By Kevin Herron
This weekend Lámh Dhearg are celebrating the opening of their second pitch at Hannahstown. A number of events have been planned over the course of the weekend, culminating with a parade to the pitch on Sunday afternoon- involving over 30-teams from juvenile to senior in all codes.
Lámh Dhearg chairman Peter Kane explains that the project- which has been over six-years in the making- began with their strategic planning consultation in 2016 which highlighted the need for a second grass pitch due to the ever expanding nature of the club and lack of training facilities particularly during a busy schedule.
“This is something that has been started since back in 2016 when we launched our strategic plan for the club and one of the big priorities for us was a second pitch” Kane explains.
“We were having a situation where three or four teams were training on the same pitch and our club was getting bigger, we needed to cater for that. I think what brought it to a head was the seniors were preparing for the 2017 Championship and it was difficult to get onto their own pitch for training.
“With no external funding opportunities coming down the line, Fitzy (Frank Fitzimmons), Shanty [Pat McCague] and wee Joe [Finnegan] decided to do something about it and began knocking on doors for money, three faces you couldn’t say not to!!! and it lifted some money for us. A pitch development committee was established and we formally launched our Pitch In Patrons campaign later that year to the whole club and community and we’ve now 245 people signed up. Fundraising has been complemented by club draws, golf-days, auctions, and local donations.
“In terms of pitch construction we’ve been doing the work phase by phase as we could afford it- as we’ve brought in the money; we’ve completed the work, a real testament to the Project management skills of our Development committee. The project continued despite the challenges of Covid, the high price of materials and funding challenges- we’ve managed to get through it”.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic hugely affected the project in terms of fundraising events that were cancelled and the construction grinding to a halt- Kane believes that it may have helped the project and paid tribute to the many pitch-patrons who stuck by the club through the difficult period.
“It delayed the whole project because obviously contractors weren’t allowed on site, and nobody was allowed in the club, and we weren’t able to communicate as effectively as we would normally” reflected Kane.
“But people stuck with us, things were different then – money was tighter too, and people stood with us with their pitch-in donations, and we continued with that and managed to overcome those challenges and get the contractors back on site.
“Covid helped to harness our energies and we all soon realised what we were missing. All over the country people realised how important the GAA is in our daily lives, – how much the GAA meant to us, it accelerated the need to finish the pitch and got us more focused to deliver this pitch”.
It is almost 40-years since the current pitch at Hannahstown opened, that day the parade to pitch involved just five-teams with over 30 expected to join in the procession this time around.
Kane was keen to pay tribute to the many coaches and volunteers that have helped the club progress since the original pitch opening in 1984 and spoke of his pride and honour to be chairman and oversee the project coming to a conclusion.
“In 1984 we had five teams parading on the opening day and on Sunday we will have over 30-teams parading and that is a testament to all the coaching and work done by so many over the years”
“I’m proud and honoured to be the chairman at this opening, it’s a great achievement for everybody in the club and it just shows you what you can do. If you had have told me then that in five-years that we would have a new grass pitch with 245 pitch-patrons donating all that money– I would have fell off my stool. it just shows what can be achieved if you have a goal and put your mind to something it can be achieved.
“The work that has been done for the preparation of the weekend by the pitch-opening committee. We’ve a great weekend of celebrations with a new booklet being launched, a photographic exhibition – capturing memories- and creating new memories for the kids coming up to look back on for future generations. It’ll really bring the club together again”.