Ministers Impressed by ‘Extraordinary Levels of Commitment’ at An Ríocht AC

An Ríocht AC committee members and guests pictured during the ministerial visits on Sunday night. Included are from left: Cllr. Fionnán Fitzgerald, Joe Walsh, Minister for Education Norma Foley, TD; Denis Brosnan, club president; Jack Chambers, TD, Minister of State for Sport, Gaeltacht and Defence and Larry Hickey. Back row: Stephen Moore, secretary and athletics coach; Ailís Brosnan, Bill Costello, Jimmy O’Connell, Teresa Walker, secretary and juvenile athletics coach and Marie Hickey. ©Photograph: John Reidy

An Ríocht Athletic Club management and membership turned out on Sunday night to welcome Minister for Education and Kerry TD Norma Foley and her party and government colleague, Dublin West TD Jack Chambers, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for Sport, Gaeltacht and Defence.  

The government representatives were on a tour of Minister Foley’s constituency to see for themselves the differences made by last month’s injection of capital to over 80 sports clubs in Kerry.

The clubs shared a pot totalling over €5.5m in funding under the latest round of the Sports Capital and Equipment Programme (SCEP) and An Ríocht benefited to the tune of €138,631 in this round.

Primary Vehicle for Support

The Sports Capital Programme is the primary vehicle for government support for the development of sports and physical recreation facilities and the purchase of non-personal sports equipment throughout the country.

Ministers Chambers and Foley, who were delayed on their extensive tour of the clubs, were warmly welcomed when they got to Castleisland and they were given a run-down of the club, its history and membership details.

One of the club’s founder members and greatest advocates, Denis Brosnan welcomed the ministers and told them that its coaches and facilities cater for children and teenagers from a broad hinterland.

Laughter and Heady Excitement

As if to underscore his point, a burst of laughter and heady excitement invaded the hall through the open door to the track as the children were clearly making the most of a rare, late Sunday night bed time in the company of parents and coaches.

“But” Mr. Brosnan continued, “The club is interested not only in athletes but it caters for a wide age range of people in the community and he made special mention of the Couch to 5K initiative which gives local people the incentive to get up and get out walking and jogging and just being active.

€7,000 Bi-Monthly Electricity Bill

He also outlined the plans for the club including the installation of solar panels to reduce the almost €7,000 bi-monthly electricity bill burden on the facility.

Another founder member, Joe Walsh then took the baton and emphasised the need for, not only the grants just awarded, but for the club to be in with a chance of further funding.

“We have a great crop of young athletes under the guidance of Teresa Walker and Stephen Moore and we’re expecting some great results from them in the upcoming national finals.

“The whole community in Castleisland benefits from the club here and we also look after the town park – the only athletic club in the country to do so.

Pounding on Norma’s Door

“It all costs a lot of money and we’ll keep pounding away at Norma’s door for the funding to help keep it all going,” said Mr. Walsh.

Cllr. Fionnán Fitzgerald welcomed Minister Chambers to Kerry and to Castleisland in particular and he thanked the minister for his attention to the needs of the area – ‘which goes back well before this day and I know that from personal experience,’ he added.

“A lot of money came to clubs in Kerry recently and all through, Dara O’Connor in Minister Foley’s office and I’d like to thank Senator Ned O’Sullivan and Senator Mark Daly who also worked with you.

World Medals and Records

“Castleisland is an area that punches well above its weight when it comes to sporting prowess and that’s not said glibly. Look at Mick Galwey in rugby and John Lenihan in world athletics. There are world medals and records standing in this area. Keep an eye on us Minister,” advised Cllr. Fitzgerald.

Club coach Stephen Moore then told the gathering that they were preparing a group of seven young athletes for the national finals and, just earlier, that day club athletes had won Munster medals. “We’re really punching well in athletics. We have up to 160 children in training with us, the facilities are great and we want to keep it going,’ said Mr. Moore.

Ambition and Extraordinary Volunteerism

Minister Norma Foley then praised the ‘extraordinary volunteerism – that’s second to none’ in the area.

“I know it’s An Ríocht – but it’s Kingdom by name and Kingdom by heart and there’s a place for everyone here.

“The funding is necessary and it’s significant but what’s going on here couldn’t happen without the extraordinary levels of commitment and volunteerism and the boundless ambition which is so much in evidence here – you can see it in all that has been achieved here,” said Minister Foley.

Success History of the Club

Minister Chambers wrapped up the informality of the speeches by telling the gathering that he had noticed the successful history of the club chronicled through the photographs dotted on the walls of the long corridor from the reception area to the hall.

“The sports capital fund may provide the incentive to put all these facilities in place but it would not happen without the commitment and the volunteerism which is catering for youth and sporting opportunity in our communities.

Public Representatives and Strong Advocates

“ I know that your public representatives are strong advocates for what you’re doing here and I know we will have further rounds of the fund which may help further your ambitions and plans and I thank you for your welcome,” said Minister Chambers before heading out into the cold night air to meet the children as their extended night of fun on the track was winding down.

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