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Ex-Celtic manager Martin O'Neill objects to kids' football pitch in Donegal beauty spot

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Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill

Derelict Horn Head House which is near the site of the proposed development by Dunfanaghy Youth FC

Derelict Horn Head House which is near the site of the proposed development by Dunfanaghy Youth FC

The site plan of the proposed development in Donegal

The site plan of the proposed development in Donegal

Martin O'Neill

Former Northern Ireland captain Martin O'Neill has objected to plans for a new football ground for children in Co Donegal.

He is seeking to block an application for the sports facility, submitted by Dunfanaghy Youths, who have been homeless for almost two years.

The proposed development includes a playing pitch, training pitch, spectator stand, clubhouse and associated facilities.

O'Neill lives in London but owns Horn Head House, a derelict 18th century country house, in the Dunfanaghy area.

In a written submission to Donegal County Council, the former Celtic and Republic of Ireland boss said his primary issue concerned environment and safety.

"Ultimately, Horn Head, a secluded and protected area, with especially high scenic amenity status, is simply not appropriate for a large public gathering facility, i.e. a stadium," O'Neill stated.

"First, the environmental impact of erecting stadia in this area of scenic beauty must be recognised. Horn Head is renowned not just locally, not just in Donegal, but also throughout Ireland and would be adversely affected by this proposed development."

O'Neill continued that the natural wildlife of the area 'would be seriously affected by the proposals'.

"Access and safety will be compromised by any such stadium construction," he added. "Further pollution concerns are obvious: traffic congestion, floodlighting and noise pollution."

O'Neill did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Dunfanaghy Youths have been homeless since being served with a notice to quit the pitch at Kill, Dunfanaghy, they had been playing on for over 25 years.

The club won the John Gorey Curran Cup in May 2018 and in December 2018, when they were operating without a home pitch, won the Donegal Youth League.

Dunfanaghy Youths FC caters for boys and girls up to Youth League (under-18) level. In recent times they have been using the pitch at PCC Falcarragh for some home games and the community pitch in Creeslough for small-sided games and some training.

Finn Harps captain Mark Anthony McGinley is a product of the Dunfanaghy Youths conveyor belt, while several players have gone on to play in the Ulster Senior League. The club - who had over 130 players registered in 2019 - said the proposed development is their 'one and only option' to source a home.

O'Neill was a two-time European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest, as a player.

He won 64 caps for Northern Ireland and captained them at the 1982 World Cup, where they famously beat hosts Spain.

Later he managed the Republic from 2013 to 2018, taking them to the Euro 2016 finals.

O'Neill's submissions, dated May 5, include a seven-page document in which he outlines his objections under headings including environmental concerns; contravention of development plan guidance; the site's planning history; traffic and pedestrian access; and changing the character of Horn Head.

He wrote: "If permitted, the development would be in use on a daily basis.

"Long winter evenings would necessitate the use of floodlighting which will have direct impeach on wildlife and the nearby residents.

"The single file laneway upon which it is proposed the public and developers will access the stadium is the same access serving only five existing properties and it would certainly be unable to cope with what is being proposed.

"Serious practical problems for this very private area will arise; as it is likely the public would use the laneway as a turning and parking opportunity on match and training days."

The Dunfanaghy Youths application was supported by letters from the FAI and the Donegal Schoolboys League.

A decision is due on July 7.

Belfast Telegraph