A timely phonecall from United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was enough to guarantee funding from Stormont for the Tyrone GAA Centre of Excellence in Garvaghey, it has emerged at the recent Tyrone county convention.
Informed sources locally also say that prior to her visit to Belfast earlier this month, Clinton made an intervention that led to financial aid totalling £1.34 million from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.
That financial pledge has sealed the future of one of the most ambitious development projects within a county, delighting GAA officials who had been concerned at what was perceived to be a lack of support from DCAL.
The fundraising structures within Tyrone are highly-motivated, organised and mobilised. Up until this point it appeared that their expertise in securing 'patrons' for the Garvaghey project, along with a number of other initiatives from Club Tyrone, would supply all the funding for the Centre of Excellence within the county, situated close to Ballygawley. However, this injection of funding will considerably ease the financial burden.
While the Garvaghey project was conceived and dreamt up during a time of unrivalled prosperity in the country, those responsible decided to press on and complete the job.
Chairman of the Club Tyrone fundraising body, Hugh McAleer, told delegates at the county convention: “My understanding is that it was no coincidence that the announcement of funding for Garvaghey came just before the visit of Hillary Clinton |(pictured) to Belfast.”
The links between Tyrone GAA and the wife of former US President Bill Clinton, have been traced to Carrickmore man Mick Treacy.
Treacy is a prominent member of the Democratic Party in Philadelphia, and it is understood that he had made an important representation to the current Treasurer of the party in the city.
Speaking to the Ulster Herald newspaper, Treacy commented: “I wouldn't like to take credit for any intervention on the part of Hillary Clinton.
“But the issue of funding for Garvaghey was something which I did mention to a high-ranking Democratic Party official.”
He continued, “My view is that the Garvaghey project is of great significance for the future development of the Gaelic games and culture in Tyrone and I am a great supporter of what is being done there.”
However, not everyone is delighted with news of Stormont's funding to this project.
A series of contributions from the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, totalling £850,000, has been heavily criticised by Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice.
In May of this year, £250,000 was awarded to the flagship centre for an environmental and heritage project at the site, and last month, £595,000 was made available for a floodlit 3G multi-purpose pitch.
However, the Garvaghey complex is expected to officially open in September of 2013 and with it, Mickey Harte and Tyrone will hope, the beginning of a conveyor belt of exciting new talent for the county sides.