THE launch of the new ‘2020 Strategic Plan’ for the O’Donovan Rossa GAA Club took place in its pavilion on Saturday last with a large crowd of young and old attending.
The gathering was welcomed by the chairman of the club, Pat Fitzgerald, who stated that Skibbereen was a club with an All-Ireland club title to its credit and the aim of the strategic plan was to get the club back to those heights again. He had a special welcome for Kevin O’Donovan, vice-chairman of the County Board, and congratulated him on his appointment as the new county secretary.
Also present were Joe Crowley, chairman of the SW Junior Board and Joe Carroll, county councillor, on behalf of the county mayor. Acting bean an tí for the event was Nora O’Regan, chairperson of the Skibbereen Ladies’ Football Club and she introduced the various items during the launch.
The night began with the introduction of the ladies’ football team who had won the county junior C final the previous weekend and they received a great reception from the crowd.
John Bohane chaired a ‘sofa’ session on GAA affairs and giving their views from the sofa were Kevin O’Donovan, Tom Lyons (Southern Star), Shane Crowley Snr (Skibbereen GAA) and Sharon Stout (Skibbereen ladies’ football team). Among the topics discussed were the chaotic fixtures list in the GAA, the inter-county bubble which prevents county players from playing with their clubs and the phenomenal growth of ladies’ football and camogie in recent years.
The main item of the night was a presentation by Eddie Nealon, a member of the Strategic Committee, on the proposed new development. The theme for the ‘2020 Strategic Plan’ is ‘A strong foundation for a stronger future.’
Mr Nealon stressed that while the club is ahead of other clubs in many ways, they are also lagging behind in other ways and the plan addresses many of the shortcomings. In recent seasons, the club has provided fine new astro-turf facilities as well as re-laying the main pitch
The main section of the ‘2020 Strategic Plan’ is the development of three new pitches in the Marsh and the provision of six dressing rooms, a referees’ room, storage space, etc to service the new pitches. As a main road divides the present O’Donovan Rossa complex from the new Riverside (Marsh) development, a new traffic plan will be put into place to accommodate the development and provide safe access for the many young players who will be using the facilities.
Car parking for 150 cars will also be provided. The land for that development has already been acquired and there is great co-operation with the nearby Cork Marts headquarters and the GAA club.
The second section of the plan is the building of a 400-seater stand for the main pitch, to provide comfort for supporters and atmosphere for matches and players. The work on the embankment has already begun.
As many clubs fall into the trap of neglecting the playing side of the club when embarking on developing facilities, the Rossa club has ensured no such mistake will be made by including a section on the management-coaching side of the club. All areas of the club, including existing structures and communications, will be looked at and restructured if necessary and an overall coaching plan for the whole club from underage to senior is being drawn up. Special emphasis will be put on the type of football being played by all teams within the club.
Of course a project like this needs finance and Mr Nealon gave a detailed account of how the necessary funding, €150,000 from club funding to supplement a like sum from grants, would be raised. A novel idea of including club membership, lotto, and development contribution in one package is being introduced and contributors can join either the All-Star Bundle for €6 a week, or the Gold-Star Bundle at €3 per week.
Seats may be sponsored in the new stand at €200 or names included in the Wall of Honour in the pavilion for €500. Special packages for businesses are also available. It is hoped to have most of the funding scheme in place by the end of December, with a target of February for completion.
Following the presentation by Mr Nealon, Kevin O’Donovan, newly-appointed secretary/CEO of the County Board, addressed the gathering. He spoke of his family connections with the town, of supporting Skibbereen teams as far back as 1985 and of playing against them on the hurling fields.
He was delighted with the plans for the club and especially that they were not forgetting the playing side of the club during the development. He congratulated the ladies’ football club on their success and praised their involvement in the new development plans.
The schools were also playing a huge part in the development of the GAA in Skibbereen and the successes of St Fachtna’s in the past were legendary. Now the new community school will carry that proud tradition.
The development project, said Mr O’Donovan, is a highly achievable and sensible one and there is nothing in it that can’t be done with the support of the whole town and area. He thanked the people who had built up the club to be what it is today and what a massive boost it is to those people to see a new generation planning to take the club into the future. Mr O’Donovan then officially launched the new Strategic Plan.
Following the launch, there was a display of fireworks despite the inclement weather and that was followed by food, music and dance. Music contributions on the night were by the local Comhaltas and Muirish Waugh.
The large gathering at the launch included past and present club officers, many past and present players, members of the ladies’ football, supporters and young people. We left the final word to club chairman, Pat Fitzgerald, who was delighted with the success of the launch on the night.
‘Very pleased with the way tonight went,’ Fitzgerald told The Southern Star. ‘There was an exceptionally-positive feeling among the crowd about the plan. The atmosphere is brilliant and it’s most encouraging to see so many parents and children here tonight.
‘There’s a very strong, positive vibe in the town about what we’re trying to do and a lot of people who used to be involved in the club, and maybe fell out, are anxious to get involved again. Once players in particular left the club, they were gone, in contrast to other clubs who always seem to get them back. A lot of them are now buying into this strategic plan.
‘We had a ladies’ football club in Skibbereen about ten years ago but it faded out because there were no facilities available for them in Rossa Park. The new Ladies Club are determined not to allow that to happen again and a lot of our ex-players have young daughters and they want them to play football here.
‘There is a big push coming from that source, which is good. We have provided facilities in the Marsh now for the girls’ teams, but the new facilities are a must.’
‘The committee has been planning this for the past five months, a huge amount of work has gone into it, Pat Fitzgerald continued. ‘Many of them are ex-players and they want to develop the playing side as regards coaching and committees. The other clubs in town will also benefit from this project as the players will be much fitter and better-conditioned.
‘The schools will play a big part in the future development of the club and we must never forget that Skibbereen was a successful hurling club before making a mark in football. The Marsh is a direct connection to our foundation as a club in the 1880s and we’re delighted to have it back in our possession now.
‘By February or March we hope to have the diggers in and work started. It will take time, patience and a lot of hard work and support from all aspects of the community, but we will get there, step by step.’
The members of the hard-working Development Committee are Denis O’Driscoll, John O’Driscoll, Eddie Nealon, Fintan O’Connell and Michael Scannell.