The concerted drive by Club Tyrone to raise funds for the county’s proposed new GAA Centre at Garvaghey, near Ballygawley, will be taken to a new level next Friday when triple All Ireland winning manager Mickey Harte will be part of a delegation that will jet out to the US on a fund-raising mission.
Harte will join Club Tyrone chairman Hugh McAleer and liaison officer Mark Conway on a whistle-stop trip that will take in Philadelphia and New York in a bid to bolster the Red Hands coffers to help offset the cost for what is viewed as one of the most ambitious projects of its kind in the country.
The Tyrone GAA centre is expected to cost £6.7m and while substantial financial aid has already been secured including the €1.9m (£1.65m) promised by Croke Park yesterday, Club Tyrone is determined to explore every avenue to bring in more cash.
Harte, McAleer and Conway will make presentations in Philadelphia and in Rosie O’Grady’s famous hostelry in Manhattan to invited audiences in the hope of obtaining generous donations towards the Garvaghey project.
Omagh accountant McAleer, a driving force behind the fund-raising campaign, denies the transatlantic trip indicates that the Garvaghey project has been hit by the global economic downturn.
“The land (40 acres) is already bought and paid for and work is actually starting on five of the six pitches next month,” said McAleer.
He stresses that Club Tyrone is “well on target” to reach its own target of £1.5m that it plans to contribute towards the project.
“We actually never intended to seek support in America,” McAleer points out, “But Mick Treacy, a proud Carrickmore man in Philadelphia, invited us over and set up a function and one thing led to another. We live in the real world, things are not as good as they were, but we're happy that it won't be a wasted journey. How good it will be, I don't obviously know yet.”
Tyrone officials remain hopeful that the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure will, through Sport Northern Ireland, provide £1m towards the Garvaghey undertaking. Just last month, officials from the county met Sports Minister Nelson McCausland and a group of Assembly members to press their case for funding.