Down GAA to use former British army base as new training centre

The military base traces its history to the Napoleonic wars 200 years ago

Down’s Connaire Harrison celebrates scoring a goal against Monaghan in last month’s football qualifier at Croke Park. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Down’s Connaire Harrison celebrates scoring a goal against Monaghan in last month’s football qualifier at Croke Park. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

 

Down GAA have announced they will be taking over a site previously used as a British army base at Ballykinlar, to develop as a “centre of excellence”.

The GAA have been in discussions with the Ministry of Defence around leasing the site and developing the former army training base.

In 2014 the last stationed battalion vacated the Co Down base, which has since then been used as a military and police training facility.

On Thursday, the Down GAA county committee agreed to enter into “advanced negotiations with the Ministry of Defence” over leasing the site.

The Down county committee proposes to develop the training facility into “a multi-purpose GAA complex”.

In a statement released by Down GAA they outlined: “While a new complex will cater for the training and administrative needs of Down teams in all Gaelic Games codes, it will also be a significant resource for the Ballykinlar club and the local communities.”

The agreement to enter into advanced negotiations with the Ministry of Defence was described by the club as “a major step towards a new centre of excellence project at Ballykinlar.”

The military base traces its history back to the Napoleonic wars 200 years ago, where it was used as a training site, and it has been owned by the British Ministry of Defence since 1901.

The Northern Irish base was last used as a resident barracks for the 2nd Battalion The Rifles (2 Rifles), who moved to Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn, outside of Belfast in 2014.

The Down senior football team have trained in the local Ballykinlar GAA club grounds for a number of years.

In November 2016, a Ministry of Defence review of the United Kingdom’s defence strategy outlined the Ballykinlar barracks would be decommissioned by 2018.

During the Troubles, a 300lb IRA bomb killed two soldiers in 1974 at the military base, also known officially as Abercorn barracks.