Fallout over pitches plan in neighbouring GAA clubs’ heartlands
From this week's Galway City Tribune
Author: Dara Bradley
~ 7 minutes read
From this week's Galway City Tribune
From the Galway City Tribune – The GAA family in Galway City was hurtling towards a civil war-style fallout over plans by one club to develop pitches in neighbouring clubs’ heartlands.
Salthill Knocknacarra GAA’s announcement last week that it intended to apply for permission to develop new pitches and clubhouse at its site in Mincloon, Rahoon provoked an immediate backlash from Rahoon/Newcastle and St Michael’s GAA Clubs.
CLG Bearna also added its weight to the opposition to the plans.
SKGAA insisted again this week the new facilities were desperately needed to satisfy growth in membership over the past decade, particularly among girls, ladies football and camogie.
A spokesperson said it had exhausted all other options to develop pitches within its parish, including at three schools, but failed and had decided to proceed with the Mincloon proposals. It insisted it is not breaching any ‘parish’ rules.
But both St Michael’s and Rahoon/Newcastle vowed to robustly defend their ‘patch’.
Rahoon/Newcastle, which fields hurling and camogie teams, declared it would be “strongly opposing” the proposal.
Officials from the club met the development committee of SKGAA last Thursday night, and afterwards issued a statement expressing “huge disappointment and dismay”.
“We will fight for our club and for our community,” the 134-year-old club’s statement said.
“We will be strongly opposing this proposal which would see Salthill Knocknacarra move 3km from their club in the Prairie to within just 500m of our club in Tonabrocky.
“This violates parish boundaries and the spirit of the GAA whose ethos is to promote Gaelic games and culture as a community based, volunteer led organisation which enriches lives and communities,” Rahoon/Newcastle said.
SKGAA denied the move to Rahoon violates any GAA rule.
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A spokesperson on Wednesday pointed to Dublin and Cork cities, where clubs share facilities or use pitches outside of their catchment due to shortages of recreational and amenity land.
“Under Galway GAA bylaws, there are no parish boundaries in the city. So in the same way Rahoon are doing nothing wrong going into Knocknacarra schools, we’re doing nothing wrong developing this land,” the spokesperson said.
St Michael’s, which traditionally fielded players from Shantalla, Claddagh, and ‘The West’, and in recent years pulled from Bushypark, Newcastle, and Westside, is opposed to the plans.
Delegations from both clubs met last week, and afterwards St Michael’s vowed to “strongly oppose this development”.
It said it was “naïve” to claim it does not violate the spirit of the GAA ethos of respecting parish catchments.
“In a city, there is always a certain element of members playing with clubs while living outside the immediate catchment area – we are all familiar with that – but building this new state-of-the art facility within the catchment area of St. Michael’s and Rahoon/Newcastle, flying the SKGAA flag, is nothing short of a threat to the future of our club,” St. Michael’s said.
The club’s executive said it agreed the city needs more sports infrastructure.
“But not as a facility controlled by one dominant GAA club – to truly promote GAA sport in an equitable, competitive manner it needs to be shared by several GAA clubs.
“A new, improved, shared facility would level the playing field for all. St Michael’s would welcome meaningful discussion with Galway GAA County Board, Galway City Council and all city GAA clubs. Together we could understand everyone’s position and see how a shared facility of this nature could come to life for the equitable development of all,” it said.
A spokesperson for SKGAA said it wants a strong St. Michael’s club, in order for Gaelic football in Galway to flourish. Slots would be made available at the pitches for other clubs and schools. He pointed out that 70% of City Council pitches were for soccer, yet GAA had far greater membership than soccer clubs.
Chairman of SKGAA, Paddy Lynch said his club fielded 64 teams last year, and had launched a nursery section for children aged four to six, which was “hugely popular”.
“This growth has resulted in the club facilities being seriously overwhelmed. The development of new playing facilities is critical to the future of our club and continuing to provide the most opportunity to play sport to the young people of our communities,” Mr Lynch said.
In an updated statement issued Tuesday, SKGAA said it was “disappointed” with the stance taken by Rahoon/Newcastle, and urged them to reconsider its “most unfair” position.
“In recent years, Rahoon/Newcastle has been active and present in the local schools of Knocknacarra which would clearly be considered our ‘traditional’ parish area.
“We have never raised objections to their club being active in our traditional area and recruiting members outside their traditional area because it is our sincere belief that all our children should be provided with the greatest number of options possible to access sport,” it said.
A spokesperson for Rahoon/Newcastle, told the Galway City Tribune, the application caught his club members off guard.
He said there was “disappointment” SKGAA publicly launched its pitch website last Thursday, prior to briefing Rahoon/Newcastle.
“We’re very open and transparent in our dealings with other clubs, and we show a lot of respect towards other clubs, and support them. We’ve always worked with clubs in the locality, be it amalgamating teams at different times when we were both struggling, or supporting fundraising events, or helping out in different aspects when challenges come to different doorsteps be it grievances or death, and we’re disappointed this has come to the level it has come to without proper discussion before submitting anything,” the spokesperson said.
He said the issue affects three clubs, and residents of Clybaun, Rahoon and Mincloon; and ultimately it will be decided by planning experts. He said there should be “proper discussion” at executive level between clubs, and the GAA rather than in public forums.
On Wednesday, CLG Bhearna confirmed its opposition.
Following a meeting of Barna GAA’s executive Tuesday, its statement said it had similar difficulty securing and developing land, “but have done so and will continue to do so, within the local catchment areas in accordance with the GAA values and ethos”.
CLG Bhearna said these plans infringed its catchment area.
“Specifically, one of the three primary schools in our parish, Boleybeg National School which is an integral part of the Bearna/Na Forbacha parish, is located bedside the proposed new facility for SKGAA.
“We have recently appointed a full-time coaching development officer to work with our three parish schools in Na Forbacha, Bearna and Bolybeg . . . to promote GAA games and offer children the opportunity to experience and enjoy sport with their friends and community in their local GAA club,” it said.
CLG Bhearna said the proposed facility will likely have an adverse impact on its future player base.
In response, SKGAA said it respected the position of other clubs.
Galway GAA was contacted for comment.
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