"If We Start Blocking the Road They Might Take Us Seriously”

Kilmore Celtic FC is shelling out thousands each winter to privately hire training facilities because there’s no public astroturf pitch in the area.

It ties up their time in constant fundraising, says Dean Russell, the chairman of the club, which has around 600 members.

That’s time they’d rather spend training more kids and organising a late-night league on weekends, says Russell.

“We are renting all our facilities at astronomical prices,” he says. “Just for the senior section alone to train from October to March is around €15,000.”

Each group training session costs the club around €150, he says. They only charge €100 per year for a child and are determined to keep subscriptions low so that no child is excluded, he says.

Kilmore is between Coolock, Artane, Beaumont and Santry. All of the local councillors and TDs are aware of the situation, says Russell. But so far promises have failed to produce pitches.

The club is planning a protest to block the Oscar Traynor Road in January, says Russell. “If we start blocking the road they might take us seriously,” he says.

“If we don’t get a facility soon we are going to be turning kids away from all age groups, because we can’t cope with the demand,” he said.

At a meeting of councillors for the North Central Area on 12 December, Fianna Fáil Councillor Daryl Barron proposed a motion calling for an additional astroturf pitch in his area of Donaghmede, just west of Kilmore.

“Local clubs in the community can no longer get slots in astro-turfs and there is an urgent need for additional space,” said Barron in the motion.

Labour Councillor Alison Gilliland raised the plight of Kilmore Celtic FC. “There is a geographical skewing of current provision of astroturf,” she said. “We have no astroturf, no floodlit, no all weather.”

Dublin City Council Official Fergus O’Carroll said that the council will appoint a consultant early next year to weigh up the needs of sports clubs in the North Central Area and pitch potential solutions.

That area also has a shortage of cultural spaces according to an audit carried out of cultural space in the city, which found many areas didn’t have any cultural buildings apart from libraries.

Astroturf Wars

Clubs are willing to share facilities but those shared spaces are massively oversubscribed, said Barron, the Fianna Fáil councillor, at the meeting.

The council needs to provide at least two new astroturf pitches in the North Central Area, he said.

Barron’s motion related to his own area of Donaghmede. But he agreed, he said, that others are also needed.

“I fully support one up in Artane and particularly Darndale and Kilmore. I will give it as much support as I can,” he said.

On the phone on Monday, Barron said there is huge demand for astroturf pitches from football and GAA clubs throughout the wider area.

Better facilities would allow for expansion. “New astroturf pitches would unlock the potential of certain clubs in the area,” he says.

Paying privately for winter training facilities is putting a strain on clubs, which are all trying to keep their annual subscriptions low to avoid pricing kids out, he said. “It’s causing a headache for clubs right across the area.”

Learning team sports brings children benefits, he said: better physical fitness, and teamwork, which helps with school and careers. “If you keep children in sports you will see the fruits of that,” he says.

He hopes to see plans in place for new astroturf pitches in the area in the next year or so, he says.

At the meeting, Gilliland said the council should prioritise areas that don’t have any facilities. “I really want assurances that that consultant is going to include the Dublin 17 area.”

O’Carroll said that all the issues the councillors raised are ones the consultant will be asked to look at, including the geographical spread of clubs and facilities. “We would like some recommendations as to the best way to meet the need.”

Lots of clubs need training facilities, says O’Carroll.

“A number of local small facilities might meet the need for training better than one, all shiny, new, full size, all-weather – which will only allow one team to train at a time,” he said.

The point of the consultant is to get to the bottom of what the clubs need and how best the council can meet that need, he said. “These things are complex.”

Independent Councillor John Lyons said that he understood the consultant was supposed to be appointed by September 2022.

“I think this is a very serious issue,” he said. “There is a huge amount of frustration among hundreds of volunteers.”

Volunteers put a lot of energy into involving local kids in sports, Lyons said, but that energy doesn’t seem to be matched by Dublin City Council.

Young people could “drift away” if they are unable to play sports in winter, he said.

Driven to Protest

If Kilmore Celtic had an astroturf facility, Russell would like to organise a late-night league with other neighbouring clubs, he says, for young people to play football on Friday and Saturday nights between 8pm and 11pm.

Late-night leagues help to build community spirit and can seriously reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, he says. “It’s a no brainer.”

Most of the surrounding areas have at least one all-weather pitch, says Russell. He feels the area has been let down a bit. It’s also the only local area he knows of that doesn’t have a children’s playground.

There is plenty of space in the park on the Oscar Traynor Road for an astroturf facility, including changing rooms and a car park, he says.

The community cannot wait until a planned public housing project is built on the Oscar Traynor Road, he says. “We need an all-weather facility now.”

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Author:

Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at [email protected]

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