JOHN FOGARTY: Mallow targeting more big games

The town of Mallow, Co Cork.

Mallow’s GAA Sports Complex is capable of hosting several provincial fixtures, according to its general manager Liz Foley.

As the venue prepares to stage tomorrow evening’s Waterford Crystal Cup final, Foley is hoping it will pave the way for more games, such as Munster Club finals and provincial U21 and minor championship matches.

The Cork-Limerick clash is Mallow’s biggest occasion since this month four years ago when it hosted the Nemo Rangers-Dr Crokes Munster Club SFC final, having been twice postponed when scheduled for the Gaelic Grounds in December 2010.

“I’d like to see us stage a lot more games,” says Foley of the 8,000-capacity venue, 2,000 of which are covered seats. “I’m not sure if we would get National League and Championship games, but the likes of the McGrath Cup and Waterford Crystal Cup are ideal for club venues such as Mallow. It creates a better atmosphere. The players, the spectators, they’re all together.

“Opening up Páirc Uí Rinn, the Gaelic Grounds or Semple Stadium for games like this, it wouldn’t create the atmosphere that will be in Mallow on Saturday night. We can facilitate so many people with car parking as well. Everybody nearly gets into the ground. You take away trouble, then, from the gardaí out on the roads and from residents.”

The advantage for both teams tomorrow evening is the post-match facilities.

“They will be fed in the function room and it’s a huge burden off the counties to think that the boys can just walk upstairs and are looked after under the one roof. That they don’t have to be getting cars and driving here and there, trying to get parking.”

It’s nine years since John Barry made up an €8m shortfall on the €16m development on the 35-acre site. Outside the centre, there are four sand-based fields, an all-weather synthetic pitch (three of which are floodlit) and a mile-long, fully-lit perimeter walk..

Earlier tomorrow, Foley and her team will also supervise an All-Ireland inter-firms semi-final between Cork Garda and Banagher Concrete. A hub of activity, she credits the Mallow club with understanding how special a facility they have.

“At this time of the year, there is serious demand from outside clubs and counties to use the facility. The beauty of it all is that we can cater for everybody. You do have to look after your own club number one, but in fairness to Mallow GAA, they are very facilitating when we host big events. They would move from the stadium pitch and give up what we call the number one dressing room to outside inter-county teams.

“For a day like next Saturday, they have shifted their training to Sunday morning. They do facilitate and understand. At times, it can be very tough when people are ringing and wanting to come in and you’re juggling all the balls. You try and help and cater for everybody, because it’s important that we try and get the facility used to its full capacity at all times.”

The daughter of current GAA trustee and former Munster and Waterford chairman Jimmy O’Gorman, Foley’s involvement with the complex extends to six years next month.

“I’d be lucky through my dad that I’ve good GAA connections. He was also there at my shoulder and I’ve met so many people through both dad and mam that have been a big help to me. When they know Jimmy’s daughter is there, they will make contact.

“I’m lucky to have a very vibrant committee in both adult and juvenile within Mallow GAA that are there to help me. You might be in there to manage it, but you need good, strong people.

“It’s also down to the Munster Council, the Cork County Board and divisional boards, coaching and games, ladies football, camogie, Croke Park. I deal with them on a regular basis and they keep it ticking over and the front doors open.”

Regarded as some of the best maintained pitches in the province, Foley attributes this to club members and groundsmen who operate as part of a FÁS scheme.

The complex also caters for conferences, meetings, courses, fairs and workshops. It is the venue for an Irish school and last night hosted a Ballygowan National School’s table quiz fundraiser attended by 400 people on special flooring placed in the 17,000 sq metre indoor astroturf pitch.

“The club take great pride in the complex because there aren’t too many clubs that would have what Mallow has,” says Foley.


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