St Brigid's given grounds for celebration
Belfast club St Brigid's GAC are celebrating another milestone in the short history of the club after being granted £750,000 of funding and planning permission to develop their grounds at the Musgrave Park site.
St. Brigid's, who have a unique ground sharing relationship with Harlequins Rugby club in Deramore Park, are being funded by Belfast City Council (BCC), and the Ulster Council of the GAA.
The club itself are also raising £200,000, with new club sponsor McGrady Insurance agreeing to provide financial support to St. Brigid's over the next five years.
St Brigid's are the adopted club of outspoken television pundit Joe Brolly and Shane Finnegan, the clubmate and coaching colleague who Brolly agreed to donate his kidney to in late 2012.
According to club chairman Dermot Dowling, the development of Musgrave is crucial to the ongoing development of the club.
The former Sigerson Cup-winning manager of the Queen's University team of 1993 said: "The news that we have received planning permission and a commitment to funding from Belfast City Council and the GAA for our Musgrave site is fantastic."
The funding will be put to use in the building of state of the art changing rooms, the main playing pitch will be extended and floodlighting will be erected at the Stockman's Lane facility.
"Along with a new sponsor in McGrady Insurance," Dowling added, "We can forge ahead with growing our club and providing the opportunity for teams to compete across all juvenile and senior sections."
Although only established in 1998, the club has grown significantly to become one of the biggest GAA clubs in Ulster with 870 members, fielding 16 teams across juvenile and senior, football, hurling and camogie.
After first growing a playing base from youth teams, they entered the senior Antrim county leagues soon after and enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks to where they are now as an established force in the Division One football league.
In the meantime, they have produced a raft of recent and current Antrim players, quite an achievement in an area where there was no Gaelic football tradition until the advent of the club.
Deaglan O'Hagan, Ryan Daly and Willie McSorley have all played for Antrim, while Ronan McGrady is part of Liam Bradley's current panel. James Loughrey is a former player and is one of the most highly-rated players in Ireland, now that his performances have been highlighted since moving and transferring to Cork.
Dowling, himself a former Armagh player, has been there for the emergence of the club.
He said: "We have had a magnificent response from the people of south Belfast and from our inception, the welfare of the youth of the local community became the foundation upon which St Brigid's GAC has been built.
"Key to this has been very positive working relationships with schools across south Belfast to provide the opportunity for pupils to enjoy sport.
"The development at Musgrave will support those credentials and we would like to recognise the role that Belfast City Council and the Ulster Council have played."