Canny club nets Celtic Tiger prize
IT is a remarkable success story in sporting and financial terms.
Most property investors saw the collapse of the Celtic Tiger as a disaster but one canny GAA club is going from strength to strength after selling pitches at the height of the boom.
Today Parnell's GAA Club, in Coolock, north Dublin, will open a state-of-the-art clubhouse following a remarkable stroke of timing.
In 1974, the club's 200 members paid IR£100,000 for a couple of pitches near Dublin Airport.
Then in 2008, at the height of the property bubble, it sold the land at Collinstown Lane to the Dublin Airport Authority for €22m.
This allowed the club to move to the centre of Coolock village, where it paid €11m in 2009 to the trustees of the Marist Order-owned Chanel College on Chanel Road.
Former Dublin lord mayor Royston Brady worked as a consultant on the project and has been asked to become general manager of the facility -- which will provide 20 full-time jobs.
Mr Brady, who has a background in hotel management, said he was approached by the club when the building was just a shell.
"It's reminded me of a hotel without rooms, it's just a fantastic facility," he told the Irish Independent yesterday.
He praised the "grassroots" nature of the project and said that he was excited for today's opening. "We already have inquiries about hosting weddings," he added.
The club's treasurer Tony Fitzpatrick explained how, for more than 30 years, the airport pitches served the club well, but did not suit the less mobile junior players.
"It was too far away from the catchment area around Coolock which wasn't great for the younger players," he said.
While changing venues, the club was granted free temporary access to Clontarf GAA's pitches and Mr Fitzpatrick said he could not thank the club enough.
When their own pitches were sold, club members had no idea that property prices had hit their peak. But the surplus after agreeing a 199-year lease from the Marists allowed them to build facilities the envy of any sports club.
The new Parnell's clubhouse was built complete with a state-of-the-art gym, a jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and an ice bath.
It also contains a 250-seat bar where food will be served and a 200-seat function room.
Three pitches have been built, including a full-size grass and artificial area and a three-quarter-size artificial area.
The club currently has 2,000 members including hurling and football teams and Mr Fitzpatrick said he hopes the club would be put back into the heart of the community.
"That was the original goal of the GAA, but a lot of GAA clubs went the other way and moved outside towns," he said.