THE members of Erin’s Own GAA club are very unhappy in the aftermath of the allocation of funds to various clubs and organisations in the form of Sports Capital Programme grants.
The thriving East Cork club in the parish of Glounthaune boasts some of the best facilities in the county and beyond at their base in Caherlag, but according to club chairman, Tom Aherne, they have not been given the financial support that others have received, not receiving a penny of the cumulative €37m from public funds.
And they are up in arms, chairman Aherne claiming it’s not a level playing field when allocations are decided and was quick to point to two grants of over €140,000 — close to the maximum limit — dished out to rugby clubs in Dublin. He also noted numerous clubs in the capital received grants of well over €100,000, and believes there should be a re-balancing with the rest of the country.
Aherne said Erin’s Own wished all the recipients well and said he was fully aware of the tremendous voluntary work being done all over the county.
“As sportsmen, we wish them all well as they continue to enhance their facilities. They deserve every penny they get — but why didn’t we get a copper out of the €4.18m funding allocated for Cork?
“We did get a grant last year for the relaying of our main pitch which had become pretty bumpy and prone to holding water. But that was the first time in 10 years we received an allocation and, to complete that project we had to raise almost €50,000 ourselves.
He went on: “We built a ball wall and laid out an astro pitch two years ago, costing €220,000, and not a cent did we receive from the Government. That was paid for through our own fundraisers, so it’s clear we have been playing our part, with support from the Munster Council of the GAA, County Council, and our members and friends in the parish.
“Our latest application was for the draining of our secondary floodlit pitch which has become unplayable in winter.
“As a result, the strain now goes back to the new pitch, which will be in huge demand from the hundreds of boys, girls, and adults who train every week. Count in 800 new houses being built within a two mile radius of the club, and it’s clear our facilities will be seriously overstretched.
“In the meantime, we have been looking on as other more influential organisations continue to receive multiple allocations.
“I met club and Cork hurling legend Brian Corcoran last week and he was as baffled and disappointed as I was about the lack of funding and questioning whether we had been down this road before.”
The chairman continued: “The Department of Sport maintain the main criteria for scoring grants points includes, and I quote, ‘the likelihood of increasing sports participation and the funding received by a club previously’.
“We did increase our participation big-time with the astro project — but how can we boost numbers with our secondary pitch unusable in winter?
“Of course, that in turn leaves the floodlighting system redundant which is a great shame because it would allow the East Cork Board, our senior club, the Ladies Football Club and Camogie Club to host some late winter games at our grounds.
“The funding is announced with great fanfare but for the clubs sidelined without explanation, it has become heartbreaking and frustrating, leaving us forever wondering why we are penalised.
He added: “These grants are game-changers, and the club’s future depends on them, but the frustrating aspect is that we can never plan ahead because we don’t know if the goalposts will be changed again. Will it be next year or will it be another 10 years before we get a look in?
“In fairness, Social Protection minister Regina Doherty admitted in the Irish Examiner last week that the grant allocation system is not fair, and demanded ‘root and branch’ reform.
“In a week that closely resembled a game of political football, she claimed there was ‘spit and hair’ flying among Fine Gael politicians after grant details were selectively leaked early to some TDs.
“It was also reported junior minister Patrick O’Donovan went ‘ballistic’ over the leaks.
“This money is not charity. It’s paid for by the taxpayer, and there needs to be more transparency regarding decisions made about allocations. If the powers that be paid a visit to our headquarters in Caherlag, I’m sure they would then get a clearer measure of our worth and the validity and urgency of our application.
The chairman concluded: “A new round of applications will open in the coming months and I know every club cannot be facilitated, but the record shows we might be better off writing to Santa Claus.
“Like many, many other clubs, we still live in hope.”