Tony Leen meets the Cathaoirleach and Runaí of Coiste Co. Chiarraí
Two physio rooms, six pitches, eight dressing rooms – and a very small reception area. Kerry GAA were determined to prioritise the important stuff when they finalised plans for a €7m Centre of Excellence.
The almost finished product threw open its doors on Saturday (August 12th) for the first time, with Kerry GAA secretary Peter Twiss, explaining the philosophy and the big picture thinking.
“Sometimes the simplest thing is the hardest to achieve because people can get carried away,” he said. “Receptions and hallways shouldn’t be the central part of a facility like this. It’s what the players require, the practical things, like the gym, the dressing rooms, the pitches. Having a wonderful reception that takes up half the building is of no practical use to us. Our reception area is small, which sends out a message. The main business is the players.”
Kerry GAA chairman Tim Murphy, who as the board’s development officer played a hands-on role once the oft-mooted project eventually got underway, went further: “We might have come late to the table in terms of having a Centre of Excellence, but what we did learn was from the mistakes of others. I genuinely believe that has stood us in good stead. I would safely say there is no centre in Ireland as good as what we have in Currans.”
Four of the six pitches will be floodlit and ready for use for the county’s teams pre-2018 season by November, though in reality it will be the new year before inter-county squads begin using their new training base in the county.
“However, November is still our cut-off point to be ready, our tenders are back for the floodlighting, and so a supplier will be appointed in the next 10 days,” Tim Murphy said.
The spider web design of the facility means it works from the centre out. At its heart is a massive gym with 30m testing track, which is perimetered by a circle of eight dressing rooms, including one specifically for ladies teams.
Each of the dressing rooms has its own exits to the pitches, avoiding any traffic through the heart of the centre.
Upstairs is a central 50-seater auditorium, video room and eating facilities, one for senior teams and a second for under age.
The previous Kerry chairman pulled a lot of dollars from a lot of deep pockets through his ability to network his way through key boardrooms in New York over the past few years.
“Patrick was ahead of his time,” Peter Twiss maintains.
“I’d say very few GAA chairmen achieved what he did in America. He has great vision and he has a greater appreciation of the Kerry GAA brand than most others. It was only when we went to America we had our eyes opened to what the brand means.
“I never saw anyone like him for tapping into that passion for Kerry. It’s worldwide.
“People from Chicago and Sydney have already been here in Currans, looking at the place and are overwhelmed by it.”
Kerry has €1.5m and change to find to pay for land purchase and developments to date. Four floodlit pitches will be good to go in November, the other two pitches will be developed as and when needed and fundable.
But Tim Murphy, a quantity surveyor by trade, feels they’ve got the Centre of Excellence right.
“We wanted it to be the best, we wanted it to reflect Kerry’s status in the association nationally. We travelled the country, and looked at facilities everywhere. We looked at the best and least attractive aspects in each, and to be fair to each of them, we received sage advice.”
Kerry were determined to prioritise the important stuff when they finalised plans.
“People get carried away,” Twiss says. “Receptions and hallways shouldn’t be the central part of a facility like this. It’s what the players require, the practical things, like the gym, the dressing rooms, the pitches. Having a wonderful reception that takes up half the building is of no practical use to us. Our reception area is small, which sends out a message. The main business is the players.”
Éamonn Fitzmaurice and Peter Keane would concur. It means both can coach and nurture talent and not fret over where their inter-county squads will train next winter or the one after.