It’s an exciting couple of days they’ve missed being part of. The club shop has sold out on three occasions over the past week and a half as the local kids make sure they have the right attire heading into Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday.
There are cars painted, ‘good luck’ signs erected and hardly a single front garden that doesn’t have some semblance of blue and red bunting.
But win, lose or draw this weekend, club officials will return to the roads as another winter of fundraising beckons. Work on a new ball wall and all-weather surface at their Caherlag base commences in November, a necessary project, says club chairman Tom Aherne, as they are currently without adequate playing facilities during the winter months.
The project is costed at €180,000, the majority of which will come from club coffers. Erin’s Own officials had expected a helping hand from the Sports Capital Programme but saw their applications over the past three years rejected.
Having netted €65k through a Strictly Come Dancing event last November, a promise was made to the community that work, sooner rather than later, would begin on the ball wall and all-weather surface. Having given up on potential State funding, Erin’s Own made contact with Croke Park three months ago.
“There is a loan scheme in Croke Park where you can apply for up to €100,000,” explains Aherne. “We applied, but were told the fund had dried up. Then, not long after, there is an announcement that the GPA had secured €6.2m from the GAA.
“Is the club not supposed to be the life and soul of this organisation? Because if it is, we’ve been getting conflicting messages.”
In 2015, 108 Cork sports clubs shared €4.5m in funding via the Sports Capital Programme. Erin’s Own, for a third consecutive year, were overlooked.
“How could anyone justify refusing us on three occasions when other clubs around the country got repeated grants? It is infuriating other clubs, who are awash with facilities, got a second tranche and we were ignored. Club legend Brian Corcoran rang me the other day and wanted to know why we were being repeatedly overlooked. I couldn’t give him an answer because we didn’t get one ourselves.
“We can empathise with other clubs in the same boat who were also rejected because there are favourites who have been looked after time and again.”
Aherne added: “We know sports clubs in disadvantaged areas are prioritised and it is a Sword of Damocles over our heads we are not a disadvantaged area. We are no different to any other club, or any other parish. We have followers from all walks of life.
“I’m loathe to blame Government because our application obviously wouldn’t have gone that far. It is a civil servant who decided we are worth nothing. This is a facility all clubs in the area and schools will be able to avail of when complete. Those in Dublin, unfortunately, couldn’t see the benefit.”
The club are extremely grateful to Glanmire Credit Union, who facilitated them with a loan. Cork County Council and Munster Council have also promised financial support down the line.
“We will be able to repay that loan as we are a responsible club, but we will still be left with some debt,” Aherne says. “Any semblance of a helping hand via the Sports Capital Programme would have ensured we had little or no debt after this. We just wanted that push across the line.
“Nothing beats the euphoria of reaching a county final. It is tinged, though, with bitter disappointment this is hanging there when it shouldn’t be. Were we worth something? Surely, we were.”