Saturday 25 November 2017

Ballina to boycott Mayo initiative over ground snub

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Mayo's most successful club has withdrawn its co-operation from a major county board fundraising initiative over the failure to play any matches of significance at their home ground.

Ballina Stephenites will boycott the forthcoming Mayo development draw because they feel their home ground, James Stephens Park, has been overlooked for county matches and important senior championship fixtures.

Ballina has traditionally hosted Mayo matches but since the redevelopment of the stand at MacHale Park in Castlebar, all county games are now being played there. Stephenites are taking their stance in protest at what they say is the failure of the board to enter dialogue on the matter.

"We're all part of the GAA family. We will always support the best interests of the Association, but we're at the end of our tether here in Ballina," said club chairman John Healy.

"We're the second biggest town in the county, and there's a very long and proud history of the GAA in this town. We've supported Mayo GAA to the hilt over the years, yet we get nothing back, absolutely nothing.

"We have written to the county board looking to speak with them about getting big games back to Ballina, but we've heard nothing back and now we've been left with no choice but to stand up for the town and indeed the whole north Mayo hinterland.

SUPPORTED

"We're not looking for any monetary gain for the club, but we are looking for the town and the area to be supported.

"We feel that the community of Ballina and north Mayo in general has been badly let down by the Mayo County Board – the county board won't even give us one game a year.

"One National League match in Ballina or a county final would bring 4,000 or 5,000 people into the town. It would be a huge boost to the whole place, but we're knocked back time and time again when we look for a game.

"In our view the clubs of Mayo are being used as a collecting pot to repay the huge debt on the stand in MacHale Park. But the GAA is bigger than debt. It's a community organisation, rooted in the very heart of every town, village and parish in the country."

In response, Mayo spokesman Aidan McLoughlin said it was the wishes of clubs that county finals be played at MacHale Park.

"A 14-year-old will want to play his county final at Elvery's MacHale Park because it is the recognised county ground," said McLoughlin.

He added that if health and safety standards, capacity and communications requirements were met by Ballina in the future, the board would discuss playing a league match there.

Irish Independent

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