A new Down GAA facility is to be built at Ballykinlar
The Down GAA is planning a major development in Ballykinlar which will be a game changer for gaelic games in County Down.
From the difficulties the Down County Team has experienced in finding adequate training provision to the local Ballykinlar GAC ‘s struggling fortunes, gaelic sport in Down is set to be on the turn for the better when the new facility opens its doors.
A study completed by Newry Mourne and Down District Council under its Sports Facility Strategy showed that there was a lack of adequate provision of facilities for training and playing pitches indicating this fed into the performance of the Down gaelic football team currently trying to find its feet at inter-county level. Many counties across Ireland has excellent training and playing facilities giving them a distinct advantage.
Following work completed consultancy studies by Feargal and Gould, the preferred options are to:
- add on three more full sized pitches utilising the current pitch.
- refurbish existing buildings.
- develop a walking trail.
- and develop a MUGA (Multi Use Game Area).
As the GAA is a community-focused, volunteer driven organisation with bases in the 32 counties across Ireland, and 25,000 participants in the 48 clubs across County Down, there are plans too to expand cultural and all gaelic games and culture.
The two-storey building and other areas will be centres to develop cultural activities and ‘provide a welcoming shared space where knowledge and understanding of gaelic, associated activities, and local culture and heritage can be enhanced and the capacity of the GAA volunteer base developed’ in the Centre of Participation.
The project covering 30 acres when completed after a phased approach will cost in the region of £12 million. To drive the project, a Down GAA Project Advisory Board has been set up chaired by management consultant Feargal McCormack. This board is a sub-committee within the Down GAA. A local farmer has already agreed to provide 2.5 acres for the project.
Ongoing discussions since 2018 with the MoD and the Down GAA have agreed a 25 year lease with an option to extend it for a further 25 years. Through this process of gaining access to the MoD site, Down GAA has been working with the UK and Irish governments, the NI Executive, the National GAA management Committee and the Ulster Council.
The local Ballykinlar GAA club has been ailing in recent years and will now benefit from a Service Level Agreement to use the facility. Ballykinlar GAC are delighted to see their grounds subsumed into the bigger facility.
The GAA is keen to promote community development and by example, many clubs through the Covid-19 pandemic were involved in delivering food parcels to those in need, playing a vital function in the communities.