Several Ulster counties are set to reap huge benefits following the decision of the National Infrastructure Committee to grant-aid various Centres of Excellence projects.
Some €35m (£30.5) in total, which has been generated from the playing of international rugby and soccer matches at Croke Park, is to be distributed with €26m (£22.6) earmarked for these and other major capital expenditure undertakings.
In all, 98 capital projects throughout the country have been identified for grant aid and the fact that the cash benefits deriving from international matches at Croke Park will now permeate down to grassroots level is viewed as a huge bonus.
It had been initially decided at Central Council level that all counties would receive €250,000 (£217,500), which they could choose to either invest in county-type facilities or distribute between clubs. This will amount to an overall total of €8m (£6.9).
National Infrastructure Committee chairman Seamus McCloy, the former Derry County Board chairman, has spearheaded an in-depth analysis of various projects embracing clubs and counties throughout the country and northern counties now stand to gain considerably.
Antrim will benefit from the biggest hand-out of €2.2m (£1.91) for their new Centre of Excellence at Dunsilly and McCloy has revealed that part of this money has already been handed over to help pay for the purchase of the land.
Tyrone is to receive €1.9m (£1.65) in relation on to their proposed new centre at Garvaghey near Ballygawley which is expected to cost £6.7m overall while Derry will benefit from a €1.7m (£1.47) windfall in connection with the upgrading of facilities at their Owenbeg complex. Done
gal and Cavan will each receive €1m towards their Centres of Excellence.
For Antrim, Tyrone and Derry the financial aid will go a considerable way towards the overall costs of what are ambitious projects designed primarily to facilitate the development and preparation of county teams at all levels and in different codes as well as providing administrative offices and ancillary facilities.
Just recently Tyrone County Board officials along with Club Tyrone officers visited Stormont where they held a meeting with Sports Minister Nelson McCausland and other Assembly members in relation to funding from Sport NI for the Garvaghey project and are currently awaiting a response to their plea for funds.
And the Antrim County Board under its chairman John McSparran has been pressing ahead with initial work at the Dunsilly site which will in the near future house a comprehensive range of facilities.
In urging that a Centre of Excellence be set up in every county in the country, McCloy insists that this is the way forward.
“It is very important that we create facilities and amenities that can be availed of by future generations. The GAA will only become stronger if a rich legacy is left for those who will be coming after us and I would emphasise the utmost importance of building Centres that will prove monuments to our sports,” states McCloy.
But while a number of counties will now have their financial burdens eased, others will come under increased pressure to ensure that their flagship grounds comply with stringent Health and Safety standards.
McCloy has issued a strong warning that unless those grounds which currently do not meet such standards are appropriately refurbished by the start of the All Ireland Championship series in 2011 then they will be viewed as unfit to host major matches.
“All county grounds must comply with every detail of the standards or else they will be denied fixtures,” states McCloy.
Most of the major grounds in Ulster already comply with the regulations.