WORK on laying the tartan track for the new Derg AC €500,000 multi-generational community facility started earlier this week.
Set in idyllic surroundings in Clarisford Park, Killaloe, this impressive new development will provide athletics and leisure facilities for everyone including people with disabilities.
Derg Athletic Club chairperson, Deirdre Coleman outlined that the committee and numerous volunteers are working on this project almost on a full time basis over the last four years.
“This is a community training facility for everyone. It is not a competition facility. People of all ages can use it for walking or jogging.
“The project started the day that lockdown ended. That was a huge decision to start a project in the middle of such uncertainty.
“It is a facility that people will use even more because of Covid-19. It has taken us four years to bring this project to fruition. We are delighted to see that four years of hard work by everyone is paying off.
“The training surface is soft and is designed for resistance training to prevent injury. The all-weather surface is suitable for running and wheelchair users.
“It is also suitable for general athletics. Club sessions for members are scheduled and advertised on noticeboards a few times a week,” she said.
She said the Vincent McCarthy from the Clare Athletics Board has given the facility an excellent review.
The 120 metre sprint lane will accommodate athletes for sprints and hurdles, while the new 200 metre track will be ideal for 200, 400, 600 and 800 runners as well as relays.
Local clubs have also completed fundraising activities to support this venture. The onset of Covid-19 meant the club had to devise more novel ideas for fundraising.
Peter Murphy, Ballina, has provided regular drone footage of work to support fundraising.
Ms Coleman recalled when Derg AC was set up in November 2013 it used the sand pitch in Clarisford Park as their training ground.
A need was identified for greater capacity for athletics training, as a result of increased membership in athletics, field sports and usage of Clarisford Park.
Ballina Killaloe RFC introduced women’s rugby and they were also looking for a training ground.
Once planning permission was secured this ambitious project was developed over five phases. Phase One provided the long jump and throws area.
Phase Two and Phase Three involved the overall track and pitch. Phase Four provided the lighting and Phase Five will provide outdoor gym equipment.
The development was funded by Clare and Tipperary LEADER, Sports Capital Grants, Clare County Council, significant corporate sponsorship and numerous local fundraising events.
Ms Coleman acknowledged voluntary contribution of project management by Clarisford Park Committee, local engineers, Patrick Bradley and Paddy Leyden and groundworks completed by local volunteers.
She paid tribute to everyone who has contributed in any way to bringing this project to fruition.
One quarter of the overall cost had to be raised locally through ongoing fundraising leaving a shortfall of between €30,000 and €40,000 to finish the project.
The club has continued to expand its core services from its inception as a juvenile athletics club to add Fit for Teens, Fit for Life for all ages and Inclusive Athletics for children with ASD and physical disabilities, which is run by Nicola Welford.
People travelled from as far away as Kilkenny for the inclusive athletics camp run by the club last summer.
Derg AC, Clarisford Park Limited and Ballina Killaloe RFC adopted a collaborative approach to developing a natural turf pitch, a training area surrounded by a four lane 200 metres athletics track, throws area, long jump area, 120 metre sprinting area including floodlighting.
This major development builds on the core values of sport and recreation, quality of life, collaboration and partnership.
The club are now entering the fifth and final phase of this ambitious project. It involves the provision of a custom designed wheelchair and general outdoor fitness equipment facility and tartan surface for a high jump facility.
Calisthenics is a form of exercise designed to build strength, flexibility and stamina, which also helps to increase cardiovascular fitness.
The only weight involved in Calisthenics exercises is your own body weight. Street workout equipment provides an invaluable aid to these types of exercise.
The addition of wheelchair accessible exercise and accessible calisthenics equipment will ensure that people with disabilities can participate in fitness in the community park.
In addition, a diverse range of groups from team sports to age and opportunity groups can avail of the outdoor fitness facility.
Derg AC was formed to allow athletes from Killaloe, Ballina, Bridgetown, Boher, Ogonelloe and all other surrounding areas to part take in athletics at local, county, munster and national level.
It currently have around 170 juvenile athletes and 20 senior athletes registered with the club. The club’s athletes compete all year round in a wide variety of events from cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field events as well as road races at juvenile, junior and senior level.
The Clarisford Park Committee are always happy to support and facilitate any club like Lough Derg AC that demonstrates enthusiasm, energy, foresight and integrity.
The provision of additional sporting and recreational infrastructure for Ballina/Killaloe is its primary objective and this track is clearly a significant addition. In many ways, it is the final piece of the jigsaw.
The committee have always adopted a partnership approach to developments in the park and the committee were delighted to lend its resources, assistance and expertise to Lough Derg AC to help bring this project to fruition.
The committee have no doubt this new track will greatly enhance the lives of club members, the entire local community and visitors.
Anyone who wishes to support the club’s fundraising activities can make a donation to their GoFundMe page on www.gofundme.com/f/dergac-multi-use-athletic-training