Long Awaited Opening of Georgie O’Callaghan Park on Saturday

Castleisland Soccer Club founder member, Georgie O’Callaghan show his delight after Pa O’Rourke’s penalty goal against Tralee Dynamos in the 2012 Kerry District League Division 1A Final at Mounthawk Park. ©Photograph: John Reidy 23-5-2012
All Changed..The late Georgie O’Callaghan is pictured here with former FAI Chief Executive John Delaney and former Republic of Ireland Manager, Martin O’Neill at a Castleisland AFC function at the River Island Hotel in Castleisland in 2014. ©Photograph: John Reidy 21-3-2014

The long awaited official opening of the Georgie O’Callaghan Park takes place this Saturday just before 2pm and what an occasion it will be with the Irish Legends team taking on three different Castleisland sides on the day.

In the midst of the celebration and, at its core, there will be a poignancy and a great sadness at the loss to the occasion of two huge figures in the weave of the project’s most recent history. One through death and the other through the controversy which is sweeping the Football Association of Ireland at present.

Georgie and John Delaney

For the late Georgie O’Callaghan and former FAI CEO, John Delaney were firm friends and Delaney greatly admired what Georgie was doing with the game and the youth of this area.

And Georgie never forgot Delaney for sending him the money to buy a ride-on mower when he learned that his pal was mowing the pitch in Limerick Road with a push mower.

For the dream to come through, after a wait of several decades, without these two towering figures on its day of delivery is sad – to say the least.

The Wounded Delaney

It’s fashionable now for my colleagues in the press to have a go at the wounded Delaney – even if all the facts are not out in the open yet. And Michael Healy Rae, TD  got bitten too over his contribution to the now infamous public accounts committee hearing.

But the Healy Rae skin is impervious to that kind of dead sheep savaging. There’s no better man to recycle the vitriol of his critics when it suits and use it to his greatest advantage at some point; May 24th springs to mind.

Life Goes On

Life must go on regardless and I know that Georgie would be the proudest man in the country on Saturday if he had managed to live to see it.

He would be particularly proud that his ‘graduates’ are up to their eyes in the development and that they have also made huge contributions of effort and time in the project.

The photograph on the page here of Georgie giving the ‘thumbs up’ is one I’m using on purpose. This was Georgie’s response to Pa O’Rourke’s goal which sealed victory against Tralee Dynamos in the 2012 Kerry District League Division 1A Final at Mounthawk Park.

A Dream Facility

His response to the opening of a dream facility such as the one which now bears his name would draw a similar gesture from the man not known for over the top celebration or giddiness of that kind.

Pa and his dedicated committee and that of their Castleisland Community College project partners deserve a community wide thumbs up for bringing this great day to fruition.

Castleisland AFC Press Release 

It is a fitting tribute to the legend that is Georgie O’Callaghan that so many famous ex professional footballers will congregate in Castleisland for the opening of the new astro turf pitch.

It’s not every day that talents like: Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, Kevin Sheedy, Mark Kinsella and many more will tog out in your local soccer pitch.

Georgie was so well-known in Irish soccer circles that he would have been on first name terms with a lot of these legends.

In fact Ronnie Whelan did kick a ball on a pitch in Castleisland in the early 1980s when the club played in Hogan’s Field – where St. John’s Park now stands. And he was indeed there as a guest of the late Georgie O’Callaghan.

Action Packed Day

The action packed day will begin with a sponsors only brunch at the River Island Hotel where the professional players will meet and greet the sponsors of the event.

Then attention turns to Georgie O’Callaghan Park where a number of warm up games and entertainment for all the family will take play prior to the official opening.

The grounds will be open from 12.30 onwards so we advise everyone to come early and enjoy the build up to the big opening.

Opening before 3pm Kick-Off

The opening will take place before 2pm and prior to ‘The Legends’ game kick off which is down for 3pm.

The Legends will be coming up against three different opponents on the day in three 30 minute matches.

First up will be a Castleisland Committee 11 made up of current and past players from the club. Next up the Volkswagen 11 will take to the field followed by a team made up of ‘Golden Oldies’ from the club’s successful 1998 team.

George Hamilton MC

The action on the pitch will be followed by a GALA dinner taking place in the River Island Hotel which will include a Question and Answer session with the professionals where George Hamilton will be the MC. The GALA dinner is already fully sold out.

Tickets to the match are almost sold out but are still available on the events dedicated Eventbrite page and you can click here: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/castleisland-afc-legends-for-a-legend-tickets-57689417601. More information and match build up is available on the Castleisland AFC Facebook page.

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