A bright light in a troubled time is one way of looking at the recent launch of the new astroturf facilities at the Banteer Community Sportsfield and Park, the first part of a €1.5 million development.
The north Cork village has long been a market leader in sports events and facilities, a reputation endorsed by this latest ambitious development.
“The development will serve all sports and is a much-needed all-weather facility in the area,” said Denis Withers, Sportsfield secretary, adding: “It’s important to stress that the project isn’t complete yet, though.
“The pitch looks terrific but obviously we’ll need the associated buildings to go with it.
“Phase 2 of the building project covers the usual facilities you’d associate with a top class playing area. We’re planning on construction of a spectator stand, changing rooms, shower area and toilets, obviously.
“But we also have plans in place for a cafe or tea room and a museum to cover the 100-plus years of sort in the Banteer area.
“Jerry Sheehan has compiled a history of sports in the area which will be showcased in the museum area of the new facility.
“Again, this is a new phase of the project which we want to complete in the next nine months in order to ensure the support facilities for the proper operation of the pitch are there for users.”
To coincide with the launch of the venue, a DVD was also launched celebrating a century of sport in the north Cork village, which hosted sports meetings as far back as May 1886.
The Banteer venue was convenient for travel from Cork and Dublin as it was adjacent to Banteer Railway Station and was also served by a Newmarket to Banteer rail line which was opened in 1891.
Future world champion Denis Horgan of Fermoyle shone at the early Banteer sports meetings, while Dr Pat O’Callaghan was a star of the 1926 Banteer sports meeting with two victories: two years later he won gold at the Amsterdam Olympics.
In its early years the meeting moved venue frequently within the locality, but from 1952 it has been held at the current Banteer Sportsfield.
Throughout the fifties there was plenty of development of that venue, with excavation and levelling of the sports field with an oval cinder track banked at the ends for safety of cyclists, and an inner grass track. The venue got its just reward when it staged the All-Ireland championships in 1965 and in 1966.
A special presentation was made at the launch by Denis Withers to Jerry Sheehan to acknowledge his dedication to Banteer sports and its history: the DVD covering that history can be ordered from April from Denis Withers (cost €20).
The major grant of €1.128 million towards the development project is from the Government Rural Regeneration and Development fund.
The community will still need to raise about €300,000 of matching funds to complete the full €1.5 million project but the organising committee is confident that that target will be reached.