Tuesday 20 August 2019

Billionaire brothers set to finance €20m Galway United football academy in Athenry

A general view of Galway United stadium, Eamonn Deacy Park. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
A general view of Galway United stadium, Eamonn Deacy Park. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Galway United have taken a meteoric step in their club history by obtaining a cash injection from the Comer Brothers to start planning for a €20m football academy near Athenry.

The 40-acre Mountain South site, till last year owned by the GAA with a view to development, will instead by earmarked for one of the biggest football projects in the state.

The Comer brothers from Glenamaddy, Brian and Luke, purchased the site for less than €1m from the GAA last year, with the intention of building a state-of-the-art complex, including six pitches and 30 apartments for staff and players.

It is understood the government and UEFA are looking favourably on financially assisting the venture.

The media-shy billionaire brothers are renowned for the zeal with which they execute construction and property deals.

"We have a reputation of never messing about if we make a commitment," said Luke last year.

They have been the main sponsors of Galway since 2013, pumping around €2m since into the running of the club. Both brothers were at Eamonn Deacy Park today to confirm the latest extension of their partnership.

"The plan is to put some of our best underage talent on a proper footing and this is the only way to do it," Luke told The Connacht Tribune last October.

"It requires proper investment but I believe that we will see the rewards in five or six years and definitely before 10 years.

"We need a proper structure to be successful. Otherwise, Galway will just continue as they are and we are not happy to see that situation."

Noel Mooney, the FAI's interim general manager, lauded the continued backing of the Comer brothers for Galway football.

He said: "It’s encouraging to hear the progress with Galway United and their development plans for a Centre of excellence in Athenry, Co. Galway.

"The FAI Facility Development Department will work alongside Galway United and other stakeholders such as the local authorities to develop a feasibility study on how this proposal can come to fruition.

"The benefits of a footballing Centre of Excellence in Co. Galway will provide a massive boost to the club and wider community and we look forward to it developing."

On the field, Galway have endured a tough couple of years.

Since being relegated from the Premier Division in 2017, they have failed to mount a promotion push, currently sitting just three places and five points off the foot of the First Division.

However, despite their challenges, the Tribesmen constantly highlight the need to produce home-grown talent, holding a dominance over local clubs in the national underage leagues.

In December, they launched Project DNA (developing natural ability), a scheme centred on "profiling and securing the finest playing talent from Galway, Connacht and surrounding counties."

A further sign of the Comer investment affording the club stability was the re-signing of six players for the 2020 season.

They are goalkeeper Kevin Horgan along with Colin Kelly, Christopher Horgan, Maurice Nugent, Ivan Gamara and Dara Costelloe.

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