Gallery: A new dawn for Mitchels
THE faithful turned out in their hundreds on Sunday afternoon to watch the latest chapter in the long and storied history of the John Mitchels GAA Club unfold with the opening the clubs new grounds and sportshall on the outskirts of Tralee.
While the weather outside was damp and dreary, the huge crowd that had gathered inside the club's massive new sports hall were in flying form as they waited for Sean Walsh to do the honours and officially open the new grounds.
Though space was at a premium in the carpark, which was chock-a-block hours before the opening ceremony got underway, there was plenty of room in the huge, gleaming sports hall, which could have easily accommodated double the 400-plus fans and faithful who were on hand for the plaque unveiling and ribbon cutting ceremony.
Indeed several people who The Kerryman spoke to on the day compared the hall to an aircraft hanger with a number wondering aloud if the fabulous new building could be leased out for aeroplane repairs when not in use by the club.
One particularly amused elder member of the Mitchels 'family' who was on hand for the occasion was Frank Neville who played for the club until the late 1950s and fondly remembered the amenities that were available for his teammates and himself in the club's earlier days.
"I played with Mitchels up until 1958. At the time we played games in Austin Stack Park and about all that was there for the players was a small cold tap, hanging off the wall, that you could wash your boots with," he said. "What they've built here is incredible," added Frank.
At the other end of the spectrum were some of the Mitchels younger players and supporters who can now look forward to training, playing and honing their skills in one of the finest club sports facilities in the country.
Underage player Allen Brosnan said he and his teammates were dying to have a run out on the club's manicured new training and playing pitches.
"It looks great. We haven't had a chance to get out on it and use it yet but we're really looking forward to seeing what it's like," he said.
Another young Mitchels man, Micheal Sullivan, said the pitches were "class" but it was the new basketball court he was most looking forward to using.
"The pitches look brilliant and they'd be class out to play on, but I play basketball and I can't wait to play a game here. The court's really cool looking," he said.
Mitchels stalwart Dan O'Donoghue said he was hugely impressed with the new grounds and hall.
"It's brilliant. It has absolutely everything and people should come and have a look around. It's brilliant for the club. All we need now is an old County Championship and it will be perfect," he said.
One Mitchels man who travelled further than most to attend the opening was Stephen O'Shea. "I've been living in Dublin for the last 15 years and I don't often get home but I grew up shouting for the Mitchels. I was home visiting the in-laws who live just out the road and when I heard the new grounds were opening I had to come along for a look. It's really something. There's a lot of clubs above [in Dublin] would give their eye teeth for a place like this," he said.