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Joeys open a new door

IT has finally arrived. That was the feeling of many in St Joseph's/O'Connell Boys GAA club as their impressive new clubhouse facilities were officially opened on Seville Place in the north inner-city last Friday.

Players past and present were in attendance, including their greatest son, Paddy Cullen, who soldiered with O'Connell Boys throughout his career. But for the legendary All-Ireland winning goalkeeper, it OCB were much more than a football team.

"There was a choice at the time I was in school. There was O'Toole's and O'Connell Boys," he remembered fondly.

"But O'Connell Boys had a little gymnasium, woodwork, basket making, a snooker table and all sorts of stuff we had never seen and that was the attraction.

"It was open six nights a week and we were there from 7 o'clock to 10 o'clock. We spent our youth there really."

And Cullen was truly blown away by the new facilities, which were developed in a dormant railway arch, rented to the club by CIE for a nominal fee.

"I think it's incredible, such an innovative idea, and to be back in Seville Place again just around the corner from our old club.

"I lived down in number 75 Seville Place. The kids in the area now have a base. It's come very much back to its roots and become a centre for the children of the area to come and enjoy themselves. It's a great thing for camaraderie."

And that was the theme for many involved in the project. For men like club secretary Declan Hallissey and chairman Barry Flynn, whose tireless work made it all possible, it was about more than football and hurling. It was about creating a centre for the young people of the locality.

"This is a fantastic day," said Flynn. "For the first time in many years, we have a base, a place in the local community and it is the first day in the rest of our history.

"Without that base we'd have no future so hopefully this is the first step in securing our future.

"A phenomenal amount of work went into this. This has been almost 10 years in the making. The hope is to attract local kids, give them somewhere to go and also help us on the pitch.

"We have two adult teams and two juvenile teams at the moment. It's important to keep the focus on them but it's also vital to build on that and get as many teams as we can."



Local councillor Niall Ring, himself one of the chief protagonists of the project, echoed those thoughts and explained just how big an undertaking it was: "This represents the coming together of people from the club, the local community, the IFSC, CIE, local government, Dublin County Board, Croke Park, DDDA and Dublin City Council. It's a credit to the lads in the club who kept going at it.

"We have a boxing club in the arches already and now the GAA club. That will be a magnet for the young kids. As people know, in an area like this, you have to have the children doing something and sport is one of the best things they can do along with their education.

"Now we hope the teams on the field will become as good as their premises!"

Also in attendance was Dublin senior footballer Ger Brennan, whose dad, PJ, has provided invaluable tactical nous while coaching teams from St Joseph's/O'Connell Boys over the past number of years.

Brennan, himself from the inner city, said: "I wish the club all the best for the future and it's brilliant to see this type of thing in the city.

"Hopefully it will have a knock-on effect on the field for them now, too."