big project on behalf of St Oliver Plunkett’s,’ O’Driscoll said.
‘My family has a long tradition when it comes to our GAA club. Five or six of us as brothers have represented the club down through the years.
‘I was involved when we won the Flyer Nyhan West Cork Junior A hurling championship back in 2011. We are there with a while!
‘It was a labour of love and a nice opportunity to develop the new pitch. Having played with Ahiohill since I was U12 and togging out for over 25 years, it was nice to be able to give something back.
‘I was only one part of the cog when you list off everyone in the club and community that got behind the project. There was a pile of people worked voluntarily behind the scenes before the pitch was finished.
‘RCM and JJ McCarthy put in a huge amount of work as well. I’d say JJ must have measured every pitch in West Cork to see which one would suit us best! JJ added in the walkway so everything tied in at the end to make for a great facility. It is an attractive facility for people living in the local area and any families that will move into the area in the future.
‘One of the nicest memories I have of the new pitch was our U12 hurlers winning a West Cork final in one of first games played there in 2019.’
A huge amount of upkeep and maintenance has been carried out and continues to be carried out since the new pitch’s completion. Someone has always been present at Plunkett’s GAA grounds every evening (pre-lockdowns) doing whatever needed to be done.
Few people are prouder or have worked harder on maintaining the pitch and surrounding works than club chairperson Pat Keohane.
‘Everyone in the community has chipped in. Since the pitch was developed, we have worked hard to maintain it and I have been involved in that, be it cutting grass or just whatever needs to be done really,’ Keohane said.
‘There is a lot of work involved in that but I don’t mind as it is important, especially when the weather is good. It’s a fine pitch, a fine GAA ground that we have now. It has become a fine ground to host championship matches too and for supporters to come and watch games there.
‘We were lucky to get everything more or less completed last February before Covid kicked in.
‘A huge amount of people has worked in the background including the likes of Lisa Collins (PRO), Barry Ryan (club juvenile chairman), Kevin O’Flynn (club juvenile secretary) and our secretary Micheal Dullea. RCM Tarmacadam’s JJ McCarthy has put his heart and soul into the development as well especially the new walkway.
‘Look, there are too many people to mention and I don’t want to leave anyone out so we are just delighted to have completed the development of such a fantastic new pitch, walkway and improvement of our GAA facilities. We are indebted to anyone and everyone that helped us out along the way.’
Looking to the future, the club’s chairperson acknowledges the upgraded facility is ready to cater for an increasing number of visitors.
‘It was a fantastic opportunity to develop the grounds and it has made a big difference in the local community,’ Keohane added.
‘There are people coming in to use the walkway that might not have anything to do with the club but want to make use of our facility.
‘If there is a match on, people can go away for walk by themselves so our GAA grounds are a great addition.’
In the 1989 film Field of Dreams Kevin Costner plays a farmer who sees a vision of a baseball field being built on one of his many cornfields.
A slew of baseball stars, who passed away many years before, appear and begin playing on the newly built diamond. Hearing a voice stating, ‘If you build it, he (they) will come’, Costner embarks on an unlikely adventure.
The essence of that famous 1980s movie centres on having a dream and following it through to fruition.
The same could be said of St Oliver Plunkett’s who came together to build their own field of dreams (which hosted the 2020 Carbery JAFC and JBFC finals) and will reap the benefits for many years to come.