Cork GAA club focus: Douglas upgrading to cater for incredible demand

Douglas caters to huge numbers in hurling, football, camogie and ladies football from U5 up
Cork GAA club focus: Douglas upgrading to cater for incredible demand

Aidan O'Connor, then club chairman, and Finbarr Kearney, underage chairman, with Douglas' Cork minor and U20 footballers in 2019: Cian O'Leary, Alan O'Hare, Eoghan Nash, Shane Aherne, Conor Russell and Brian Harnett. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

BACK in June, Douglas GAA welcomed Taoiseach Micheál Martin to the club to officially cut the ribbon following the completion of some significant redevelopment to their facilities.

A big crowd was in attendance on the day to mark the occasion but this was just the end to phase one of a much bigger redevelopment plan that the club is undertaking to ensure it achieves more on-the-pitch success in the future and caters to its ever-growing number of players.

“We are currently undergoing our club development plan, it’s a three-year plan and we are currently in year two of that plan,” begins chairman Brendan Murray when speaking to the Echo recently.

“Phase one of that plan was launched by Taoiseach Micheál Martin back in June, he cut the ribbon on phase one of the plan which had to do with the club’s facilities.

“We refurbished our clubhouse, we put in a new ball wall area, we refurbished and re-lined our car park and we also built a new club shop.

“So now we are in the midst of working on phase two which is to add flood lights to one of our main pitches and then next year we will begin phase three - the final phase of the plan - which will involve building a full-sized Astroturf pitch.

“I took over as chairman in December of last year but it was in January 2021 that we formed this three-year club plan and I was the chairman of the committee that was behind it.

“The feeling at that time was that we were after falling behind some of the other clubs in terms of facilities.

“We really needed to increase the capacity of our pitches for example due to the increase in the number of players joining the club.

The 2022 U15 Douglas panel won the Division 1 Shield at the John West Féile na nGael. Picture: Fintan Clarke.
The 2022 U15 Douglas panel won the Division 1 Shield at the John West Féile na nGael. Picture: Fintan Clarke.

“We had already begun the process of upgrading our clubhouse so we just needed to complete that project and then upgrade a number of the other off-the-field facilities as well as the on-the-field facilities.” 

And while those plans are firmly in place, Douglas GAA is also set to confirm another significant change in the near future as it officially becomes ‘one club’ by welcoming the Ladies Gaelic Football and camogie teams into their setup.

 Douglas' Michelle Kenneally, Eanna Downey and Sinead Kearney at the Gaelic4Mothers and Others football blitz at Mallow. Picture: David Keane
Douglas' Michelle Kenneally, Eanna Downey and Sinead Kearney at the Gaelic4Mothers and Others football blitz at Mallow. Picture: David Keane

The club’s female players will then continue to have the same opportunity as their male counterparts to develop as players under the excellent coaching structures that Douglas have introduced across the board this year, which has already yielded huge success at underage level and the hope is that it will lead to more senior titles being secured in the not too distant future.

“The club has grown massively over the last few years. Another thing we did as part of our development plan - which is very significant - is that we agreed to form one club,” adds Murray.

“We will have one executive committee running the three sides of the club such as the GAA, the LGFA, and the camogie.

“We are in talks about doing that now and it will be completed at the AGM at the end of this year.

“There have been a lot of big changes at the club recently between the facilities and the one club but also in terms of the coaching element of things.

 Gavin Webb, Douglas Games Promotion Officer, Dylan O'Leary, One Arena, Brendan Murray, chairperson Douglas, and Edward Finn, One Arena. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Gavin Webb, Douglas Games Promotion Officer, Dylan O'Leary, One Arena, Brendan Murray, chairperson Douglas, and Edward Finn, One Arena. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

“We employed a full-time Games Promotion Officer, Gavin Webb, this year, we are the first club in Cork to have a full-time Games Promotion Officer.

His role is basically to work with schools and develop the GAA side of things in the schools and he has a role in the club of improving the overall coaching standards and its structures as well.

“He has been there since May and he has already made quite a significant difference really. He has been very good with the schools, he has started to work with the junior infants and senior infants which is something we felt was important to do.

“And in the club then he has brought in his own coaching manuals for example and it is important for coaches that when they are running training they have a manual to go to and build on. He has made a massive improvement at the club.

Eoin Cadogan with defensive hurling advice for young hurlers at Douglas. Picture: Larry Cummins
Eoin Cadogan with defensive hurling advice for young hurlers at Douglas. Picture: Larry Cummins

“We also recently reached an agreement with an external gym, One Arena, and they have come on board as a partner for the athletic development of the teams in the club.

“It’s all about putting a structure in place that can achieve success on the pitch. We’re doing well at all levels but with the underage, the most significant thing that has happened is the under 15s qualified from Cork for the All Ireland féile in both football and hurling.

“It was the same team that qualified for both and I think that is the first time any club in Cork has achieved that which is a good sign of the on-the-pitch success we have had recently.”

ABOUT DOUGLAS

Membership: 3,000 across the GAA, camogie and ladies football sections. 

Number of teams: 130 

Major GAA honours: 1997 Premier Intermediate Football; 2000 Intermediate Hurling; 2004, 2013, 2019 Premier Minor football, 2015 Premier Minor Hurling, 2008 Kelleher Shield; 2009 Premier Intermediate Hurling; 2016 U21 Hurling; 2017 U21 Football.

Douglas' Shane Kingston celebrates a goal. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Douglas' Shane Kingston celebrates a goal. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Camogie honours: Junior A County 1980, 2005; Senior B County 2007; Senior A County 2008, 2011; Senior A League 2008, 2015; Minor County 2008, 2009, 2010; Féile Cork 2002-2006, 2008, 2009, 2014; Feile na Gael All-Ireland; 2004-2006, 2009. 

LGFA honours: 2011 Junior C County; 2013 Junior A Munster 7s; 2013 Junior B County League; 2013 Junior B County; 2018 Minor B; 2019 U21 B County; 2019 Junior A League; 2019 Minor A Mid Cork League; 2020 Junior A County runners-up.

Famous players: Eoin and Alan Cadogan, Shane Kingston, Sean Powter, Kevin Flahive, Ronan McCarthy, Katrina and Pamela Mackey.

Facilities: 4 x full-size grass, 2 x grass training areas, wall, Astro, clubhouse, function room.

GREAT VOLUNTEERS

AIDAN O’Connor served Douglas GAA as their chairperson of the Executive Committee up until as recently as last November while he also helped in the club in a number of other roles.

He is a perfect example of how a club can become such a big part of your life, even if you weren’t born in the locality.

“We had just moved from Dublin to Cork in late 1999 and after two Saturday mornings bringing my young fella to street leagues, the great Finny Kearney spotted me and before I knew he had me reeled in. All of a sudden I was coaching the U7s and 22 years later the rest is history,” admits O’Connor.

“I'd have to say winning the U21 hurling championship in 2016 was special. It was a well-run competition, full on every week with some great games. I remember a really tough game with Charleville in Mallow and it culminated with a tight win over Blackrock in the final.

“But the club means everything to GAA people. I’m originally from Kildorrery and I moved from there to Dublin where I played with St Maurs in Rush, a great country club in Dublin, and then to Douglas.

That's where my lads started playing and they still play there. They are Douglas through and through.

“It’s a club where my lads made friends in a healthy environment guided by great volunteers and more importantly made friends from playing Gaelic games from other clubs.

“We as a family owe a huge debt to Douglas GAA for what everyone there has contributed to us over the years and all of that was on a voluntary basis.

“Without the volunteers, all clubs across all codes couldn't possibly continue."

CLUB MEANS FAMILY

DOROTHY McSweeney has served Douglas GAA as the manager of their club shop and as an avid supporter from the sidelines for over the past two decades.

But she is a perfect example of how a club can become such a big part of your life purely through your family connections.

“I got involved with the club about 22 years ago when I met my now husband. He was so involved it was not an option but to be involved too,” she jokes.

And that decision to get involved has led to her enjoying some memorable moments with the club while their passion for all things Douglas GAA has also been passed down to the next generation.

“There have been many highlights through the years from Douglas winning counties, both hurling and football, and the celebrations that followed, to bringing our son to join street leagues aged four and watching him grow as a player now at minor level. with many other occasions enjoyed both on and off the pitch,” adds McSweeney.

What the club means to me is simply family. From my actual family who are all involved down through the generations to my Douglas GAA family.

“When I became involved with the club I didn't realise that when you’re in, you’re in. I started off as a supporter watching my husband playing and now our son playing.

“But it wasn't long until I got pulled into committees, currently involved with the club shop along with my daughter who keeps us all in line, not to mention still a supporter roaring at the sideline.

“So needless to say Douglas GAA has brought me many good friends, many good times with many more to come I hope.”

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