ONE day last week I had the pleasure of visiting the splendid Bride Rovers GAA complex in Rathcormac.
The purpose of the visit was to throw the eye over the latest upgrade in their facilities.
The upgrade included the installation of a new seating area, the ongoing development of a juvenile pitch and the plans to develop a portacabin which will house a new kitchen and be able to cater for 200 people.
The whole thing was hugely impressive but it was just another illustration of what’s going on throughout the length and breadth of the GAA landscape.
The Bride Rovers development could be applied to a vast number of clubs and of the efforts of the local community in making it possible.
It’s mind-boggling really when you enter some of these GAA complexes, the transformation of what was once just a green field into a state of the art facility.
Millions of pounds have been spent on these ongoing developments ensuring that future generations will be well catered for and that the GAA will always be foremost in the communities.
In all cases the effort is voluntary, the generosity of the members is staggering coupled with the workload.
Over the past 40 years or so I have been very fortunate to visit a lot of GAA facilities throughout this county and the question has often been posed, what are your favourite grounds?
They are certainly numerous but we’ll just list a few here.
I suppose the fact that I am a proud East Corkman and plus the fact that my own club, Castlemartyr played there so often in the 1960s, Clonmult Memorial Park in Midleton would feature right at the top of the list.
Back in those early days of our youth, East Cork junior hurling finals were a massive attraction, capable of housing attendances of up to 5, 000 people.
In those Summer Sundays in the 1960s you had thrilling showdowns between Castlemartyr and Carrigtwohill.
The balance of power shifted regularly between the two and one year they had to play three games to decide the issue.
The atmosphere in those times was electric, our young lives were consumed by those days and Midleton’s pitch was where it all happened.
Today it remains a wonderful facility and a venue that should be given the opportunity of housing a lot more games.
Of course, the Midleton club will shortly have a brand new complex off the old Youghal Road to unveil and, by all accounts, it will be something else.
But we’ll always have a soft spot for that grand, old venue off the Mill Road.
Another venue that one looks forward to going to is the Aghabullogue club grounds in Coachford.
The pitch there is one of the finest in the county and the viewing facilities are second to none.
Great work has also gone on down the years in Ballygarvan, there’s plenty of parking there, the welcome is always there too and it’s a ground that I like.
Bandon on a big West Cork football derby game has a great and unique atmosphere too when the sun shines and the local bragging rights are of the utmost importance.
Ballincollig is another splendid venue in Mid Cork and with a big audience, the atmosphere is first class too.
Here in the city, Ballinlough is an old and great favourite of this observer. The bank on the venue houses both sets of supporters and the banter can be fierce at times.
There was always a great welcome in Ballinlough for the reporter on duty, so many great memories of the place.
It’s a similar story in the wonderful Mallow complex, people like Paddy Sheehan and John Dineen always on hand to assist.
Riverstown is another favourite venue, the home of Sarsfields now a complex second to none and not too far away, Caherlag is now a splendid and vibrant place as is the brand new facility in Killeagh.
Fermoy GAA grounds is another venue that you would never say no to visiting, Pat and Tommy O’Brien always more than helpful on arrival.
There are so many more, too numerous to mention here and huge credit must be given to all those who made these venues into what they are today.
Of course, when you have people in Bride Rovers like John Arnold you are halfway there anyway.
It wasn’t a hundred years ago that you had to tog out by the side of the ditch, you had a shower afterwards alright but only if the heavens opened.
But time moves on and you got to move with it, otherwise you won’t be in a position to attract new members.
It’s these aforementioned places that make the GAA so special and before we conclude we’ll go back to where it all began, our own place in Castlemartyr.
Today the club boasts two of the finest pitches in the county, again all down to the local volunteers on the ground.
Going back there is always special, so proud of what we have.