GAA & Community Official Opening

On Good Friday evening, St Peter's Club was honoured to have a number of distinguished guests, including GAA President, Christy Cooney; Vice President of GAA Ulster Council, Martin McAviney; former & current Armagh County Board Chairmen, Kevin Brady & Paul Duggan; former Chairman of the North Armagh Divisional Board, Malachy Heaney; and the founder of St Peter's Club, Canon Joseph O'Hagan - for what was a fantastic Official Opening of the Club's Community Sports Hall.  The hall was well presented and a packed hall heard speeches from Club officials, Benedict Lavery & Jimmy Magee, as well as from Christy Cooney and with many members & patrons taking the opportunity to view the Wall of Fame plaques, the night proved to be a wonderful occasion.  The theme of the opening was "St Peter's Club - Making it Happen".  Full transcipts of speeches from Benedict Lavery & Jimmy Magee are set out below.  Photographs will also appear later.

Benedict's Speech

 

As President of this Club, I want to extend a very warm welcome to the GAA President, Christy Cooney; to Martin McAviney, Vice-President of GAA Ulster Council who was also here in December; to Paul Duggan & Kevin Brady, Current & Former Chairmen of the Armagh County Board; and to our very dear friend and founder of St Peter’s Club, Canon Joe O’Hagan (affectionately known to us as Father Joe) and to everyone else who has come along this evening.

 

Those of us who were alive when John F Kennedy was shot dead can remember where we were at that time.  So too I hope that in years to come you all will remember where you were on Good Friday evening two thousand and ten.

 

As Jimmy has said, I was President of St Peter's Club when we opened the field and in the last 20 years I have seen this Club grow in all aspects both on & off the field.  And the official opening of the Community Sports Hall this evening is another step along that road as we try and make the facilities here in St Peter's better for all concerned in the early part of the 21st Century.

 

It is with great pride that I stand before you in this magnificent hall that I believe will serve as a lasting tribute to the dedicated work of so many people.  And with the plaques now in place in the Viewing Gallery, the names on those plaques will also be remembered for years to come.

And when I look around this hall, I also think back to our humble beginnings when we didn't have a football field or a set of football jerseys.  When Club business was done in a small tin hut and when our founding fathers got together along with our dear friend Father Joe to lay the foundations of what we have now achieved. 

 

When celebrating tonight and thinking of how far we have come and as we plan for future developments, I'd like you to pause for a few moments and remember those men who brought Gaelic Football to this part of Lurgan.  Those like Father Joe who decided to create St Peter's Gaelic Football Club and help to bring the community of Freecrow & Lurgan together through Gaelic sport & Gaelic culture.

 

I'd also like to you reflect and remember all the men and women who have over the years helped our Club move forward and make it what it is today and especially to those who have supported the development of this Community Sports Hall. 

 

And to our young members in particular, who after all are the future of St Peter’s, I'd like to ask that you respect this Club, that you respect this Hall, and that you listen to your coaches and youth leaders and those people who teach you the skills of Gaelic Football and try to make you better people as you make your way through school-life and take your place in our society.

Thank you again for coming along and enjoy the rest of the evening.

Jimmy's Speech

 

Ladies and gentlemen, boys & girls, we are about to start, can I ask you to give a very warm and a very loud welcome to the President of the GAA, Christy Cooney; Vice-President of Ulster GAA, Martin McAviney; Former & Current Armagh County Board Chairmen, Kevin Brady & Paul Duggan; Former North Armagh Chairman, Malachy Heaney; and the founder of St Peter’s Club, Canon Joe O’Hagan - as they make their way onto the stage.

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An Uachtaráin,  Aithreacha Oirmhinneacha, aionna uaisle agus achan bhall ata linn anocht, idir óg agus aosta - tá fearadh na fáilte romhaibh uilig chuig an ócáid speisialta seo ar Aoine a Chéasta do Chlub Naomh Pheadair, An Lorgain.

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An Uachtaráin, Martin, Paul, Kevin, Malachy, Father Joe, distinguished guests, Club Trustees, Officers, Members, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, you are all most welcome for what is an extra special Good Friday evening here in St Peter’s Club, Lurgan. 

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Jimmy Magee and as a member of St Peter’s Club I am deeply honoured to address you this evening.

When I spoke to Armagh Stalwart Jimmy Smyth to invite him to tonight’s event and asked him if he would be doing anything on Good Friday evening he said “getting crucified as usual”.  While this evening will not resemble a crucifixion, we do apologise if it has interrupted your Holy Week devotions but like Easter Sunday, we do hope it will be a truly uplifting experience.

The last time a GAA President was here in St Peter’s Club was 20 years ago when in 1990 Mr Peter Quinn officially opened St Peter’s Park after what was a difficult, sometimes unpleasant and had reason & equality prevailed a quite unnecessary battle with Craigavon Council could have been avoided.  Our Club president then as is now was Benedict Lavery and I’ll like to invite Benedict forward to say a few words.

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Thank you Benedict.  For those of you who don’t know, Benedict now has a blog on the St Peter’s website so if you want to hear more from our hard working President, please click on to www.stpetersgac.com.

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Tonight’s very special guest needs very little introduction.    

A native of Youghal in County Cork, he has given a lifetime of service to the G.A.A. both as a player and administrator at all levels.  He was secretary of the Youghal Juvenile Club at just 16 years of age. Has represented Youghal at both East Cork and County Level and held every position within his Youghal Club down through the years and was Chairman for 2 terms before becoming Chairman of the Cork County Board, Chairman of GAA Munster Council and now currently President of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael.  Please put your hands together for Uachtaráin, Mr Christy O’ Cuana.

Thank you Christy.  I’ve no doubt the Youghal Club and the residents of Youghal as well as the people of Cork & Munster generally are extremely proud of you.

We at St Peter’s Club are also very proud to have you with us this evening.  To mark the occasion, we would like to present you with a small token of our sincere appreciation.  Making the presentation will be our Social Club Chairman, Martin Lavery & Football Club Chairman, Michael Leonard.

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On 10 December last year, the Club was honoured to have DSD Minister Margaret Ritchie; the Mayor of Craigavon, Mrs Meta Crozier; Martin McAviney from the GAA Ulster Council who I’m delighted to say is back with us.  Last time as Treasurer and this time as Vice-Chairman of GAA Ulster Council so many congratulations Martin.  We also had various other guests, some of whom are also here this evening, for what was a lovely lunchtime occasion. 

In addressing the gathering at the time, I explained that two words could arguably sum up the cornerstones of our new Community Sports hall – partnership and volunteerism.  If I was to choose a theme tonight for this Hall and this Club it would be “Making it Happen”.  Because that is what took place, people working in partnership made this hall possible.

Those of us who attended Club Annual General Meetings in the run up to this project getting off the ground, were entertained year on year with the notion that some day we should and some day we would build a new Hall.  However it wasn’t until the AGM of 2005 that those attending took what many described as the courageous step to - Make the Project Happen.

Those in the Club who went on to engage with the Planners & Building Control personnel and then with the Suppliers of the Steel and those who helped lay the foundations at the time - You Made this Happen.

Those members who worked unselfishly on Saturday mornings and on evenings during the week when the weather and daylight were kind - You Too Made it Happen.

Club members, who helped to erect the scaffolding, mix and draw the concrete & the dash, order the blocks and materials, plaster the walls, install the electricity and help with the plumbing, painting & the joinery works they too - Made it Happen.

Those who babysat the project, attended hundreds of meetings and accumulated thousands of hours in order to get the right result, they were crucial in Making it Happen.

Our Club Trustees and Club Officers, including the 5 Club men sitting behind me (Benedict, former Chairmen Colie & John and Current Chairmen Martin & Mickey) who provided the required leadership and direction and then gave this project life & hope, they too - Made it Happen.

Then there were those who like Father Joe laid the solid foundations for this Club as well as those members who bought into our dream, a dream to build a Community Sports Hall but who sadly are not able to be with us tonight – they also, Ladies & Gentlemen - Made this Happen.

To those members and patrons who bought a plaque; helped with the Gala Night, the auction, the mobile home draw and contributed to the entertainment evenings; the Golf Classic and Cow Clap competitions; those who engaged with the Bank and the Brewery – they too contributed so much in terms of fundraising to create this building and deliver our dream.

To those in our Community who contributed financially or who sponsored various items, including building materials and equipment - some of whom requested no publicity, this hall would not have been possible but for your help and your support – and you too - Made this Project Possible.

To our contractors – initially Clarehill, then the main contractor Dickson & Henderson, Stephen Magee who supplied the M&E, and then Tullyraine Quarries – all of whom worked and moulded the raw materials and helped to create the Community Sports Hall and to the Club’s legal, accounting and technical advisers – Martin Campbell & Paul Haughey; Daly Park & Michael Lavery; our engineer Danny Costello and architect Shane McCorry, and colleagues at the Building Control Department in Craigavon, we say thanks for your support and for - Helping Us to Make this Happen.

And to the many people in this Club who do so much good work on a voluntary basis – be it our Executive, Ladies, Football, Social, Youth, Lotto, Bar, Finance, Fundraising and Hall Committees; our coaches, managers, coordinators, merchandise officers, youth leaders, referees & umpires, County, Minor & Ladies Board delegates, our child protection officer & grounds staff and drivers – to all of you we say thanks for your help in - Making this Happen.

And to the wives, husbands, partners & family members of those many people who are the volunteers and the backbone of this Club, we say thank you for giving them the time & the space and you too helped to - Make this Happen.

There are also the people who draw a salary at St Peter’s Club, people like Liam our Bar Manager and Alfie our Youth Development Officer through funding from Children in Need as well as people like Colette & Paul who provide a very valued service – they too made St Peter’s Community Sports Hall possible.

To the other GAA Clubs in the area, our Development Officer Liam McCorry, the Divisional North Board that was recently stood down and to the former and current GAA County Chairmen Kevin Brady & Paul Duggan, County Development Officer Seamus King, and to Martin, Paul Sanders & Geraldine McKavanagh at Ulster Council thank you all for your interest as we in St Peter’s strived to - Make this Happen.

To the stakeholders in our Community including our schools and our delivery partners, notably the Education & Library Board (Roisin, Eamonn and Tonia) as well as Wanda and Colin from Craigavon Sports Advisory Council – each of you along with your colleagues also have helped to - Make our Dream Possible.

To the parents, grand-parents & family members as well as to our players & youth club members, we say thank you for also - Making this Hall possible.  

To our patrons including our constant bingo followers who despite the economic recession have been loyal to this Club and attend functions and enjoy what the Club provides, thank you for - Making this Happen.

And there are the funders without whom the Hall would not be open for business.  So to Frank Boyle and to Harry Baxter at the Bank of Ireland we say a deep sense of thanks for helping to make this possible.

At the beginning of these few words, I mentioned two cornerstones that underpin this Community Sports Hall – partnership and volunteerism – and I trust from what I have described in the last few minutes you can appreciate why those two characteristics gave life to this hall.  However, I’d like to add another two without which our journey and our success story would not be complete

Since we applied for funding to the Department for Social Development here in the North of Ireland, the Club has developed a strong partnership with DSD and its agent, Cooperation Ireland.  These relationships have only been possible because of the flexibility and professionalism from the two main officials who have worked closely with the Club and its Build Committee.  The other two cornerstones are what I call The  2 Cs and come by the name of Colette and Carolyne and I would like to ask both ladies to step forward to receive a small token of our sincere thanks from Uachtarán, Christy Cooney for all their help and support to date.

Thanks again Colette and Carolyne.

Since embarking on this journey just over 4 years ago there have been many bumps along the way but at no time have we been diverted away from our goal - the creation of this Community Sports Hall.  While credit for this can and should go to various people, I’m sure Club colleagues particularly those on the Build Committee will forgive me if I single out one particular individual. 

This person brought professional expertise that did not exist within this Club.  This coupled with their networking skills, positive attitude and commitment together with a keen sense of purpose & focus kept all of us on track.  During the last 4 years we have all got to know each other a little better and we would regard this person as a friend and a true Lilywhite – not that this quality was ever in question.  For the next presentation by Christy Cooney, I’d like to call Oonagh Nutt forward to receive something that is from the heart.

Amazing Oonagh, one week you’re sharing a stage with Liam Neeson at the Emerald Ball and the next it’s John McStravick.  Doesn’t get any better!

When welcoming you all here, I mentioned the opening of St Peter’s Park in 1990.  At the time the acquisition of our own pitch gave us a sense of place and a sense of pride.  Somewhere where the bond of family and friendships are inextricably linked and are framed within history and tradition

Securing our pitch also gave us a sense of self-worth and the confidence to embrace new challenges and new opportunities.  Be assured the fact that we have this new Community Sports Hall does not represent our destination rather it’s simply another step on our journey as St Peter’s Club continues to grow and develop.

Further work is required to our infrastructure here at St Peter’s, including the need:

·        To landscape the surrounding area and refurbish the old Youth Club;

·        To build the walk-way down into the field and on a more medium term path;

·        To construct a 3-G pitch that will replace the all-weather facility.

However as many in the Hall will appreciate the challenges facing us are not always physical. 

As a Club we also need:

·        To ensure that our governance arrangements remain strong;

·        That our membership reflects society and we do more to attract and facilitate the involvement of women in all aspects of Club business;

·        That we communicate more effectively especially with parents who entrust their children in our care;

·        That as players we respect the GAA, this Club and the Club jersey;

·        That we ensure our coaching standards are moving forward and that our regard for referees and match officials are beyond reproach;

·        That we contribute positively to the debate on urbanisation and other issues facing the GAA community;

·        That we continue to engage and challenge our local Council to better accommodate Gaelic sports and not allow soccer to have a monopoly on playing & training pitches within the Borough;

·        That we do what we can to address the growing problem of drug & alcohol misuse particularly among our young people;

·        That we do more to encourage a culture of collaboration by local GAA Clubs and remove the arm around the homework attitude – and we do everything we can to better promote our sports & our culture in this part of Ireland – as our dear departed member and former Senior Team Manager Joe Haughey often said – Gan Teanga, Gan Tir – without a language there is no country;

·        In doing so, we invite other cultures to enjoy our national past-times. And

        As a Club we do what we can to make our communities healthier, stronger & safer.

There is no doubt this hall has and will present its own challenges.  In our application for funding to DSD the members of St Peter’s Club set out its vision and objectives for the Hall – shared space, shared place.

Since opening its doors various sporting – including Armagh under 21s and the Armagh Minors, as well as a number of local GAA Clubs plus soccer & rugby teams; local schools; cultural and community organisations from a wide spectrum of faith and non-faith groups from all sections of the local community have used the facilities here thus buying into our vision of - shared space, shared place.  

And with the facility also available to all our local schools and community organisations and a major Giving Blood campaign taking place later this year, even greater numbers will continue to use the hall and even more people in our society will benefit.

However in many ways the hard work has only just started.  Once we turned the key and the building was open to the local community the focus of our responsibility shifted from build to maintenance and growth and the need to ensure these facilities continue to be managed and promoted as a shared place for everyone regardless of their gender, age, community background, religious belief, political opinion or ability.

At the lunch in December with Margaret Ritchie, the Mayor, Martin McAviney and others, I referred to the words of Doctor Martin Luther King and I believe it is appropriate to repeat them again this evening when he said:

I look forward confidently to the day when all who work for a living will be one with no thought to their separateness. This will be the day when we bring into full realization the dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed; a dream of a land where men will not take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few; a dream of a land where men will not argue that the colour of a man's skin determines the content of his character; a dream of a nation where all our gifts and our resources are held not for ourselves alone, but as instruments of service for the rest of humanity; the dream of a country where every man will respect the dignity and worth of the human personality.

Be assured Uachtaráin, Martin, Paul, Father Joe and distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, boys & girls, St Peter’s Club stands very proud of its GAA traditions and values - those very same qualities Father Joe that you bestowed on this Club almost 70 years ago - but we also recognise our responsibilities in working to share our resources to improve the quality of life here in Lurgan for all concerned. 

We believe this new facility will contribute to a better and a more shared future; a place that will foster greater social cohesion and partnership; a place that will encourage a greater number of young people and older people, some of whom reside in areas of social disadvantage, to participate in GAA and other sports & physical recreation; and a place where people will feel safe and enjoy the arts, drama, GAA and other cultures & other pastimes as we grow and develop as a Club and as a Community.

To bring this part of the evening to a close and before I invite Uachtaráin to declare the Club officially open, I’d like to take you back almost 70 years ago, when this Club did not exist.  It was a time when work and money was scarce; where family values were strong; when you could have left your door open knowing that your neighbour would ensure your house was safe; when only those who had cars were teachers, solicitors and tax men; when most correspondence was handwritten and computers were only being invented; when going to a physio was a wet sponge and a rub of the relic; when Michael O’Hehir was emerging as the voice of sport; and the people running committees and looking after teams didn't have to worry about Child Protection, or who was washing the Club jerseys because we only had one team - our Senior Men and therefore only one set of jerseys and only then with the help of flour bags from the Mill that was then across the road.

At that time one person small in stature had the vision and the human touch to engage with key people from the Freecrow Community and between them they established St Peter’s Gaelic Football Club.  Despite being 99 years young, I’m delighted that he was able to make the journey from Hilltown in County Down tonight.  Ladies & gentlemen, could I ask you to give a standing ovation to our Club founder Father Joe O’Hagan as I invite Christy Cooney to make the final presentation of the evening.    

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I should now like to invite Uachtaráin Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Christy Cooney to unveil the plaque and to officially mark St Peter’s GAA Community Sports Hall open for business. 

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Could I now ask all Trustees, past Chairmen, members of the Club’s existing Committees and members of the Club’s 1951 Championship Team, former Chairmen and Coaches to make their way forward to the stage for a few photographs.  [I also would like Father Joe who has a special place in our hearts to be in the photographs].

Ladies & gentlemen, while the photographs are being organised, can I on behalf of St Peter’s Club thank you for your attention and patience and for coming along this evening. In a few minutes, refreshments will be served at the back of the Hall and there will be further opportunity for photographs.  In the meantime, if you would like to go and view the plaques in the Viewing Gallery feel free to do so.

 

 

 

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The Club’s new Community Sports Hall was opened on Thursday, 10th December by the DSD Minister, Margaret Ritchie.  Also attending were the Mayor of Craigavon, Councillor Mrs Meta Crozier; Ulster GAA Treasurer, Mr Martin McAviney; Dolores Kelly, MLA; Local Councillors; Monsignor Hamill; Father Krzystof; Trustees, Officers and Club Members and various special guests including people representing gaelic, soccer and rugby; local schools, business and community organisations; as well as those persons and organisations who were instrumental in the planning, design and building of the new complex. 

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With a 10,000 sq ft sports hall complete with changing, shower and toilet facilities for able-body and disabled members/patrons, referee and physio rooms, fitness area, viewing gallery, office & meeting rooms and kitchen service area plus access to free onsite car parking, the new complex is ideal for sporting and community organisations. 

 

For more information on the facilities, including booking and charging arrangements, please contact – 0777 588 3676. 

Main Hall

Main Hall

View from Gallery

View of Main Hall from Gallery

Changing Room

Male Changing Room