“If you build it, they will come.”

Report by Heike O’Sullivan

Alright, I may have slightly adapted that quote from the 1989 movie ‘Field of Dreams’, where Kevin Costner is told, “If you build it, he will come”, to suit the purpose of this report of mine. I hope you will forgive this transgression as I think the quote applies well to a new project planned for Kenmare in the near future.
As an avid reader of the Kenmare News, your favourite free monthly magazine, you may have seen the small announcement in last month’s issue, for a Compact Athletics Training Facility Kenmare Athletic Club proposes to build in our town.
This badly needed outdoor training facility is to be located within the grounds of Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine, adjoining the school’s sports field. Conor Daly, Kenmare A.C.’s Chairman, stresses how valuable the support of the school’s Board of Management is in trying to get the project off the ground and says, “Our Club is deeply grateful to the Board because the location within the heart of Kenmare is more than ideal.”
The clever facilities layout within the site allows for a number of Track & Field disciplines to be catered for. The planned four-lane Sprint Track with its synthetic surface will double as the Long Jump runway, and part of the Javelin runway. The sand pit with its removable cover will accommodate Long Jump as well as Triple Jump athletes. The High Jump installation will also feature a mobile cover to protect the mats when not in use. There will be two Shot Put circles which may also serve as Discus and Hammer bases if safety nets would be installed in a future, further phase to the development.
The Club’s invitation to tender closed on 18th January last and they are currently reviewing and evaluating the tenders received. The Club has applied for 75% part funding under the Rural Development (LEADER) Programme 2014-2020, administered by South Kerry Development Partnership, and hope to be awarded this essential capital grant without which the project cannot progress. A decision is expected by the end of April.
Kenmare Athletic Club reformed in 2009 after more than ten years of slumber. Registrar for the Club, Tessa Dennison, tells me, “There are currently over 250 juvenile and master athletes (35+ years) registered with the Club. That makes us one of the biggest clubs in the country. We’re actually the only Kerry athletic club whose membership had gone up and not down from 2015 to 2016. Most members fall into the U5 to U19 categories. The annual registration costs only €30 which includes accident insurance for the athlete.”
Kenmare A.C.’s competitive activities have yielded fantastic results. “We have held the Kerry Juvenile Cross Country Shield for the past five years, and last year, we won the overall title at the County Development Indoor Games,” Tessa says. “This January, we’ve already had great results at the Kerry School & Colleges Cross Country Championships, with Liam Palmer winning the Minor Boys competition, and Kenmare finishing first home in the Intermediate Girls segment. Unfortunately, our Club has also had some very sad news when Mamie McIntyre, a leading light of Kenmare A.C. of old, passed away in January.”
Not having any facilities of their own, the Club’s Cross Country runners train three days a week at the Faungorth Activity Centre. Indoor training for all members takes place at Kenmare Shamrocks’ sports complex and also Pobalscoil Inbhear Scéine’s gym. However, athletes requiring facilities for disciplines such as Long and Triple Jump have to commit to travelling all the way to An Ríocht A.C. in Castleisland who boast a state of the art sports centre. Despite such obstacles, Kenmare A.C.’s Field & Track athletes are very successful in national competitions. Can you, dear Reader, image how much more glory they could bring to Kenmare if they would have the opportunity to practice several times a week, in their hometown? Locally available training facilities may also attract yet more members to the Club, which leads us back to Kevin Costner. And to Sean O’Dwyer, master athlete with Kenmare A.C., who won the Men’s 75+ years High Jump and Long Jump competitions during the GloHealth Master Indoor Championships in Athlone in March 2016. I’m sure that Sean would love to see the Club’s membership go up even further, and pass on the secret of his success to today’s aspiring young champions.
“Our planned Compact Athletics Training Facility would, of course, not just benefit our Club,” explains Conor Daly, “Hundreds of students from our local national and primary schools would also use the facility. It might also help to get more teenagers off the couch and get active in their free time.
“Our target at present is, to hopefully be LEADER grant approved. Then, we will still need to raise 25% of the overall cost of the development from within the community, approximately €25,000. Kenmare A.C. runs ongoing fundraisers such as the upcoming Kenmare Bridge run on 15th April, and the very popular ‘Couch to 5k’ program which has started in Kenmare again just last Monday. Once we have got the go-ahead, we will have to put our thinking caps on and see what we can do to come up with the local contribution towards the finance of the project.” Conor has promised to keep us all updated on this exciting development.
In the meantime, if you are a business owner dedicated to your community or a generous individual and would like to contribute to the planned Compact Athletics Training Facility, please phone Conor on 087 2670992.
If you’re interested to join Kenmare A.C. and would like more information, or if you would like to register for the 2017 Kenmare Bridge Run contact Louise on 085 1110777.
The ‘Couch to 5k’ plan runs for eight weeks from 13th February and Margaret McCarthy on 087 2493782 has all the details.