Tyrone floods: ‘We tried to do what we could but ... we had to give up’

GAA club pitch and pavilions submerged in a sea of water, says chairman Seamus Boyle

Clean up is taking place after flash floods in Donegal. Paul Bradley home was partially destroyed, while Gerard Gallagher narrowly missed a collision as trees washed down a hill near his house. Video: Peter Murtagh/Irish Times video team

 

On a summer’s evening in late August the Under 16 boys and Under 12 girls from Beragh Red Knights GAA should have been getting ready to take on rivals Drumragh.

But this week the fixtures, like many others across Tyrone, are just one of the many casualties of the devastating floods to hit the county.

Instead of lining out to support the U16s and U12s, their families were instead lining up on Thursday night to mop out, clean up and power wash the Beragh Red Knights pavilion, which like its pitch at St Mary’s Park, had been submerged in a sea of water following the storm.

The GAA club like a multitude of homes, businesses and farms across Tyrone had been ravaged in just a few hours by the savage storm on Tuesday night.

By the time it settled the Beragh Red Knights pitch and pavilions was submerged in a sea of water which in some places, according to club chairman Seamus Boyle, had reached a “good three feet”.

The storm could not have come at a worst time for the GAA club, which has been a victim of flooding more than once in the past.

It had fundraised last year to raise money to fund flood defences at its grounds and was in the process of securing planning approval for its plans.

Mr Boyle had hoped that work would start next month on the final flood defences.

So when he got the phone call late about the latest flooding at the club late Tuesday night both his and many of the club’s committee hearts sank.

“We knew there was a yellow weather warning in place but we just couldn’t have imagined that it would have been so bad, we tried to do what we could but by 2 o’clock we had to give up there was no stopping it and we had to go home - not that anyone got much sleep that night,” he said.

But what happened next was as much a force to be reckoned with as the storm itself.

A trickle of volunteers, including Mr Boyle, arrived at the club first thing the morning after the storm to start the clear up process.

They were quickly joined by scores more.

Within hours thanks to a combination of pumps and hard work the water levels began to fell and within 48 hours - despite what, at first glance, would have appeared an impossible task given the volume of flooding - they had the GAA pavilion back up and running again.

“We’ve got great members at Beragh Red Nights GAA, we’re a very strong community and there was a great response to what happened - people really turned out to help and sort out what was left behind by the storm.

“Although it has still been very bad - especially for Breacach Handball Club, which is based at the pavilion because while the tiled floors will dry out the wooden floors here are another matter and then of course there’s the pitch which was under so much rain.

“It will take months before we are really back on our feet but the doors are open again,”Mr Boyle said.

For the club, which has more than 250 members, the most important thing he says is that it shows they could not be defeated by the storm - which he believes might be a good omen for when Tyrone meets Dublin at the GAA Football All-Ireland Championship semi-final in Croke Park this Sunday.

“There has to be some glimmer of light from all of this - I am not saying that it is going to be easy to beat Dublin but our members are very cheery lot, we’ll be down for a while but then we come back and right now we’re hoping for a Tyrone win,” Mr Boyle said.