“Participation amongst young people in sport is absolutely paramount to well-being and good health,” inspirational words from a senior Clare County Council official at a ceremony to mark the opening of one of the most advanced synthetic turf pitches in the country at Active Ennis John O’Sullivan Park and at the refurbished gym in Active Ennis Leisure Complex.
Ball hopping! Enjoying the new 3G playing pitch at Less Road were Cllr Gerry Flynn, Mayor of Clare Cllr Tom McNamara, Mayor of Ennis Cllr Paul Murphy and Cllr Mary Howard.
Liam Conneally is now Director of Social Development with the local authority. No stranger to sporting success, he is the proud owner of a Sigerson Cup medal that he won while studying at Queens University Belfast.
Liam also starred in the legendary Clare team that won the Munster Senior Football Championship in 1992. It was the Banner County’s first win in 104 years and only the second time in the competition’s 130-year history.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony, Liam Conneally urged young people to enjoy these new facilities, “because success in sport translates into success in life”.
Addressing his remarks to the young people of Clare, he said, “Being active in sport is not just about obesity, nor about keeping your own mindfulness and mental wellbeing, it’s about how you progress through life and having sport and sports facilities to help you is very important.”
The 3G playing pitch at O’Sullivan Park, Lees Road, is fully compliant with GAA, FIFA and IRFU specifications. According to Richard Murphy, a member of staff with Active Ennis, an advanced feature of the playing surface is a shock pad layer under the synthetic grass that absorbs the impact of falls due to tackles etc.
The €500,000 upgrade of the Lees Road all-weather pitch complements other facilities including four conventional pitches, skateboard park, athletics track, cross-country running track, woodland walking trails, community orchard and playground.
At Ennis Leisure Complex the €150,000 gym refurbishment includes new resistance machines with wheelchair accessibility, an upgraded cardiovascular machine, two BH Fitness duke power bikes, and a power rack, hack squat and squat rack in the weight areas.
The Highfield Road complex also has a sauna, steam room, aerobics hall and meeting room and a 25-metre swimming pool.
Pictured at Active Ennis Leisure Centre were (l-r) Liam Conneally, Director of Social Development; Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Paul Murphy; Mayor of Clare, Cllr Tom McNamara; Pat Dowling, CEO Clare County Council; Cllr Gerry Flynn, chairman of Social Development SPC; and Tim Forde, Head of Sports & Recreation, Clare County Council.
At the official launch, Mayor of Clare Cllr Tom McNamara said, “Developments like this don’t just happen, they take vision and lot of planning to ensure that facilities like this are provided for the people of Clare.
“I’ve just come from Lees Road and the facilities I saw there would be the envy of any town in Ireland. It’s a credit to Tim Forde and his staff, the way they have developed these facilities.”
Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Paul Murphy said, “These developments are as much an investment in the health of the local community as they are an investment in recreational infrastructure.
“We have to be so mindful now of the need for sporting amenities, particularly for our kids, to give them an option of being involved in sport.
“Sport helps keep young people away from trouble at a time when drinks and drugs are prevalent. It’s crucial that we provide that option for them”.
Cllr Gerry Flynn, chairman of the Social Development SPC, acknowledged the contribution of councillors, officials, Clare’s Oireachtas representatives and the Dept. of Transport, Tourism and Sport, for having the foresight to bring about such magnificent facilities.
Cllr Flynn commented, “What I’ve seen at Lees Road and Ennis Leisure Centre means Clare is now recognised as a leader in the provision of sporting facilities.
“It’s onwards and upwards and I’d like to wish all the teams in Clare every success in the weeks and year ahead.”
Tim Forde, Head of Sports & Recreation with Clare County Council, commented, “These developments are indicators of Clare County Council’s ongoing commitment to ensuring Clare becomes the hub of sports and recreation in the Mid West Region, through investment, cooperation and leadership.
“We have already begun work on additional projects for 2018/19. We will shortly have a Fartlek Interval Training System installed in the Lees Road facility as well as three mountain trikes, outdoor wheelchair units, available to disabled users.
“Sports Capital funding was awarded at the end of 2017 to complete dressing rooms and storage facilities in both Tim Smyth Park and at Ennis and Kilrush Sports Complexes.
“I believe Clare County Council, through its Sports and Recreation Unit, is taking the necessary steps to deliver a range and quality of services that benefit all citizens of this county now and in the years to come,” said Tim Forde.
Clare County Council’s Director of Social Development, Liam Conneally, commented that the Sports & Reaction side of his portfolio is not in the public eye in the way that housing and the other urgent needs are.
“However,” he said, “it is not less important. When Tim Forde and I prepare a budget for this side of the business each year, we don’t treat it any less important.”
Mr Conneally acknowledged the support of Pat Dowling, his colleagues in Clare County Council, including the elected members and his SPC chairman in formulating a budgetary provision to deliver these sports and recreation facilities.
He added, “They are second to none and we know that, but they’ll only be second to none if we maintain those facilities at the standard that the public of Clare demands.
“We are very conscious of that and consequently we are trying to keep the standards of equipment and our assets up to where it should be and we strive to improve them.
“There are more capital investments that are going to happen in the whole sports and recreation area into 2018, 2019 and the years beyond. So we’re not going to stop here.”