Monday 23 October 2017

Parnell's bringing it all back home as they reach for the stars

Aisling Crowe

PARNELL'S, one of the most iconic names in Dublin football, have come home. The club opened a state-of-the-art facility in Coolock on Friday night that returns the club to the heart of the community it sprung from.

With the €22m Parnell's received from the sale of their land at Collinstown Lane, near Dublin Airport, the club built top-class facilities on the site of their original grounds beside Chanel College.

Teams will have access to three pitches, including full-size grass and AstroTurf pitches and a three-quarter-size artificial pitch. The indoor facilities are of a similarly high standard, equipped with an ice bath, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and gym.

With such high-class facilities, the club has ambitions to match the shining new edifice it now calls home. Chairman Frank Gleeson hopes the facilities in the club's new base can help initiate a golden era on the pitch.

"Our ambition would be to compete at the highest levels in all competitions in Dublin, juvenile and adult. We would love to see ourselves competing for an All-Ireland club championship at some stage. We want to recapture the glory days of Parnell's," he says.

Their chances of achieving that ambition are no doubt enhanced by their new home, but Parnell's also boast a star-studded line-up, having attracted some of the brightest names in football to their club. Dublin's All-Ireland-winning captain Stephen Cluxton will be joined in the side by some new faces including Conor Mortimer of Mayo, the manager of the new gym.

Mortimer joins a list of players including Laois stars Colm Begley and MJ Tierney who moved to the club for work reasons. The movement of high-profile players from country clubs to Dublin has attracted criticism, but both Mortimer and Begley believe they would have been forced to emigrate if they hadn't been offered jobs with Parnell's.

For Mortimer, who has a masters in sports management, leaving his home club of Shrule was a difficult decision, but one he feels he had no choice but to make.

"I was out of work last year and a coaching job came up," he says. "Sitting at home on your couch every day isn't going to pay any bills for you and that's the reason I'm here. Financially I couldn't afford to say no. It was either that or go away to Australia or somewhere else, and if I did that there would be no football. At least this way I can still play football for Mayo."

Begley, who lines out with Laois in Longford today, found employment as a games promotions officer with the club on his return from Australia. He argues that county teams like Laois can benefit from players being exposed to club football in the capital.

"The opportunity came for lads to go to Dublin and play up there. If it was the case that we didn't get any jobs, a lot of boys would have left Ireland and I wouldn't be playing with Laois at all. I think our football has improved. I think we are playing a better standard of football up here. I couldn't afford not to take the opportunity Parnell's provided me with," he says.

Begley and a team of 14 coaches are involved in training children in local schools. This initiative is vitally important to the project, which is not about new buildings, but filling those buildings and pitches. The aim is to put Parnell's at the heart of the local community now that they have moved home.

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