Connacht Hockey President Kevin Keane has called the decision to resurface the Oranmore Community Astro with a 3G surface last week as a “major blow to our sport”.
Speaking to Galway Bay FM, Keane says the decision will have a massive impact on Kinvara and Renmore Hockey Clubs as well as the Connacht Masters teams and Calasanctius school, leaving the east side of Galway city without a suitable turf to train.
“There is currently only one [full-size] pitch in Galway – at Dangan – which can service all our hockey clubs – Galway Hockey Club, Greenfields, Renmore, Kinvara, NUIG, NUIG Masters, Connacht Interprovincial sides, the Connacht Masters ladies and men’s teams and all the school teams in the county,” Keane explained.
“Dangan is currently closed due to Covid 19. There are 1,500 hockey players in Connacht. We can’t afford to lose another facility.
“The Oranmore facility (even though it is not a full-sized pitch) is the only one on the east side of the city. It is used by Kinvara Hockey Club, Renmore Hockey Club, the NUIG Masters, the Connacht Youth Development Squads and Calasanctius College’s hockey teams.
“Kinvara Hockey Club teams currently travel a 60km round-trip to Dangan in the city to play their home games, but at least they have been able to train and play junior Blitzes in Oranmore.
“Calasanctius College in Oranmore has had tremendous success, recently winning the Connacht Hockey Championship and developing players who have gone on to star for Connacht and at Irish trials.
“If the development in Oranmore goes ahead, the Kinvara club would have no suitable surface on which to train. With the Dangan pitch lacking capacity, the club would have to look to travel to Athlone for full-size-pitch training sessions.”
Kinvara currently use the pitch for training their Under-14 and 16 squads as well as hosting junior blitzes from Under-8 to 12 level, servincing members from south Galway and north Clare. It is also used as a base for developing the next generation of umpires.
The 3G surface is more attractive for GAA, soccer and rugby to use as a secondary training surface. While all these sports already will have grass pitches as their first-choice venue in the region, the local hockey clubs would not have any primary pitch following this decision.
The venue is also used by the local Masters teams with Chairman of the NUIG Masters, Fintan O’Flynn, adding: “We are a mixed group of 60 members, most of us in our 50’s and 60’s, who have been playing in Oranmore since 2012.
“For us, hockey is a sporting and social activity. We have always had a great relationship with our hosts in Oranmore, but are very disappointed that hockey may no longer be playable there.
“3G and 4G surfaces are not suitable for hockey, due to the nature of the ball. Hockey is a sport which has high levels of participation by women and is a non-contact team sport that can be played competitively and for fun by people in their fifties, sixties and beyond. If Oranmore is resurfaced, our group will have nowhere suitable to play.”
Keane is calling on local politicians to get behind the sport and “ensure that pitches with suitable surfaces are made available without further delay”.
“Hockey in Ireland is experiencing great success at international level. The ladies team reached the World Cup Final in 2018 and gained Olympic qualification in 2019. Now is the time to build on that success and grow the pool of players for our next Olympic cycle.
“Galway and Connacht need to be part of that. The encouragement of women in sport is a national objective. Hockey clubs are meeting that objective.
“The National Sports Policy 2018-2027 is promoting ‘Lifelong Involvement in Sport and Physical Activity’. Masters hockey meets that objective. Supporting hockey in our community for young and old should be a priority for politicians and planners in Galway.”