“THIS is a great day for the people of Clara,” declared proud Clara GAA Chairperson Michael Sheridan as the ribbon was cut heralding the official opening of Pairc Phroinsias on Sunday evening.
“We have a tradition we are immensely proud of and this a truly historic day for our club,” continued Mr Sheridan who was introduced to the attendance by MC and 2011 All-Ireland SHC Final referee Brian Gavin who welcomed the dignitaries present, including GAA President Liam O’Neill, Offaly GAA Chairperson Pat Teehan, Fr Keary PP (who blessed the new facilities), Clara GAA President Brian Cowen, Deputy Barry Cowen TD and Cllr Dervill Dolan.
Acknowledging the support of local banks and the credit union for lending financial assistance for the purchase of the convent in 2007 and subsequent development, Mr Sheridan said they commenced work ‘on the tail of the Celtic Tiger’ and that the financial institutions had ‘bigger fish to chase’ than Clara.
After welcoming the Kilkenny and Offaly teams, local players, the Clara Town Band, Clara’s All-Ireland winning Scor ballad group, main sponsors Baggott’s, and all past officers, players and supporters of Clara, Mr Sheridan said it had taken a lot of hard work to bring the development project to this stage.
“I sincerely hope that all our present day players appreciate what has been done for them and will use these facilities and always respect our proud tradition and hand this on to the next generation,” commented Mr Sheridan.
He explained the committee always had a vision for the end product and they were delighted with the result. “What we have here today we can be very proud of. This was not possible without our members and supporters in Clara, all parts of Ireland, England, USA and all over the world. I wish to thank you all and long may it continue. I also have to thank Central and Leinster Councils, Offaly County Board, the National Lottery, banks and Credit Union.”
Mr Sheridan ended, “We have come a long way but a lot more needs to be done and that’s the challenge that faces the next generation of Gaels in Clara. It will be your duty to pass on what you inherit to the next generation in a better condition than you received it.”
GAA President Liam O’Neill, who earlier in the afternoon witnessed his native Laois lose out to Longford in the Leinster SFC, said he was delighted to be invited for an occasion that marked a significant step in the development of Clara GAA Club. He congratulated everyone involved with the club and referring to their financial burden he said Clara was very important to the Association and with support they’d get through this ‘difficult patch’. He added, “I hope my presence is visible evidence of the support that you have from Croke Park.”
Mr O’Neill commented, “The provision of top class facilities is something we all aspire to and to this end Clara has been hugely progressive developing state of the art facilities, which includes five pitches and a pavilion with offices, changing facilities and meeting rooms.”
He concluded, “Famous names in refereeing, administration and of course playing have passed through this club in the 127 years of its existence and it is days like this that will ensure the interest in our games and activities remains as strong as ever in Clara for many years to come.”
Clara GAA President and former Taoiseach Brian Cowen wished GAA President Liam O’Neill every success in his new role and said the new facilities at Pairc Phroinsias were a product of huge work and commitment by the Clara GAA committee.
He paid tribute to Club Chairperson Michael Sheridan and his committee for their many hours of endeavour ‘much of it on a voluntary basis’ and he reminded the youth of Clara to appreciate the new facilities and make optimum use of them.
Offaly GAA Chairperson Pat Teehan hailed Clara GAA as a wonderful club that embrace all facets of the association. “The facilities provided by Clara are a true testament to the work and commitment by many volunteers that have been such an integral part of the club since 1884. The manner in which the facilities are maintained are a real showcase for the GAA in Offaly and we are delighted, that for the past two years, we have been able to enter into an agreement with Clara which allows our county football teams have a base for training.”
Mr Teehan added, “I wish to congratulate Clara GAA club and take this opportunity to thank all the gaels, men, women and children of Clara for their devoted loyalty and self-sacrifice which kept alive the ideals of the GAA in the community. Long may it continue.”