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Flooding costs add up for Ulster GAA clubs

Pitches around Ulster are under water after recent rain

By Declan Bogue

The Maghery club in Armagh could be facing costs of up to tens of thousands of pounds in damages to their property, following the recent flooding at the edge of Lough Neagh.

It's a scenario affecting dozens of sports grounds around Ulster, but the Maghery club has been particularly hard hit because of its loughshore location.

Although no exact figure can be put on the cost of repairing the damage caused until insurance agencies begin to assess the extent of the damage, club Chairman Sean Cushnahan and assistant Chair David Nugent spelled out how much havoc the floods have wreaked.

Cushnahan told the Belfast Telegraph: "There's not much we can do at the minute. The insurance company has to wait until the water subsides before they can go in to assess the damage.

"We spoke to the county board and they have told us to activate our insurance. There are a brave few outbuildings there, we have outside toilets in containers that have wooden floors and the floors will be damaged.

"We have our kit stuff in sheds there, all our tackle bags, our balls and our bibs, that's all destroyed as well. I honestly couldn't put a figure on it. The amount of damage, we don't know. The heaters and boilers are all destroyed, the water came up that fast."

There is a serious issue over raw sewage, as Nugent explained.

"The water has come up past the level of the outlet, filled the sewer up and come back up through the backpipe of the toilets and showers. It's just a mess," he said.

"It's going to be a few months before we can get going again. Training was meant to have started already, so we will have to use other facilities.

"There's a bad frost coming in now, and the tarmac at the front is completely flooded now. If it busts, then we will have to start re-tarring again."

As well as the flooding, two burners at the facilities have been ruined, - one to heat the showers, the other to heat the clubhouse.

A smoking area, which was constructed with timber decking, along with the cellar for supplies at the bar, are submerged.

The surprise to many is that there is no living memory of the area having to cope with such floods.

Asked if the pitch has a history of flooding, Cushnahan replied: "Never. Honestly, our pitch was done up recently. We spent a serious amount of money, it was all self-funded, there were no grants or anything for it. It was a new facility we opened up and our pitch is actually raised a bit.

"To be honest, we have never seen the like of it. I know there are elderly people in Maghery that have said the water has never been as high as that before."

The Rivers Agency has been sympathetic and has supplied sandbags that have been built up across the front of the clubhouse.

However, this will be a long process. Cushnahan explained: "We don't know the damage until the water goes away, and then we will find out if the water has gone above sub-floor level, over the damp-proof course. I don't know what the damage will be.

"We have activated our insurance at the minute and we just have to get the assessors in when the water subsides."

Maghery only have one pitch, and their pre-season now depends on the generosity of other local clubs allowing them to use their premises.

Staying in Armagh, Collegeland O'Rahilly's are well used to their pitch flooding, but dreading the extent of the damage that lies beneath after the latest series of torrential rainfalls.

Back in 2009, a video clip of somebody with a jet ski gliding over the water on the pitch went viral, but club PRO Tommy Mitchell maintains that this flood is the highest-ever level.

"The whole pitch was flooded and it came up onto our car park and that's how we know it has been the highest it has ever been. It's equal to 2009 at least," he commented.

The fact that the pitch is constructed on reclaimed bogland makes it extremely vulnerable to the banks of the Blackwater, which is notorious for running over.

"Occasionally, we would have black oak coming up with the water, it brings black oak to the surface," explained Mitchell.

"That would have to be dug out. We haven't had to do that in a little while, but we would be fearful that would be the case this year.

"It has happened to us before. We have had to spend additional money every year when there is a big clean up required."

He added: "I don't know the exact cost. There would be damage to our advertising signs and things like that.

"Our fences are damaged. Potentially, you could be talking about between one and two thousand pounds to repair the damage."

Belfast Telegraph


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