Hastings MacHale Park, Castlebar. Photo: Sportsfile

Mayo GAA exploring Hastings MacHale Park centre of excellence plan

The Mayo GAA County Board is exploring the option of developing the grounds around Hastings MacHale Park, Castlebar, to create a centre of excellence, at least in the short term.

Newly-elected chairman, Seamus Tuohy, has said that Mayo need more pitches and his ambition is to develop the two adjacent to the main pitch at the county town grounds.

“We need more pitches for our inter-county squads and our academy squads, and particularly at this time of year there is pressure on us as a board in providing those facilities,” he said in a media briefing yesterday evening (Thursday).

“What I would like to see is all-weather pitches developed in this area along with having MacHale Park available from this season onwards.

“What I'm talking about is further development of the two top pitches, so any of the funds that would be raised over the coming year or two years will probably go towards that particular project.”

A wider discussion is still required on Mayo's long-term needs, whether one large centre of excellence is required or instead a number of smaller regional centres. But for the short-term at least, MacHale Park is the place.

“Whether further pitches will be required down the road, I'm open on that. The more pitches you have, the better for everybody. There is some discussion within the divisions about developing pitches also. Particularly in north Mayo a lot of work has been done in that area, and hopefully they will come up with a facility in the not-too-distant future that will assist us with pitches going forward.

“But we need pitches now, not in four or five years' time. We're trying to provide pitches for four or five teams at this particular time and it's hugely demanding. Without the support of the likes of the CoE in Ballyhaunis (Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence, Bekan), it would be very difficult for us – we wouldn't survive without their support. There's no doubt about it, whatever facilities we have, we will always look for the support of the likes of Ballyhaunis (Connact GAA CoE) going forward.”

Mayo GAA County Board secretary Dermot Butler, who said the plan for a Mayo GAA centre of excellence at Lough Lannagh wasn't 'suitable or sustainable', pointed out that development is needed at MacHale Park now because with the amount of use the 'top' pitch is getting it's in danger of dying and the 'lower' pitch is not full-size. The ambition would be to development both pitches, at least one as all-weather, in the medium term.

“Long term,” he added, “we do need pitches. Do we need a centre of excellence? We do, but at the moment financially we just don't have the money for it.

“A lot of discussion will have to take place regarding developing pitches in the different divisions. Who's going to be responsible for them? Who's going to look after the upkeep of them?

“I think Seamus (Tuohy) is right – the top two pitches in MacHale Park need to be developed to bring them up to a standard where they can be used nearly all-year-round. That would certainly alleviate the problems going forward.”

The beauty of MacHale Park is that it's in an ideal location with great facilities, but it doesn't have enough pitches around it, Mr. Butler pointed out.

In terms of the cost of the proposed development, Mr. Tuohy said it would probably be over €1 million. “That's quite a sizeable amount of funding to raise,” he conceded. “When we do have agreement on it, we'll be putting it to our Cairde Mhaigh Eo committee to see what type of funding is required to address those particular issues. It is an immediate problem that we need to address and I would hope that once MacHale Park (resurfacing) is finished, it would become the focus of the board over the next 12 months to two years.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Tuohy is hopeful that the Laochra Mhaigh Eo project at Hastings MacHale Park can be completed before the opening Connacht championship game and he expressed confidence that the pitch will be ready for that encounter with Galway on April 22.