GARDAI investigating the theft of floodlights from a GAA ground believe they were stolen by a drugs gang for use in grow houses.
The electrical light fittings from 12 floodlights were stolen from the Cortoon Shamrocks GAA pitch in Tuam, Co Galway.
The thieves scaled three 40ft poles where they unscrewed the floodlights and lowered them to the ground. Despite removing the lights intact, the thieves went on to disassemble them, abandoning everything but the electrics.
"They stole the internal parts and left the rest but it is useless to us. It's like taking the engine out of a BMW and leaving the car. They have left us with a shell," said club chairman Seamus Roache.
The theft was discovered on Wednesday, October 23, when members of the Cortoon team turned up for training. After initially believing the lights had tripped a switch, a closer examination revealed they were missing entirely.
"It was a very professional job. They climbed up 40ft poles... and cut the wires. You can see the spike marks in the poles. It took a bit of expertise and know-how, each of the poles is 40ft high, there were 12 lights on four poles and it would have taken about an hour for each pole," added club secretary Hubert McDonagh.
"They didn't want the lights, just the bulb holders and electrical components, they left everything else. The gardai told us it was probably for grow houses because buying that sort of equipment would cause suspicion."
Gardai believe the thefts took place between 8pm on Monday, October 21, and 8pm on Wednesday, October 23.
Mr Roache said the local community had rallied around by buying lotto tickets to help out. However, he warned that the cost to the club in replacing the lights could reach €6,000.
"For a rural club like ours, which we're trying to keep going, it's a huge blow. Locals are being very supportive but it could cost us between €5,000 and €6,000," he said.
Anybody with information should telephone Tuam gardai on: 093 70840.