President performs official opening in Ferns
Wexford GAA Board celebrated a milestone date in their proud history on Sunday with the official opening of the state of the art Centre of Excellence at Ferns.
The event marked the completion of the opening phase of this ambitious project which has been in the planning and construction stage for the past four years, with an investment of €1.6m in the construction phase following the purchase of lands - with the cost being met from county funds along with grants from Leinster Council and Croke Park.
While the facility is now up and running and available to county teams for training, Wexford G.A.A. received a timely boost in mid-week when Government Chief Whip, Paul Kehoe, announced a grant of some €200,000 from the Government Capital Sports programme.
The grant was warmly welcomed by County Chairman, Diarmuid Devereux, and will now enable the completion of a fully-equipped gymnasium, and kitchen facilities, along with the floodlighting of a third pitch.
The Centre of Excellence is currently comprised of four pitches, two with floodlights, and a magnificent centre containing state of the art dressing-rooms, and which on completion of the gymnasium, kitchen and dining area facilities, will be one of the most practical and modern centres for players to prepare into the years ahead.
But before the official ceremony got under way, the County Chairman asked those present to stand in a moment's silence as a mark of respect to the families who so tragically lost their lives in that terrible fire tragedy in Carrickmines in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The facilities were blessed by Bishop Denis Brennan, assisted by Fr. Odhran Furlong, the G.A.A. Spiritual Director, in front of an attendance that included Government Chief Whip, Paul Kehoe, Minister Brendan Howlin, Deputy John Browne, Sen. Michael D'Arcy, Cllr. Tony Dempsey, Chairman Wexford County Council, and G.A.A. Central Council delegate; Cllr. Malcolm Byrne, Gorey District Council Chairman; Margaret Doyle, County Secretary; Noel O'Keeffe, Vice-Chairman; John Horan, Leinster Council Chairman; Angela Slattery, Croke Park Finance; Sheamus Howlin; Joe O'Shaughnessy; Coiste na nOg Officers, Bobby Goff, Angela McCormack, Marguerite Furlong, Marian Doyle and P.J. Howlin; officers of Club Wexford and Wexford G.A.A. Supporters' Club, along with the Chairperson of the Camogie Board, Angela Gahan, and her fellow officers.
Diarmuid Devereux said it was such an important ceremony for the G.A.A. family in Wexford as four years ago, if someone said they would be standing here and opening a centre of excellence, few would have believed them.
He told those present that this Centre of Excellence followed on from the inspiration of their camogie teams winning All-Ireland titles, to the winning of three provincial Under-21 hurling titles in a row and a Leinster intermediate hurling title along with a Leinster Junior football title, while also winning a first provincial Under-21 football title.
The facility, he said, was aided by generous sponsorship from Tom and Patrick Doyle of Halo Tiles who gave such outstanding financial support, Furlong Agri Supplies, and the O'Regan family.
He also paid tribute to Micheál Mahon, their main consultant, the contractors, Brendan O'Connor, for their magnificent work and wonderful finish to the building, Davy Tobin, Kehoe Brothers for their excellent work on the pitches, Leinster G.A.A. Council and Croke Park for their financial support, along with his fellow officers.
Describing it as a practical Centre of Excellence, Leinster Council G.A.A. Chairman, John Horan, spoke of the council's delight in being involved in such a wonderful venture, and he looked forward to once again seeing the county's supporters travelling in their thousands to Croke Park for matches.
They brought such colour and it would be great to see them back.
G.A.A. President Aoghán O Fearghail spoke of the passion that's Wexford, and said it was lovely to see this motto being implemented.
He also said he was delighted to see the crests of 49 clubs displayed on the wall.
While speaking of his pleasure at seeing such a facility, the President also said that he was delighted to have seen it in full use during the hosting of the national Féile Peil finals.
He said that in 1969 only three clubs owned pitches, but this had since transformed, with all clubs now owning not just one pitch but several pitches along with facilities.
'People may ask what the G.A.A. does with the money and where does it go?
'82% of the money goes back out again into the provision of such facilities, not just at county level but also clubs. We are the only sporting organisation in Europe where money goes back out again for the building of such centres as this,' he added.
'This is a wonderful facility. Wexford now has wonderful facilities, and two Government Ministers, Paul Kehoe and Brendan Howlin, who have the money.
'You (Wexford) can and should be right up there with the best. Not only should you be there but you can go and achieve it.
'Only seven people were in Hayes Hotel when this great organisation was founded but given such a presence here today, Wexford with the support it has can go right back up to the top,' he said.