All-Ireland medal winners, business leaders and public figures from Offaly gathered in Dublin on Monday night for the launch of the final phase of fundraising for a new state of the art GAA training centre titled ‘Faithful Fields – Centre of Excellence’. The event was held in the Dublin Offices of Deloitte by the firm’s Managing Partner Mr. Brendan Jennings, who is a native of Cloghan.
The new state of the art facility is located in Kilcormac, the border where football meets hurling in the dual sport county, and is part of a major new plan to drive Offaly’s performances on the pitch. The modern development comprises four pitches, floodlights, training facilities and a gym in one location, matching the best training facilities in Ireland.
Addressing the event Faithful Fields Chairman Kieran Keenaghan said that with 80% of the monies already raised, this was the final major push to complete the state of the art facility that will help see Offaly on the path to future success. “We want to raise €250,000 between now and the end of the year so we can have a debt-free training facility that will serve generations of Offaly GAA players into the future. We have over 16,000 GAA members in Offaly and 41 clubs; we want to turn that participation and enthusiasm into a success story and this project is central to that ambition”, he added.
The Faithful Fields Chairman said: “The centre of excellence will give our players a sense of pride in Offaly facilities and the professional approach that is being taken in the county. It sends out a clear message that players matter and that they must be given every chance to be successful. We are a small county and we have to give ourselves every advantage when it comes to competing with large competitive counties”.
Mr. Keenaghan said that the top class centre is designed to professionalise the approach to training and preparation. “It will serve 14 county teams in total; six championship teams, six development squads, a senior camogie team and a ladies’ football team. In addition to that we have many underage teams in the county who will benefit from the facility”, he added.
Speaking at the event, Offaly County Board Chairman Pádraig Boland said: “The completion of Offaly’s new centre of excellence combined with the launch of a new Football and Hurling Plan for the county over the coming weeks shows the absolute focused approach and passionate commitment to ‘building the future fortunes’ of Offaly GAA. The journey we are on cannot be completed over night but we can say one thing for sure – the journey has very much begun”.
Former All-Ireland medal winner and RTÉ commentator, Michael Duignan is one of the leading figures involved in the project. Michael Duignan said the project was gathering pace and momentum. “On the project management side we are delighted that the pitches are being sown and the building of the dressing rooms are about to commence shortly. This project is truly underway”, he added.
He said: “It is fitting when we are gathered here to acknowledge the support of one of Offaly’s global sports star, Shane Lowry. Shane has pledged his support to a golf event for the Faithful Fields and we are delighted to have his goodwill for this important project”.
Michael is also one of many Offaly stars who now coaches in the county. Addressing the audience he spoke of the energy and enthusiasm of many former Offaly players who are coaching and stressed the importance of the facilities from a coaching perspective: “This centre will also be a ‘Hub for Coaching Education and Practice’ where coaches from across the county will be brought together and offered support in their respective roles. Without coaches there are no plans and no development of players so this is an essential part of our plan for the county”.
“This facility will play a vital part in the resurgence of Offaly hurling and football and in the continued development of our Ladies football and camogie teams. It is a necessity, not a luxury and is for the benefit of all our young people throughout the county. We now need the people of Offaly to contribute what they can to make this happen and I am asking you to do what you can to support this excellent development. I personally believe we can return to the top of the GAA”.
Additional Information on Offaly
The Centre of Excellence will also be a practical training and specially dedicated match venue for the future lifeblood of our games – our school teams and underage teams.
Full programme of competitive games involving all Offaly Schools from September until March/April and a wide range of inter-county Challenge Games throughout the calendar year.
The facility will also facilitate Offaly Club Championship games under lights.
The four pitches, the modern training facilities / gym, dressing rooms and dining facilities will be full almost every night as players, coaches and volunteers work together to ensure Offaly can be a competitive force.
It is a very special venue where our underage teams will be training alongside our senior teams – it will instil confidence in our young players and encourage them to take the next step in their ‘GAA career’.
Faithful Fields will completely change the training arrangements in Offaly
Players and teams will move from negotiating with clubs for the use of already very busy facilities during the winter to having a purpose built facility (including gym) to call their own.
Offaly teams have had to train outside the county during particularly bad spells of weather when our club’s pitches are unplayable. The county pays clubs for the use of pitches but it puts pressure on a club’s facilities – developed to meet their own needs and not those of the county.
There was huge uncertainty for teams – sometimes not knowing until the last minute where they might be training.
It is hoped that the new training grounds will provide a practical and very real assistance to the tremendous work that is going on in Coaching and Games Development at county and club level.