Kevins GAA club oppose proposed sale of section of Dolphin Park

Lack of adequate green space a burning issue in most densely populated area in Ireland

A section of the playing grounds at Dolphin Park, at the far left of the above picture are, are to be sold.

A section of the playing grounds at Dolphin Park, at the far left of the above picture are, are to be sold.

 

Concerns have been raised over the sale of a section of the Dolphin Park playing fields in south inner city Dublin, belonging to Templeogue Synge Street and shared with the Kevins hurling and camogie club.

The park is on the edge of the most densely populated area in the country. 

The GAA has approved the sale as part of a plan to develop the existing facilities and help furnish a debt which it assumed from Templeogue Synge Street, although the Kevins club are campaigning for a change of heart.

Founded in 1902 and the oldest continuous hurling club in Dublin, Kevins is entirely dependent on the sharing of Dolphin Park and believes any loss of playing place will negatively impact on an already deprived area of the city. 

Dolphin Park, on the Crumlin Road just south of the canal, currently consists of two adult pitches and three juvenile or “cross” pitches, and by a tenancy agreement is shared by both clubs. Templeogue Synge Street currently field 26 teams, while Kevins field 18 teams in hurling and camogie, making for a combined 44 teams. 

The Kevins club actually services eight parishes, running from Meath Street in the Liberties to Dolphin’s Barn north on the canal, an area which also includes 11 schools, 10 of which have no green playing space whatsoever. That’s an estimated 4,500 children are under the age of 14.

Some of these issues were highlighted in the recent fallout from the Sports Capital Grants allocations, the club located in the heart of Dublin 8, an area currently without a single full-size playing pitch, despite a population of around 50,000 (or 12,176 residents/sqkm, the densest in Ireland). 

According to JJ O’Mahony, chairperson of the facilities group at Kevins GAA, the concern is not any allocation of funding, but simple access to playing space which can never be recovered once sold for property development purposes. 

“The key issue here is this is the only green area we have, on the edge of the most populated part of Ireland,” says O’Mahony, a Cork native living and working in the Kevins area for the last 20 years.

“If this goes ahead, we reckon we will lose about 28 per cent of the playing area, by the time they replace the existing car parking and dressing rooms. 

“We don’t want a handout, or financial support, because we know there are clubs all over the country with issues. In 116 years of existence we’ve never asked for anything. We’re just looking to build a clubhouse, improve the facilities, without losing any of the land. 

Litmus test

“And for us, this is a litmus test for the GAA. Are we a community based association, or are we more focused on the finances? Is the GAA about developing community, or developing property? Because the GAA finances can resolve this.” 

The GAA has responded sympathetically, also highlighting some of the practicalities.

“The GAA have been aware of this, at both county level and indeed central level, for the last number of months,” says Alan Milton, GAA’s director of communications. “And we have been involved in the discussions, and would have met all parties concerned. 

“It is only a small portion of the land, on the side, and I think everyone involved accepts that the site and the facilities do need development and investment. That’s the driver behind this, and there is still plenty of space and facilities there for the ongoing playing of Gaelic games. That would have been a concern to us, but that’s not in jeopardy. It’s not the majority of the land by any means, and that’s our key driver. 

“There are practicalities at the heart of this too, the club needs to develop the facilities, and this is one realistic way of doing it, to raise funds, and if it’s an attractive proposition, it’s the club’s prerogative to do so. And we aren’t going to manage every single arrangement between clubs around the country. And with any club where there are build-up bases, that remains a challenge. And they all work closely with the city authorities to try to put the best foot forward.” 

Dublin City Council has approved plans for one multi-purpose playing pitch in Dublin 8 as part of the redevelopment of the Teresa’s Gardens flats complex, although that’s not due for completion for another five years. In the meantime, according to O’Mahony, the Dublin 8 area continues to face challenges far beyond the lack of sporting facilities. 

“Sport is a matter of life and death for some kids in this area, no doubt about that. For many years Kevins has helped tip many of them in the right direction, away from drugs, crime. We don’t go shouting about this. We’re more about working with the community than we are being a hurling club. 

“This is a fantastic facility, and we appreciate working with Templeogue Synge Street, appreciate their position. But once you cut into this land, you can’t play hurling crossways on those smaller pitches. Maybe football, but certainly not hurling. 

“In the last few years we’re starting to make huge inroads in the community, the club growing 20 per cent year-on-year. We used Dublin’s own Blue Wave strategy as our blueprint. One of the key issues was how do you gain access to participation in the inner city. Now that we get the numbers, they’re pulling the carpet from under us.  

Most desolate 

“This is one of the most desolate areas in Ireland, with 86 per cent below the recommended green space in the area inside the canals. We’ve a population the size of Waterford city and we’ve already had to fight with Dublin City Council to get one pitch at Teresa’s Gardens. Once these slivers of land go, they never come back. 

The GAA also pointed to the wider issues at play here.

“We recognise Kevins are a very historical club, one of the very few inner city Dublin clubs still left,” added Milton.

“And I think it opens the wider debate about municipal facilities, not just GAA facilities. Look at the European model, it’s up to the local authorities to place a premium or a value on the promotion of games for a variety of reasons, or not.”

 O’Mahony says there is an alternative proposal, “to develop the existing dressing room, where Kevins will assume the debt, and there won’t be one blade of grass lost here.” It is however now or never. 

“There is no area in Ireland like this. And I’ve been involved in a few GAA clubs, in Cork, and in Sydney, London. Nowhere else comes close to this area. It would be an absolute crying shame to lose some of this ground. It also goes completely against the ethos of the GAA, when they say they are community based.”

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