ARMAGH have made history by becoming the first county to have a designated ladies training facility.
As Gaelic Life can exclusively reveal, Armagh LGFA have secured the lease for McKeever Park in Killean with £100,000 to be pumped into the facility to make it the home of ladies football in the Orchard county from u-13 right up to senior.
The venue had been the home of now defunct St Michael’s club and Armagh LGFA development officer Barry McGurgan, former chairperson Owen Reel and treasurer Vincent Mallon have spent the last number of months getting the deal over the line.
As part of the plans, the existing pitch will be completely replaced with changing rooms and a new drainage system also included in the plans.
Unsurprisingly, the plans have been backed by all 30 clubs that fall under the Armagh LFGA banner.
“The hard work that our committee have put into this great initiative is unbelievable and this will take all our teams to the next level, in particular our senior ladies county team who travel the length and breadth of the county in order to find a pitch to train on,” said current chairperson Sinead Reel.
“We are, as far as we know, the first county in the whole of Ireland to have our own training facility. We are no longer relying on the good will of clubs and also no longer having to pay out money for pitch hire facilities, which is a massive saving on our limited funds.
“We would love to have the backing of all Gaels in Armagh to help us achieve the targets we have set on building the future for ladies football in our county.
“We will be organising fundraising events in the near future and the backing of the whole county would be an invaluable asset to our cause.
“Personally I would like to thank the people of Killean, in particular the Brennan family and Miceal Connolly along with the Killean Sports and Recreation Association, Coiste Cillin.
“We will work hand in hand with Killean Primary School and Coiste Cillin to help them revive the community of Killean by putting this excellent facility on the map.”
Current Armagh captain Caoimhe Morgan said that the difference in terms of preparation would be huge for the senior team, and those players coming behind them.
“This historic milestone in Armagh ladies football will prove invaluable to the progression of all our ladies teams,” she said.
“Having had the honour to play for Armagh for a number of years I, along with my teammates, experience the uncertainty of training venues and the lack of appropriate facilities.
“I believe that this base for all of Armagh ladies will ensure we grow and progress our teams. It must not go unmentioned the tireless work that Sinead Reel and Barry McGurgan have put into securing this wonderful opportunity.”
Those sentiments were echoed by joint-managers Fionnuala McAtamney and Lorraine McCaffrey.
“It is a very exciting and ground-breaking development for ladies football in Armagh,” the said in a statement.
“This remarkable vision of the county board means Armagh has the first female dedicated GAA facility in the country. It also, however and more importantly, means that the female footballers of our county are finally on the move towards having proper access to facilities – access that will respectfully reflect the dedication, commitment and sacrifice that these young women make to represent their county and clubs.
“It is a vital development for the female county teams who are plagued year in year out with having no access to training and playing venues.
“Having our own facility also means that ancillary services such as physio, strength and conditioning, nutrition can all be properly delivered.
“All and all it is a very welcome development that is a long time coming. It will serve as inspiration to the young girls aspiring to play for their county and for those already with the privilege of playing for their county it will be nothing short of what their commitment and sacrifice deserves.”