Later that night, I was in Clashmore/Kinsalebeg, Co Waterford for the launch of the local GAA club’s fundraising efforts to build a clubhouse.
Those few short hours show the contrasting faces of Ireland: the profligacy and waste by the professionals of the state body; the dedication and generosity and voluntary commitment by the amateur association.
Attending events like this fundraising drive restores one’s faith in Ireland and its future.
This is a small club hemmed in between Dungarvan and Youghal working for their children’s future. Everything was organised to perfection. The entire parish were invited to the local heritage centre, which is a beautifully restored old church, for a professional and honest presentation by the club officers. An overhead screen presentation plus a glossy booklet were used to tell parishioners everything about the club and its plans.
The club is almost as old as the GAA itself, and was founded in 1885. It has the distinction of having won five senior football championships in a row, a county intermediate hurling and football double in 1969, and this year they won their first county minor A football title, while on Sunday their ladies won the county title.
They also have fine hurlers and this year’s star minor for the county side was local lad, Brian O’Halloran. Note that name, you’ll be hearing much more about him in years to come.
Like many other clubs, the increased activity at juvenile and ladies sections means that the current facilities are no longer adequate. Thus the need for a major expansion.
They are now starting to build a 4,300 square foot clubhouse. The concrete for the floors is already poured.
Guess the cost of the entire project? €100,000.
Now if this was a state project, €100,000 would hardly pay for the first draft of the plans.
The reason? All the work is being done on a voluntary basis.
But that’s what makes the GAA so great. That’s what gives people real pride and hope in these dark times. The chairman, Declan Hickey, and his committee are reflective of what’s happening in most GAA clubs in the country, oblivious to the squander-mania prevalent in official Ireland.
John Foley gave up milking cows to become a voluntary secretary of the club – he won’t make any money but he won’t lose any either. Officials are encouraging people to become life members of the club for €500.
They have offered a whole range of incentives, one of which is very novel – shops in the nearby towns will give a 10% discount to those with life membership cards. That’s a wonderful piece of innovation and if a person wants to become a life member by paying €10 a week for 50 weeks, the club are quite happy to accommodate that as well.
No doubt about it, Clashmore/Kinsalebeg may be a small club but they prove that brains, guts and innovation is not dependant in location.
Yes, this is a little oasis of the real Ireland that exists far from the professional squander-mania that Ireland is now trying to come to grips with.
Thank God for this piece of heaven and the thousands of other great clubs like them.