Cobh boy Stephen Ireland home to see new state-of-the-art football pitch

“It’s an honour and an emotional time for me to see what has been built here in my name,” he said. "I feel very proud and grateful and of course, excited to play on the pitch on Saturday."
Cobh boy Stephen Ireland home to see new state-of-the-art football pitch

Stephen Ireland, Cobh Ramblers, winner of the CSL U13 Player of the Year, with Michael O'Driscoll, AIB sponsors. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

ONE great Island, four great clubs with one goal, to develop football for the kids in the community.

Cobh community will come together this Saturday and celebrate years of hard work and dedication to see their Cobh4football project come to fruition. 

The newly built 4G astro-pitch at Old Church Park will be a hive of activity for the official opening and a feast of football will take place throughout the day with special guest Stephen Ireland, who the pitch after.

The official cutting of the ribbon will take place from 11am, followed by various matches involving Cobh Ramblers, Cobh Wanderers, Springfield, Springfield Ramblers, a Stephen Ireland XI and the Ramblers women’s teams.

Cobh4Football, in association with Cobh’s four football clubs, will also hold a not-for-profit celebration dinner dance in The Radisson Hotel, Little Island that evening.

For too long Cobh’s approach to the sport was tribal and fractured. However, almost four years ago Cobh football enthusiasts embarked on a mission to assist in changing this approach.

They set out a meeting with all four clubs, town councillors and began consultation with the trustees of the Stephen Ireland Transfer fund about the possibility of getting an additional full‐size all‐weather facility installed in the town.

One that would serve all four clubs and not any one club. Some said that they could never get all four clubs in the same room positively discussing a solution that would benefit all four, but in 2018 that is what happened.

And it is now fantastic to see such a facility come to fruition. It might be an eye-opener for many other communities who have a lot of teams in their area and instead of pulling against each other all the time, maybe they could do something as wonderful as Cobh have.

Manchester City's Stephen Ireland celebrates scoring a late Premier League winner at the City of Manchester Stadium. Picture: Clint Hughes/PA Wire. 
Manchester City's Stephen Ireland celebrates scoring a late Premier League winner at the City of Manchester Stadium. Picture: Clint Hughes/PA Wire. 

The Stephen Ireland Transfer Fund was created from the success of one of Cobh’s most prestigious sporting talents. He is a Cobh boy to the core. Growing up he honed his skills on the Russell Heights green.

How fitting then that his success would help greatly in assisting with the funding of this project in his community. Admirable also by the fact that this fund is geared to helping improve the standard and ability of Cobh’s young people.

I caught up with Stephen recently and it was a pleasure to listen to him speak so fondly of his hometown and how proud he was to have the facility to be named in honour of him.

More importantly, he talked about how proud he was to bring high profile players over to play this Saturday to give a lift to the entire community of Cobh.

“It’s an honour and an emotional time for me to see what has been built here in my name,” he said. "I feel very proud and grateful and of course, excited to play on the pitch on Saturday.

"Cobh has produced me as a player and as a person. My Dad was the main figure in that as a kid and we had some really good coaches and passionate selfless people helping with whom I grew up here playing as a kid.

"My team was exceptional and I have no doubt that many other kids should have made the step over to the UK but didn’t. 

"Cobh has a lot of talent in its area and I hope this facility can be another tool for them to develop and chase the dream I was lucky to live.” Although Ireland has played his part in producing such an amazing facility, he was quick to praise others for their hard work and determination over the years.

“Mark and Jim Farrell have done incredible work on the project over many years, they deserve a lot of credit for their persistence as well as their vision. 

"They worked closely with all the Cobh teams to get this right and it’s a stunning set-up. At the moment there’s a new 4G astroturf pitch with floodlights finished but alongside it will be a grass pitch also which is under construction at the moment.

“It’s great for Cobh to have this now. I think it’s been crying out for it for a long time and I’m certain it will be a huge success.

“I’m bringing a squad to play in the game on Saturday and to open the pitch officially so I’m working on that at the moment but Cork Airport been closed is an obstacle but I think I’ll have four lads from the UK coming over with some ex-team mates who are from Cobh combined to make up my squad. 

"I hope to have some of my family on the day along with some friends so it should be a nice day and evening.

Stephen Ireland blasts home the match-winner for his country against Wales in the European Qualifying game at Croke Park. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Stephen Ireland blasts home the match-winner for his country against Wales in the European Qualifying game at Croke Park. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“I’m totally blown away that I was able to assist on this project but as I said Mark and Jim Farrell deserve a lot more recognition for this than myself as they’ve worked extremely hard day in day out with this for a very long time.

"I really hope the facility can play a pivotal role now for kids here as there’s a lot of talent untouched here in Cobh. "There’s a lot of passion for football here so let’s hope this can help produce some good players but most of all give kids the best chance to do so.”

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